MBAs in the Internet Industry

In the first post of this article, “Reasons for an MBA graduate to go into the Internet industry... Are there any?” I discussed mainly the current difficulties and drawbacks for an MBA Graduate who chooses to enter the Internet Industry. There were many reasons against making this choice, the most relevant being that there is not an MBA culture in this industry, there’s no hiring expertise and programs for MBAs, salaries are lower, and there are very few positions available (big companies recruit tiny and smaller companies don’t even consider it). Is Network

MBAs in the Internet Industry 1

The question here is obvious for an MBA graduate considering this in this field:
Why would I choose an industry where there is no culture at all? My title isn’t recognized like in many other sectors. There are much fewer positions available, and on top of that, salaries are lower.

Although the Internet industry might seem unattractive with this outlook, there’s always another side. We MBA’s also have our advantages in this industry… and some are very powerful indeed…

When less (in the industry) means more (opportunities)

As mentioned in the first part of this posting, comparatively, few MBAs exist in the Internet industry. This was first seen as a bad thing because being less means fewer people can recognize the value of an MBA Graduate, and also means lower salaries… But it can also be seen as a good thing. Fewer MBAs in the industry means there is less competition. There will be fewer people in the industry with the same set of skills that your MBA gave you, and that’s quite an advantage. It could be a drawback in the short run that turns into an edge in the long run. Later in your career, when it comes to Top Management positions, it doesn’t matter how good the leading technician was at programming; if you don’t have the skills to manage people or have direct P&L responsibility, you won’t get promoted. Guess who will be better positioned to get a promotion at that point…

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A different angle on things

MBAs have (or should have) the ability to see a business opportunity faster than average. During the MBA, the knowledge acquired gives you the tools to look at one market/industry and study it, dissect it, analyze its competitive landscape, and see things from a different perspective. These tools should be an advantage to spot business opportunities people haven’t seen.

Fundraising… our biggest asset

Even great ideas need proper funding to get started. If you look at the greatest achievements in the Internet Industry (Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, for example), their founders were great programmers and, maybe even more importantly, great business people. Millions of software developers, programmers, and people in this industry come up with develops daily. These brilliant ideas never materialize because of a lack of proper business planning and access to capital. Being an MBA gives you the necessary knowledge in accounting, finance, HR, and Marketing to create a strong and coherent business plan for fundraising. MBAs also have the tools to discuss head-to-head ROI’s, Marketing Ideas, cash flows, and competitive strategies with Private Equity Firms, Business angels, banks, and the like. In a young industry like this one, where most of the innovations come from small start-ups with little capital, this skill can be precious marketing... a precious skill to have in this industry.

In the early days of the Internet, most of the biggest success stories (Napster, Google, eBay, etc.) didn’t rely on traditional marketing strategies. Most built their initial success on word of mouth and viral marketing because the innovation they brought to the market was so significant that almost nothing else was needed. Nowadays, most marketing for companies related to the Internet industry is still online marketing (SEM, SEO, Social Networking, Blogging, etc.) and is still dominated by web admins and programmers.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, this is changing at a fast pace. Online marketing is still marketing at the end of the day and should be managed by someone with the right marketing mindset, not a programmer or a web admin. Increasing competition in this area means more professional management will be needed. In some years, MBAs that enter the industry will have the necessary experience when this change materializes. The days when you can have an amazing new idea, and it builds itself into a multimillion-dollar company just through word of mouth are over (or very close to being over; there are still “Facebook” and “MySpace” kinds of companies that arise now and then). New Internet companies need more professional marketing strategies, including offline advertising, branding, alliances with offline companies, etc. Here is where the Online Marketing Gurus can’t help them. MBAs are privileged to take leadership in this kind of role.

Entrepreneurship… You can be an entrepreneur in this industry.

If your idea of a job is to work for a salary your whole life and your only goal is to get promoted to have a bigger paycheck, this is not the industry. On the other hand, if you are an entrepreneur, this industry is probably much better than others. Imagine starting a new business from scratch in the… FMCG/Retailing Industry? …. In the Steel Industry? … In the Banking Industry? It… It’s probably not a feasible idea unless you’re a millionaire. The Internet industry provides an environment where you can start your own business (typically with much less money than other industries), get the appropriate funds, and work independently. As mentioned, the MBA gives you some competitive advantages that many other industry people don’t have, like fundraising and marketing.