Why So Many B-School Grads Suck At Starting Companies

graduation cigars

I began working on Postabon, a bootstrapped start-up, after I graduated from Harvard Business School last June. For eight months my co-founders and I slept on lots of couches, worked from coffee shops, and invested in a minimum viable product. Last month we closed our Series A round with a Boston-based VC.

It’s been an awesome experience. The past eight months changed my view of entrepreneurship, the value of a degree, and a few mistakes that recent grads (myself included) seem make. Here are a few observations from the left-most section of the start-up learning curve.

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Stuart Wall is the CEO of Postabon. This post originally appeared on his blog and is republished here with permission.

Execution - VCs don't give a sh*t about your PowerPoint deck

MBAs tend to prioritise funding over execution. In May of 2009 Postabon was a 30 page PowerPoint presentation full of research and ThinkCell graphics on why local would be the next big thing. No one bought it.

It's not 2002. Tech trends like cloud computing, coding frameworks and better browsers means most consumer facing start-ups (without inventory) are really cheap to start. With three months and ~$10K, we created a bare-minimum website and iPhone app that allowed us to iterate daily based on consumer feedback. No amount of time in Baker Library would have substituted.

Building a product will allow you to identify a viable strategy, iterate, and prove your team can win. Research, formatting and nicely worded emails are a prerequisite but by no means a differentiator.

Group Think – Figure out what's popular, then do the opposite

Team – The person sitting next to you is a bad partner

MBAs are told we're diverse. We have a great mix of students from lots of countries and previous careers. We tend to discount unrepresented functions like tech and marketing.

A turning point for Postabon was finding a CTO who quit his job and dropped out of Harvard to become a co-founder. Without him we wouldn't have a website or hired the right programmers and designers. He wakes up at 2AM when the site goes down, thinks of things like database replication and recommends books I hadn't heard of like Getting Real and The Mythical Man Month.

Your best partner is the antithesis of you. As Donald Rumsfeld might say, this person will help you identify your unknown unknowns.

Entitlement – Your 100K diploma won't make cold calls

Risk Aversion – IBanking won't pave the way to (tech) entrepreneurship

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