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A lot of undergraduate students ask me whether they should pursue an MBA or a technical PhD as a foundation of their entrepreneurial career. I have pursued both at some point, and frequently meet (and invest in) entrepreneurs with both degrees. Each has advantages but overall I’d recommend a PhD for most tech entrepreneurs. Here is why:
Education: Both degrees will teach you something. The MBA focuses on case studies and financial concepts (e.g. accounting). A PhD emphasises independent systematic research and domain knowledge (e.g. electronics). The latter is simply more valuable for a tech entrepreneur. Steve Blank is right that most of the great entrepreneurs were Scientists and Engineers, not MBAs.
Moreover, a well-trained technical PhD will have no problem at all picking up financial concepts on the side if needed. The reverse doesn’t work at all. I came into my MBA program (Drexel, Technology Management) with an Science Bachelor (UBC H.B.Sc. Physics). There was *nothing* in any of my courses that wasn’t trivial with good skills in math, excel and Wikipedia. I have since then found this to be true for *all* aspects of “business” other than the informal aspects like Sales which cannot be taught in school anyhow. Building a business is hard, but the fundamentals, literally, aren’t rocket science.
Certification: Much of the value of an MBA is condensed in the piece of paper. Don’t laugh – this is a very real effect in a lot of domains. My wife (B.Eng., MBA) has a very successful corporate management career (Proctor & Gamble, Nortel, McKinsey & Co). Her MBA definitely contributed to that career progression. But the MBA certificate is a lot less relevant for entrepreneurs. It doesn’t matter at all for proven operators (i.e. those with successful exists in the past). Newcomers will be technical co-founders with a PhD or business co-founders with an MBA....