Never mind the trash talk. More tech companies are hiring MBAs.
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel said MBAs are predisposed to “herdlike thinking and behavior.” Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen dubbed them a contrarian indicator, saying “if they want to go into tech, that means a bubble is forming.” In a post on the question-and-answer website Quora, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who earned an MBA from Harvard in 1995, said that while she got “great value” from her experience, she wasn’t ready to recommend the degree to the country’s future tech stars. “MBAs are not necessary at Facebook and I don’t believe they are important for working in the tech industry,” Sandberg wrote.
Silicon Valley’s trash talking of the MBA obscures the reality that U.S. tech companies are hiring B-school grads in ever-larger numbers. Business schools sent 16 percent of their 2015 graduates into technology jobs, according to a Bloomberg Businessweeksurvey of students who’d accepted offers by that spring, making it the No. 3 industry for MBA grads after finance and consulting.
By one measure, Silicon Valley values MBAs more than Wall Street does. In 2015 tech companies paid business school graduates more than financial companies did, according to Businessweek’s poll of more than 9,000 MBAs. “If I said all people with a law degree are worthless, what would you say?” says Rich Lyons, dean at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Forty-three percent of its 2015 class went into tech, according to the survey. “It’s such an unwarranted generalization. Firms wouldn’t keep coming back to hire our MBAs if it wasn’t a valuable skill set.”
Amazon.com, Microsoft, Google, and IBM were among the 15 companies that hired the most MBAs in 2015, according to data reported by 103 business schools to Businessweek, proof that while the founders and chiefs of some of the top U.S. tech companies may see themselves as renegades, they’re not above hiring trained managers to carry out their vision.
While a degree in computer science—or the lack of any degree at all—may confer a high mark of distinction, the Valley’s C-suites are packed with MBAs. Twenty-four of 67 companies in the S&P 500’s Information Technology Sector Index are led by chief executives with MBAs or equivalent degrees. Among those CEOs are Apple’s Tim Cook (Duke’s Fuqua School of Business) and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella (Chicago’s Booth School of Business).
In the eyes of Keith Rabois, an investment partner at the VC firm Khosla Ventures, the presence of MBAs at a tech company is a sign the business is mature, maybe even over the hill. “They tend to get hired after the company is already successful and it becomes a very bureaucratic organization,” says Rabois, an early employee at PayPal who later founded the real estate startup Opendoor. “They will probably keep you out of trouble, but they won’t create any value.”
The idea that MBAs don’t belong at startups has become a Valley meme. Guy Kawasaki, a onetime Apple employee turned venture capitalist, once quipped that in valuing a young company, he adds $500,000 for every engineer on staff and subtracts $250,000 for every MBA. Kawasaki has an MBA from UCLA.
“I don’t buy into the argument that entrepreneurs don’t need an MBA,” says Sri Zaheer, dean of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. “If they were a little more clued up about how to make money in their businesses, we wouldn’t see these tech bubbles and the craziness that happens every few years.”
Twenty-four percent of 157 startups valued at $1 billion or more—frequently referred to as unicorns—were founded by MBAs, according to a recent study published by David Fairbank, a student at Harvard Business School. They include eyeglass retailer Warby Parker (all four founders attended the Wharton School), medical directory ZocDoc (Columbia Business School), and health insurer Oscar (HBS). “A unicorn is not necessarily the end-all measure of long-term successful companies, but it’s a pretty good metric for thinking big,” says Fairbank.
Business schools worry the MBA-bashing may discourage potential applicants. The degree appears to be losing some of its popularity, with enrollment down 11 percent since 2009, according to a survey of 265 business schools by AACSB International, an accrediting organization. “When you used to think about good business leaders, you would think about a Jack Welch. Now you think of Zuckerberg, and that’s a really different association with graduate schools of business,” says Amy Hillman, the dean at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, where 43 percent of 2015 grads went into technology.
Hillman says B-school grads will find even more opportunities at technology companies as investors become more discerning about the types of skills required to turn a good idea into a thriving business. “It used to be more risk-takers,” she says. “Today it’s a group of very sophisticated funders who are looking for very sophisticated business ideas.”
The bottom line: Almost one-fifth of B-school graduates in 2015 went into tech jobs, making the industry the No. 3 employer of MBAs.
Lyft president John Zimmer just shared a bold manifesto about what he sees the impact of driverless cars will have on our society, and the way we move through our cities. Like most thinkpieces, the fourteen page paper was published on Medium, and it’s excellent.
Zimmer sincerely believes that we’re on the precipice of driverless cars being viable. He estimates that by 2021 – just five years from now – the majority of Lyft rides will be taken in a driverless car, and that by 2025 private automobile ownership will “go the way of the DVD.”
Bold words. I sure hope he’s right.
By and large, humans are terrible drivers. The sobering reality of the 1.3 million dead each year in automobile accidents is proof of that.
We’re too impulsive. Too inconsistent. Our attention spans are too short, and our judgement is frequently faulty. This fact demonstrated to me earlier today, when the bus I was traveling in plunged into the side of an Audi A5 on a busy roundabout.
I’m not 100 percent sure about the chain of events that lead to the crash. At the time, I was working on my laptop and not paying any attention to the road. I only looked up when I heard the roar of the bus’s horn, followed by the violent smash as both vehicles collided.
Luckily, everyone was unharmed, although both vehicles sustained some damage.
Here’s what I am 100 percent sure about: If both the Audi and the bus were driverless, the crash wouldn’t have happened. Driverless vehicles are deliberately designed to be cautious.
Rather than making decisions based on gut judgement and intuition, they use sensors that collect thousands of points of data with perfect consistency. Driverless automobiles are concerned with safety, not speed or showmanship. By virtue of this alone, computers are more qualified to be on the road than most humans I know.
Probably the most stark example of this is Google’s effort, which was the subject of a profile by the New York Times in 2015 by Matt Richtel and Connor Dougherty.
The authors described Google’s self-driving car as “a stickler for the rules.” Justifiably so. In one test, a car froze at a four-way intersection because it was programmed to wait for the other human drivers to stop completely and let it go. Predictably, the humans kept inching forward in the hope of finding an opening, which effectively paralyzed Google’s autonomous car.
Imagine being such an asshole, you break a robot.
PRIVATE CAR OWNERSHIP IS GENERALLY TERRIBLE
This is the point I’m most conflicted about. Car ownership can emancipate you. You no longer have to wait for the bus in the rain. Train timetables no longer dictate your life.
But there’s a flip-side, as illustrated by Zimmer.
“It may shock you, but Americans spend more than $2 trillion every year on car ownership — more money than we spend on food. What’s even more staggering is that for all the money we spend on them, the 250 million cars in America are only occupied 4% of the time. That’s the equivalent of 240 million of the 250 million cars being parked at all times. For the most part, your car isn’t actually a driving machine at all. It’s a parking machine.”
In Zimmer’s world, instead of this massive fleet of “parking machines“, there would be a smaller supply of cars in circulation that people could hire on an ad-hoc basis. Transportation would go from being something that you own, to a service that you use.
This will be more cost effective than owning a car. Those who only need to take occasional trips could hire vehicles as required on a cent-per-mile basis. Frequent riders could purchase an all-you-can-eat subscription.
It’s also wonderful news from an environmental perspective. Car manufacturing is incredibly ecologically destructive, and fewer cars means fewer emissions. According to environmental expert Mike Berners-Lee, producing a medium-sized car creates 17 tonnes of CO2. This is the equivalent to that produced by an average UK household over three years.
The transportation-as-a-service model also presents an opportunity to replace all the pointless gas-guzzling cars on the road with far more efficient models. Just like airlines have started to standardize on fuel-efficient planes, like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, the driverless car fleets of the future would be serviced by vehicles that are hyper-fuel efficient.
Zimmer also points out that ending the use of private cars gives us a golden opportunity to redesign our cities and infrastructure for the better. According to his manifesto, there are 700 million parking spaces in the US. If each space was joined together, it would create an asphalt landmass bigger than the state of Connecticut.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could replace each parking spot with greenery – ripping up the bitumen and planting grass and trees in its place? Imagine if every multi-storey parking monstrosity was replaced with affordable housing.
NOT LONG NOW
The beautiful thing about Zimmer’s vision is that it’s not just feasible – it’s happening right now. Tesla now sells a car that can automatically switch lanes. In Pittsburgh, Uber is testing out driverless cars, albeit with human supervision. Similar trials are happening in Singapore.
This will present opportunities to make our cities healthier, better places to live. It will allow us to spend less money on car ownership. We will massively reduce carbon emissions, and millions of lives that would be lost in car accidents would be saved.
Put simply, this is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.
ROLL OUT MARKS SIGFOX’S ENTRY IN LATIN AMERICA AND PRESENCE ON ALL CONTINENTS
LABEGE, France & SAO PAULO SIGFOX, the world’s leading provider of dedicated communications service for the Internet of Things (IoT), and WND, the company launched to extend SIGFOX’s network across Latin America, announced they have begun deploying SIGFOX’s dedicated IoT network throughout Brazil, starting with Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. This new deployment marks the addition of the 18th country where SIGFOX is present and SIGFOX’s footprint on all continents.
“GSMA Intelligence reports that Brazil is the world’s fourth-largest machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) market, which makes the country another major, strategic part of SIGFOX’s goal of establishing one global, seamless IoT network for billions of objects,” said Rodolphe Baronnet-Frugès, SIGFOX executive vice-president networks & operators.
“This deployment with WND also marks SIGFOX’s launch in Latin America, with more countries soon to follow, as we expand our coverage throughout the whole region,” he said. “We are delighted to work closely with WND Brazil, subsidiary of WND and the SIGFOX Network Operator in the country, to deploy the network and develop the business in this major market.”
WND was founded in 2015 by Chris Bataillard, an entrepreneur and active founder, angel investor and advisor in a number of telecommunications and high-tech companies. During his 20 years in investment-banking services, Bataillard held different executive positions at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Co-founder of Inquam/Zapp with Qualcomm in 2000, he gained extensive experience starting and running cellular networks.
“SIGFOX’s rapid expansion in the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East demonstrates the universal appeal of its IoT network and ecosystem, which enable SIGFOX Network Operators to very quickly provide their customers with low-cost, energy-efficient connectivity for an extensive range of applications,” Bataillard said. “Brazil and Latin America are huge markets for SIGFOX’s IoT solution, and we are very excited to quickly offer its services throughout the region.”
In partnership with Thought Creator, an IoT device maker and solution provider in Portugal, WND has developed a low-cost geolocation device specifically for the Latin American asset-tracking market, with a battery life of more than a year.
“We have identified already a strong demand from the insurance industry in order to reduce insurance-and-theft costs”, Bataillard explained. “Both small and inexpensive, this location device, which offers an optimal combination of WiFi and SIGFOX capabilities, has many indoor and outdoor applications for businesses and consumers. These include construction and telecom equipment, packages, vehicles and bicycles and pet-tracking.”
By starting the deployment in Rio de Janeiro, the geolocation device will be available to demonstrate simple but essential applications enabled by the IoT, including the tracking of people’s belongings in near real-time on their mobile phones.
Taking advantage of the simple and fast rollout of the network, which requires far lighter infrastructure than traditional wireless networks, SIGFOX expects the network to be operational in São Paulo, a city of more than 11 million people, in September 2016. The top 10 urban areas, representing one-third of Brazil’s 210 million population, will be covered by September 2017.
Brazilian businesses and consumers also will benefit from the innovative products and solutions developed around the world by SIGFOX’s large ecosystem of partners, which includes world-leading manufacturers of components and connected devices, IT developers and integrators. This will foster development of connected solutions and the creation of new businesses in Brazil.