Question: What would business school look like if it were designed by marketing guru Seth Godin?  

Answer: It would be immersive and intimate, accessible from anywhere in the world, and focused on shipping a ridiculous number of projects in a short time frame.

Seth’s latest venture, altMBA, is precisely that program.


A four-week sprint with peers from around the world

altMBA is a 4-week intensive business education that blurs the line between online and in-person.  The curriculum centers around hands-on projects, created by Seth Godin, which participants complete in small groups. While the program is designed for maximum person-to-person engagement, participants are not physically together; the entire experience takes place in an online environment.

I recently got the chance to speak with Winnie J. Kao, who is the director of the program and a strong voice in the world of marketing in her own right. She explained to me that the short-term, intensive nature of the programs is one of its main benefits. If you were doing it on your own, you might give up. But because you’re in this 4 week sprint, you’ve already paid the tuition, and your group is counting on you. It makes it hard to leave, so you stick it out. When you stick it out, you give yourself a shot to get through the dip. You trudge along doing the hard parts because your group will kindly call you out when you’re avoiding difficult decisions, and you make it through on the other side,” she said.

Winnie also explained that one of the most important things she has learned by running altMBA has to do with the power of technology to enable true, meaningful, and lasting connections to form. “When altMBA alumni meet up for the first time in person, after an intense month of working daily together online, it feels as if we’ve known each other for years. Alumni meet up all over the world for barbecues, dinners, and mastermind groups, and continue to support each other long after the sprint ends. We connect one another to relevant colleagues, root for each other, and celebrate when people get promotions, launch products, launch companies. It’s a beautiful thing.”

“If you were doing it on your own, you might give up. But because you’re in this 4 week sprint, you’ve already paid the tuition, and your group is counting on you. It makes it hard to leave, so you stick it out.” 

-Winnie J. Kao


Why I’m blogging about the competition

So why would I spend a blog post to tell you about a program that could be seen as a competitor to No-Pay MBA? Here’s why:


I think you’ll be interested in altMBA

I see No-Pay MBA readers as being savvy and inquisitive, interested in a variety of unconventional approaches to business education. You’re high achievers, not status seekers, so you’re excited about transformative educational experiences whether or not they come with a degree from a brand-name institution. As Winnie J. Kao told me, “altMBA is for people who are hungry to do more and be better. It’s for people who see possibility and reasons to say yes. People who are ready to level up.”  I would describe No-Pay MBA’s audience in the same terms.

When I choose topics to write about, I think back to myself pre-No-Pay MBA, when I was thinking about how I could get the transformative business education I sought without going tens of thousands of dollars into debt. Many No-Pay MBA readers are in a similar situation. My goal with this blog is to make you aware of your options and to help you make the best decisions about your business education. altMBA is a program I would have been interested in (in fact, I still am); by extension I assume that No-Pay MBA readers will want to know about it.


I don’t see altMBA as competition

I don’t really see altMBA as competition, for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s at a different price point than No-Pay MBA. Tuition for altMBA is $3,000 - much more affordable than traditional business school, but still significantly more expensive than joining No-Pay MBA’s network.

The curricula also differ significantly. No-Pay MBA is MOOC-based, while the course materials for altMBA’s curriculum were created by Seth Godin. Furthermore, altMBA is a sprint, whereas No-Pay MBA is a marathon. altMBA requires a serious number of hours over just a few weeks. A No-Pay MBA is a bit more fluid, designed to be completed in 18-24 months and adaptable to all kinds of schedules. There are pluses and minuses to both models, but they’re different enough to appeal to different people.


Now is the time for online learning with a human touch

Truth is, I feel validated by altMBA. Smart, famous people like Seth Godin and Winnie J. Kao agree with me that you can have a transformative educational experience in an online community. That’s cool! They also agree that making human connections and putting skills into practice are key to having such a transformative experience.

I’m also excited that Seth Godin thinks that now is the time to launch a business that brings together online learning, human connection, and hands-on practice. Winnie described to me a blue-skies process that she and Seth went through to develop Seth’s next venture. They could have done literally anything, and altMBA is what they chose.


We’re all in this together

“Can I run a program like this on my own?” asks altMBA’s FAQs section.

“You can and we hope you will. I hope you can find twenty talented people, earn their commitment and together go through a process like this one. I know it works, and the transformation is extraordinary. We’re building this because most people have a hard time organizing something like this and a harder time keeping it moving.”

As someone who is in the trenches building such a group, Seth’s words ring true. It is difficult to organize a group of people to form a true learning community in a virtual environment. But when you get it right, it’s extraordinary.

When I started the No-Pay MBA project, MOOCs were in their infancy, and the MBA was still singular in the world of business education. Since then, so many exciting opportunities have emerged, many of them intimate, innovative, and entrepreneurial. I’m happy to use my small megaphone to get the message out about the ones I find most exciting.


Where to learn more

For more information about altMBA, check out their website at altmba.com.

I highly recommend Seth Godin’s Startup School Podcast, an excellent primer to both building a startup business and to the inspirational force that is Seth Godin.

Winnie J. Kao writes an excellent blog about marketing, filled with insights about culture and human psychology.

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