Eli Portnoy Debunks the Value of a Harvard MBA


Venture capitalist Peter Thiel pushed the debate about whether a college education is worth the student debt past the tipping point–he’d rather pay smart kids $100,000-a-piece to build a start-up–but the argument has taken on a life of its own.

Entrepreneurs have long romanticized the notion of a boot-strapped, self-taught success and held a healthy skepticism over whether a classroom can prepare you for the business world. But Eli Portnoy, a TechStars alum/Harvard MBA and CEO of ThinkNear, a location-based services start-up that helps merchants drive traffic to stores during down periods, takes an updated look at the current landscape.

It’s no longer just a choice between going to college or venturing out on your own. With the proliferation of incubators and accelerators, especially top programs offering a credible alternative, Mr. Portnoy delves into the specifics, outlining the upsides of going to TechStars versus getting a Harvard MBA. His conclusion?

If you know you want to start a company there is nothing more helpful than TechStars and I would strongly suggest going through the program ahead of an MBA. The experience is more relevant, the network more concentrated, and the cost (hard cash and in opportunity) lower. In the long-run I am not sure which will prove more helpful (though I suspect the brand cache of an MBA program will be longer lasting), but the direct benefits of being in an incubator/accelerator are unmatched and the opportunity unparalleled if you are thinking of starting a tech based business.

Sounds good in theory. Too bad TechStars is now harder to get into than the Ivy League.

Eli Portnoy Debunks the Value of a Harvard MBA