Rob Go: 

In search of things new and useful.

Stories and Guidance for Non-Technical MBA Founders

Rob Go
September 6, 2011 · 2  min.

September is here!  And that means that students are about to flock back to campuses across the country.

With the wave of innovation in the consumer web/internet world, we are seeing an increased interest among students in pursuing an entrepreneurial career path.  This is excellent news, and is one of the most important ways that we are going to get the growth engine humming again in this country.

Business students (both undergrad and grads) are notorious for flocking towards the hot sectors of the present.  A few years ago, it was Private Equity, then Real Estate, then Hedge Funds.

But being an entrepreneur is in vogue and has been for a while.  I’ve been a fan of investing in Business School students – historically, I have invested in a graduate from HBS almost every year since I graduated from the school myself!

Business students however face the challenge of not being technical.  They aren’t “Hackers”, and they have to find some way to convince more technical entrepreneurs to join them on a wild and crazy adventure.  For former bankers and consultants, it’s especially hard because nothing about the realities of being an entrepreneur fit neatly onto a spreadsheet or a growth-share matrix.

So, what is a well-meaning MBA student supposed to do? I have a few thoughts, but the first is to spend time hearing the real stories of entrepreneurs with similar backgrounds.  Don’t listen to the guy who comes back to speak in your classes after 30 years of success.  Talk to the person who graduated a few years ago and may or may not be that successful. That’s the person who still remembers what it’s like at the point of impact – where the good intentions of a business idea hit the cruel reality of a competitive and unforgiving market.

Below is an interview I did with one such entrepreneur (thanks for our friends and OpenView for helping with the filming and syndication).  His name is Jason Jacobs – he’s the founder of Runkeeper (a mobile fitness system with over 6M downloads, funded by the excellent folks at OATV). Jason is a Babson MBA, and was previously an executive recruiter before starting the company in May 2008 (yes, one of the worst times to start a company).  There are a lot of things one can learn from Jason, but the most important for MBA’s I think is very simply how much brute force and evangelizing is involved in the early days of starting a company.  There is not silver bullet or a core insight that will “crack the case” of starting a business.   He even admits that recruiting co-founders was “a numbers game”, and involved many many iterations, conversations, and efforts at selling his vision and what he brings to the table as an entrepreneur. Check out the full video here: [youtube=]

So, if you are a non-technical founder or a business school students with grand ambitions, check out this story and others.  Follow some of the blogs below from other entrepreneurs I admire who have non-technical backgrounds and are still relatively early in their entrepreneurial careers.  It’s amazing how much rich insight is available to people starting businesses today. You have an unfair advantage that your predecessors did not have before you – so go build something great.

Jason Jacobs at Runkeeper

Vin Vacanti at Yipit

Brian Balfour at Boundless Learning

Michael Karnjanaprakorn at Skillshare

Rob Go
Rob is a co-founder and Partner at NextView. He tries to spend as much time as possible working with entrepreneurs to develop products that solve important problems for everyday people.