Balancing Grad School With Your Startup

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Walter Frick of BostInno, a Boston tech blogozine, recently completed a feasibility study report on completing an MBA while launching a startup. Not surprisingly his feasibility study overwhelming found one thing: it is not an easy task.

By a long shot.

In the study, Frick interviewed a few MBA students who had launched startups along with an MIT professor. Some of those students quit school to focus on their business ventures while others were able to ride it out and came out with a Master’s and a company to apply their knowledge to.

Entrepreneurs who are weighing their options and considering whether to focus more time on school or their startup should consider the following:

  • Take a summer to focus on your startup rather than taking an internship or summer classes. This is a good way to make a trial run at being a full-time startup executive.
  • Look for opportunities such as the Thiel Fellowship to finance your exit from academia and your entrance to the business world. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and an original investor in Facebook, started the foundation to nurture the next generation of great thinkers. According to the Foundation’s web site, fellows get a no-strings attached grant of $100,000 “to skip college and focus on their work, their research and their self-education.”
  • Have you taken time to try balancing both? This is challenging of course, but it is not impossible. If you find that you are able to balance the two, you won’t have to make the touch decision of one or the other.
  • How well developed is your business plan? You should have a good idea of exactly what your startup will do. If all you know is that “it will probably be something in tech,” you should stay in school and think a little bit harder about your general plan.

Frick spoke with one entrepreneur, William Sanchez, who was simultaneously pursuing his startup, an energy company that promises to dramatically decrease the amount companies have to spend on cooling their data centers, and a Master’s from MIT.

Sanchez’ advice to those who decide to balance the two: make a list of the top five areas of your life you wish to focus on and understand that nothing else will really be able to fit in while pursuing a startup and degree. Pursuing both a degree and business career at once will involve sacrifice but you simply have to ask yourself if those sacrifices are worth the satisfaction you will get from attaining a Master’s and launching your business.