Effect on hiring
Nevertheless, these new businesses are premised on the idea that the experience they offer has value in the employment market, and their leaders think their customers are improving their prospects.
For example, Lamkin says a job candidate with these new resources on their resume would have a shot at Market Motive. “Whether their training comes through Udemy or from a prestigious Ivy League university,” he says, “we’re still going to do our own assessment. Within digital marketing, there are some industry credentials we’d be very comfortable with. Cisco has done a good job establishing widely recognized credentials which is a great way to know that someone meets at least minimum requirements.”
Visciano says, “I don’t think the MBA or the business degree is going to stop being a recognizable threshold for ability. It’s just that people are starting to look at other proxies for whether somebody is qualified. The burden of proof for evaluation is shifting to employers to evaluate those skills that are a match for the job. You’ll see job postings say the threshold is an MBA or functional skills in X, Y and Z areas. Getting the functional skills on a place like Udemy is another route.”
Dave Llorens, co-founder of 60-Day MBA, makes a similar point about the challenge this presents to employers with an anecdote about when he was presented with a strong candidate at his last company for an engineering position who had taken a non-traditional path. They were trying to figure out what salary to offer, and “the question had never arisen before,” Llorens says.
“But the answer is kind of obvious — that it’s a meritocracy, especially in tech startups. You pay them the same. If that’s the future, then what are employers going to look at to figure out who has the same skillset? I don’t think anybody has the answer. VC firms are placing very large bets with the assumption that online ed will be big, but they don’t know what shape it will take.”
Entrepreneurship vs. consulting, management and finance
But 60-Day MBA isn’t concerned with people trying to improve their employability anyway. They are part of a new breed of startup aiming to peel off one particular segment of students their founders think business schools don’t serve well — fellow entrepreneurs. Along with Fizzle and a growing number of other sites, 60-Day MBA specifically focuses on people who aren’t out looking for venture capital. (Food trucks and tutoring businesses come up a lot as examples of this customer base.)
Llorens explains, “If you look at the stats on how many MBA grads go back to a career and how many start businesses, it breaks down to something like 93 to 7 percent. For the 7 percent of people who are going to start their own business, you don’t necessarily need to spend two years and a whole bunch of money. You can get the distilled entrepreneurship training while you’re starting your business, which we think is the best way to learn. If you’re in academia, it’s tough to apply that knowledge.”
Similarly, Corbett Barr, co-founder of Fizzle, says it’s been 15 years since he was an undergraduate major in business, “so maybe things have changed, but in my experience, that education prepared me to become a cog in a much bigger machine as opposed to build the machine itself. The entrepreneurship portion is really just a small sliver of the overall education you’re getting.”
Keeping it simple
This kind of skills training offers basic, need-it-today lessons on sketching a business canvas, getting sales, marketing and managing operations. Fizzle’s aim, Barr says, is “to help one individual with an idea and turn that into a source of revenue. A lot of people have this feeling they want to be an entrepreneur but they don’t know how to go about it. They have a lot of ideas, and they don’t know how to evaluate those ideas. So we help them walk through a framework to evaluate.”
Llorens says 60-Day MBA is so devoted to simplicity that “we keep out all the lingo. It’s more like ‘Money that comes in. Money that you spend.’ One of the most important modules we have is financial modeling. Very few people do that. They think it’s too complicated, and it’s not. You use a one-page spreadsheet. Almost every time somebody has two different revenue sources, they look at it and go, ‘Oh, I should be spending all my time on this one.’ All it took was penciling it out. That’s the kind of value we provide.”
Keeping it real
Another characteristic of this category is that all the students have already thrown themselves into the deep end or are strongly encouraged to do so with modules like the 30-day “Just Ship It” challenge on Fizzle.
“It’s not as if you’re going to take two years of education and then afterward start trying to apply theory to the real world,” Barr says. “People are out there trying to slay dragons around the business they’re creating.”
In this context, a diploma is probably less relevant to the student seeking business skills training. “A big part of our pitch,” says Llorens, “is, ‘Are you going to put your degree on your resume and hire yourself?’ It does have value, but does it have two years and a hundred grand worth of value? I just think it’s overkill.”