Harvard MBAs Bit by Startup Bug

Last Updated May 9, 2011 5:59 PM EDT

Is the Wall Street career becoming less attractive to MBAs?

At Harvard Business School, students are showing an increasing interest in starting their own companies, although it's too soon to say whether this trend is at the expense of Wall Street.

"The level of entrepreneurship activity here, and I presume at other schools, is up dramatically over the last two years," professor William Sahlman tells The New York Times.

Graduates from the class of 2010 started 30 to 40 businesses last year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year, Sahlman said.

This would certainly mark a sea change at Harvard and many other business schools, where students have preferred jobs in the fields of investment banking and consulting.

Even Harvard University itself has been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug. Working with HBS, Harvard is building a $20 million innovation lab, opening in the fall, where some of the university's brightest minds can gather to research and pursue new business opportunities.

In addition to hosting courses and seminars, the "iLab" will offer students shared space to work on their ventures, provide them access to Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, and support by faculty and administrators.

It's worth noting that two of the university's most famous entrepreneurs, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of school to pursue their business aspirations. Maybe iLab would have kept them in school -- or at least in Boston.

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(Photo by Flickr user patriciadrury, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.