Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Why anyone with an MBA should worry about the immigration bill

If you’re a foreigner seeking a U.S. green card, here’s a little advice: forget about getting an MBA. Study air conditioner repair instead.

If the Senate immigration bill becomes law, immigrants who study dairy science, urban forestry, pulp and paper technology, and air conditioner repair, among other fields, will qualify for special treatment when seeking visas. Those with MBAs will not. That’s because the first four fields I mentioned all fall under the category of STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math.

But MBAs don’t.

That means fewer foreigners will apply to MBA programs, which will reduce the quality of the MBA experience, decrease the selectivity and prestige of top business schools, and have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. I surveyed 40 recent MIT Sloan grads from outside the U.S., and 30% said that getting a visa was one of the primary factors they considered when choosing graduate schools. Only 25% said it wasn’t a factor at all.

To be clear: I support the bill overall – I think it’s incredibly important to raise the number of H-1B visas and to increase immigration from STEM graduates. But I think MBAs should be included as well. I’ll describe what’s in the bill and share a few ideas for how b-schools should respond. The bottom line: b-school deans should make the case to Congress for including MBA grads in the immigration bill. Otherwise, the legislation could seriously threaten the value of the MBA degree.  Continue reading

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Should we make corporations give desk space to startups?

Every once in a while, we get a nice reminder that Cambridge is essentially a small town. Last summer, a package with the following address label was actually delivered to my house.

Address label

We got another reminder last weekend, when we were walking around the neighborhood and met Josh Dawson, who is running to represent our district in the MA state legislature. I never met any elected officials when my zip code was 10003.

One of Josh’s priorities is supporting the innovation economy in Boston and Cambridge. We asked for more details, and he shared an interesting idea. Real estate developers are required to set aside a portion of their properties for low- or moderate-income housing. What if companies that receive tax breaks and subsidies from the state were required to set aside desk space for startups?

Many of our friends are entrepreneurs, and we know how prohibitively expensive it can be to find office space in the city. It’s all well and good to start a company out of your garage, but at a certain point companies need office space to attract employees and meet with clients.

Of course, there would be complications: who would decide which startups were worthy of the space? But programs like Mass Challenge have effectively identified some of Boston’s hottest startups (see: Ministry of Supply). Corporations providing the desk space could even choose the beneficiaries themselves. Social enterprises should be given a shot at the space as well.

What do you think? What else could the government do (or not do) to foster Boston’s innovation economy?

Quote of the day: How writing is exactly like entrepreneurship

I was a journalist for seven years and I’m married to an entrepreneur, but I never saw the connection between the two professions until today, when I read Hugo Lindgren’s great essay in today’s New York Times.

Based on the title, “Be Wrong As Fast As You Can,” I thought it would be an essay about business, but it’s essentially about how Lindgren has never followed through on his big dreams of writing screenplays. His comments about writing precisely mirror comments Jon (and others) have made about starting a business: fail early, fail often.

Ideas, in a sense, are overrated. Of course, you need good ones, but at this point in our supersaturated culture, precious few are so novel that nobody else has ever thought of them before. It’s really about where you take the idea, and how committed you are to solving the endless problems that come up in the execution.