Studying for an MBA and learning the technical skills of management will benefit entrepreneurs at different points of a start-up’s development, but entrepreneurial thinking has become so highly valued in business that many business schools have started developing specific courses which take entrepreneurship to the next level. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School started running entrepreneurship-related programmes about four years ago, in answer to growing interest in entrepreneurship following the global financial crisis. “We [have introduced] two formal courses about how to set up a business, covering funding by venture capital and private equity, how to impress investors and how to evaluate as an investor if the start-up is worth the investment. The current teacher is a venture capitalist with 30 years of experience,” says Lawrence Chan, CUHK’s administrative director of marketing and student recruiting (MBA programmes). Chan says, the school also offers internships in start-ups which – even for their students from large Fortune 500 companies – are a real eye opener. Most recently, CUHK MBA students participated in a study trip to visit start-ups in Taiwan. “We believe entrepreneurship is very important. Large companies are also looking for intrapreneurship qualities. If [our students] are assigned to a new unit, a new product or a new country, the big companies expect them to lead and work like entrepreneurs,” Chan says. Dr Lars Groeger, lecturer in management (market-ing), at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) believes, MBAs could offer much more to future tech entrepreneurs. MGSM started adapting its curriculum to this growing need two years ago. “For example, I taught an elective marketing course in Hong Kong that follows a design thinking approach to innovation,” Groeger says. Students were working on a real start-up that was in the pre-launch phase. They were developing prototypes and testing it with users, while the founders were pitching their business to venture capitalists. “We followed an experiential learning approach, throwing the teams in at the deep end, which led to a steep learning curve. Students really enjoyed the experience as they became part of a fast moving start-up in an environment of great uncertainty,” Groeger says. Groeger notes that entrepreneurial thinking is changing the whole approach to business problems. The traditional approach was teaching students to improve on an existing business model, but entrepreneurs create something which did not exist before and will only know if it works through testing it in the real world. “We try to prepare [students] for a reflective managementstyle, so that they can improve the quality of their decisions in a very fluid environment,” Groeger concludes. City University of Hong Kong (CityU) offers an Entrepreneurship and Business Planning module in collaboration with the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley and has incorporated a business-driven information management concentration into the curriculum “to help and nurture students to discover their innovations which would ultimately become a viable, lucrative business opportunity,” says Professor Kevin Chiang, MBA programme director, College of Business, CityU. Chiang also recommends a number of their MBA courses to start-up entrepreneurs, such as Sustainable Business, Executive Discovery and Network, Residential Trip and Strategic Management. These courses cover business ownership, developing ideas for business and undertake the initiation and development of a business. CUHK’s Chan says marketing, management and leadership courses are important, while MGSM’s Groeger adds, “While I don’t think that you have to have an MBA to become a successful entrepreneur, I have yet to come across one of our students who has not applied MBA tools and frameworks as well as reflective leadership to drive their business.” Top 10 advice from business school professors Know your personal strengths and weaknesses and try to learn something new everyday. Know your company’s strengths, weaknesses and the means to overcome capital restraints. Know your competitors and the alternative products in the market. Be passionate and have a hands-on approach: execution is very important. Don’t look for money in the short term, focus on the long-term benefits and the satisfaction of running your own business. Be prepared for failure, as success happen won’t overnight. Build a productive and dynamic team. Your idea will evolve but you need a great team to turn the idea into a viable business opportunity. Look at the feasibility and viability of your venture. Talk and test it with users and other stakeholders right from the beginning. Most start-ups fail because they build something that no one wanted and they forgot about the user. It’s all about the customer. Get to know their needs and expectations – a customer oriented business should be the primary objective. Lead with innovation and sustainability.