"Facebook Investor Launches MBA"  

Silicon Valley Business Journal Feature

Facebook, Twitter investor launches online MBA program for startup founders

By Cromwell Schubarth  – TechFlash Editor, Silicon Valley Business Journal
May 27, 2020

Global Silicon Valley founder Michael Moe says his interest in education goes back a couple of decades to when he was a celebrated analyst, and before he invested in the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

He kept hearing from the fastest-growing companies that the biggest barrier to their success was attracting and retaining the talent they needed.

So after decades of focusing on two things — investments and education — he now concentrates on the latter through the annual ASU GSV Summit and a new program he announced this month, an MBA program for startup entrepreneurs.

GSV's Michael Moe

The GSV MBA is partnering with a school far from Silicon Valley — Belhaven University, a small Christian college in Jackson, Mississippi.

In the following Q&A, Moe explains why he launched the MBA program with Belhaven and what he hopes to accomplish with it. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Why does the world need another MBA program?

For the past six or seven years, we have run a successful startup accelerator program — GSV Labs — that focused on helping entrepreneurs accelerate their ideas and launch them. The experience has been great and we have worked with hundreds of companies through that.

What the GSV MBA does is to really take that to a graduate level. It combines the key passions of mine, which I call “EIEIO.” That stands for entrepreneurship, innovation, education, impact and opportunity. We are effectively trying to democratize the opportunity to be an entrepreneur with this online MBA program.

Unlike the typical startup accelerator program, which in exchange for a crash course in entrepreneurship takes an equity stake in the businesses their founders create, you are charging more than $20,000 for an online MBA program. Why is that better?

In an accelerator, you give a portion of your business in exchange for four to 16 weeks of a typical program. A great one like Y Combinator’s may seem cheap at the start, but if you grow to be worth $1 billion, the portion you gave to them can look awfully expensive.

The GSV MBA is an accredited graduate program for entrepreneurship. There are obviously others in the U.S., but I think we have a couple of unique pieces in ours.

One is that we really focus on real-world experience. The graduation for an entrepreneur in the GSV MBA is to launch the company. It’s designed to give you the skills, the knowledge and the connectivity to create private businesses. It’s a graduate program and it’s an accredited program, so it comes with just that much more rigor and accountability.

Another big differentiation with our entrepreneurship MBA is that it comes from a Silicon Valley lens. That, I think, is important, because in a number of programs that I’ve seen, the people might have entrepreneurial experience, but I haven’t seen a graduate program for an MBA in entrepreneurship, where the background experience is with dynamic, disruptive businesses. Most of the other programs typically are very theoretical. They’re also not cutting-edge typically in terms of technology and business models. So I think that’s unique.

How did you end up doing this with a small Christian college in Mississippi?

It was really an idea that they presented to me, based on GSV’s interest in education and in expanding the Global Silicon Valley, which is right there in our name. Belhaven is a 5,000-student university that has developed a number of innovative programs under the leadership of Roger Parrott, who’s been the president for 20 years. As I got to learn more about Belhaven and more about Roger Parrott, and what they had done in other areas, I saw it as a real attractive partner.

An important part of our philosophy is that the mindset of innovation in entrepreneurship that’s made Silicon Valley such a special place is now spreading throughout the world. You no longer need to be in the actual Silicon Valley to have a great startup. It’s a mindset, not a specific geography.

So whether you’re in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Shenzhen, China, or in Santiago, Chile, with the ubiquitous technology and connectivity we have around the world, you can launch a startup anywhere.

A key philosophy that I have is that talent is pretty equally distributed around the world. There’s talent everywhere. But opportunity, historically, isn’t everywhere. We think that the opportunity to really provide the knowledge, skills, connectivity, the exposure to the innovation economy that we think we can provide with this program is both very timely and very exciting.

People have been turning to online education more during the pandemic with so many schools closed. Do you believe this is going to bring a permanent change?

I’d say that the world that we were in was B.C. — Before Coronavirus — and we’re now going into an A.D. world — After Disease. The coronavirus is the sort of game-changing event, comparable to Hiroshima or 9/11, that has always changed the world.

Basically, you’ve had 1.6 billion students and teachers thrown into the deep end of the online learning pool over the past two months. Some of them are going to sink. Some will crawl to the edge of the pool, get out, and say they’ll go back in. But most are going to start swimming around and say, “You know what? This is pretty good.”

From an access standpoint, from a cost standpoint, and from a quality standpoint, online learning is basically how the future accelerates to the present. This really is the dawn of the age of digital learning.

GSV was the most active investor in digital learning over the past 10 years. We invested in companies like Coursera and ClassDojo and Course Hero and Remind. All of them have had, in the last 60 days, growth that is 100%, 200%, 500%, 800%, year over year, because of the catalyst of this horrible pandemic. This genie’s not going back in the bottle.

What is the typical profile of the person who will do well in the GSV MBA program?

Pre-pandemic, I would have expected the prototypical student was going to be a person who had been in their current career for 10 or 15 years and said, “If I don’t do something now, I’m never going to do it.” With maturity, you know that starting a business is not for amateurs. It’s challenging. So a program like this makes sense.

I think the number of people in this group has grown, because all of a sudden you’ve got 36 million people that are unemployed and wondering what they will do next.

But I also think now that there’s a number of people that just graduated and had their virtual ceremony in the last month. Now they’re saying, “What am I doing next fall?”

Some were thinking about graduate school and will join ours. I would have said 60 days ago that I’m unlikely to see any of those kinds of students. I think today we’re definitely going to see those kinds of students, because people are trying to make choices.

It might not even be the graduate; it might be the graduate’s parents that say, “This is an online program that you can do right now. This probably is a good thing for you to be looking at this fall with all this uncertainty.”

ACBJ / bizjournals.com subscribers can read the story online here


More GSV MBA in the news:

GSV Adds Three New Letters to Its Portfolio: MBA (EdSurge)

GSV Ventures Creates an Online MBA in Entrepreneurship with Belhaven University (IBL News)

Global Silicon Valley and Belhaven University partner for innovative MBA (WJTV)

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