An Open Letter to Coursera

Dear Coursera,


Let me start by saying that I love what you do. Having used MOOCs to put together a business education equivalent to an MBA, and now as someone who gives advice and guidance to people seeking high-quality, debt-free business education, I am a major proponent of your work.


Which is why I feel compelled to say something about your newest revenue model, in which you charge students for access to quizzes and assessments.


Since this is an open letter, let me break it down for people who aren’t as intimately familiar with your services as I am. Coursera offers massive open online courses - MOOCs - taught by university professors from well-respected institutions of higher learning. At first, these courses were totally free, including a certificate if you finished a course. Then Coursera started offering identity-verified certificates for a fee, and gradually free certificates were phased out. Most recently, Coursera has adopted a new model in which it is still possible to watch course videos for free, but users must pay a course fee in order to access quizzes and assignments.


Coursera, I understand that you need to find a way to earn money. After all, it is expensive to create and deliver university courses, even online. But this latest model feels like a big step toward the closure of a resource that was so exciting precisely because it was radically and truly open.


When MOOCs first appeared, they seemed almost too good to be true. It was thrilling to be part of such a bold experiment in higher education. What would happen if everyone in the world were able access courses taught by the brightest minds on the planet? Would people be interested in free university courses? (Yes.) Would they find value in the courses? (Big yes.) Would employers recognize the additional knowledge and skills being transferred through MOOCs?


The answer to this last question is still unknown. And in chipping away at the foundation of free-ness upon which MOOCs were initially built, you’re making it more risky for us to try to find out. You’re also facing a PR problem, as even die-hard MOOC fans begin to question whether pseudo-free courses, where the assignments are hidden behind a paywall, are as exciting as truly free ones.  

Rather than gradually closing off your courses, what about focusing instead on value-adding products and services that can complement them?

I’ll continue recommending Coursera courses to readers of the No-Pay MBA blog. You continue to have the biggest and best catalogue of business courses around. But I’m disappointed by the incremental reductions in offerings that were once available for free. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. I am writing this letter on behalf of the MOOC students in my community, many of whom have expressed their frustration in our community discussion forums.


I have to wonder, rather than gradually closing off your courses, could you instead focus on value-adding products and services that can complement them?  

I would be excited to recommend to my readers the following course add-ons, some of which you are already piloting:

  • Mentorship. One of the big criticisms of MOOCs is that completion rates are low. Your new mentor-guided courses seem like a great way to boost motivation, keep people on track, and give them a way to form the kinds of relationships that make in-person education so transformative.


  • Assignments graded by experts. Rather than charge for computer-graded quizzes and peer-graded assignments, why not add assignments that are graded by professors, graduate students, or industry professionals? Additional assignments, for which students receive feedback from subject matter experts could be highly valuable.


  • Industry connections and job placement. Not everyone who takes a MOOC is looking for a new job. And that’s fine. In fact, that is what’s so wonderful about these courses. They allow people to explore. But for those who are not just tourists in the world of online education, the big value is in bridging the distance between where they are professionally and where they want to be. And that means making connections with industry. You’ve already started working on this with industry-designed capstone projects. Why not help some of the top MOOC performers get interviewed by top companies and then charge a recruiter’s fee if they end up getting a new job placement?


These are just a few ideas of how you could boost your revenues without alienating your current base. You won our gratitude and our admiration with free courses. You can keep it by building additional value on top of them, without taking away what made us love you in the first place.



Laurie Pickard

Founder, No-Pay MBA

What’s the real cost of a No-Pay MBA?

*Note: this post contains affiliate links.That means that for programs of which No-Pay is an affiliate, we stand to make a small commission if you click on a link and make a purchase. I only include links to products that I have actually used and personally endorse. I also make it clear in the body of the post which links are affiliate links.  -Laurie


It’s time to come clean. No-Pay MBA first made headlines as “An MBA for less than $1000.” We’ve been flying that flag ever since. But where did that $1000 figure actually come from? Here’s where: the reporter of that first big piece about my project asked me, “How much do you plan to spend on your education?”


I answered, “$1000.”


Which at that time was my best guess of how much I would spend, not for the education itself, but for converting my website from Blogspot to a proper, search engine optimized, .com website. I hadn’t actually thought much about the cost of the actual education. Back then, you couldn’t pay for a MOOC if you wanted to. Maybe I would buy a few books? But $1000 seemed to capture people’s imaginations, and it became a good benchmark. There you have it, my dirty little secret. 😉



Now, as my No-Pay MBA is drawing to a close (I plan to “graduate” in late spring of this year), I’m finally able to take stock of exactly how much my business education has cost. This exercise has been surprisingly difficult, as it isn’t always clear which expenditures belong in the No-Pay MBA account.


For instance, I’ve paid dearly for a high-speed internet connection in Rwanda, where I have lived throughout this experience. But I probably would have paid for internet access no matter what, so the expense wasn’t solely or even primarily for my business studies. Same goes for my laptop, so I didn’t count either of those things, vital though they were to this endeavor. But other expenditures were trickier to classify. Was web hosting part of the cost of my education?


Ultimately, I came up with a few different categories of expenses that were directly or indirectly related to my business education. At the lower end, counting only the cost of the education itself, I have managed to spend under $1000, about $795 to be more precise. But I haven’t pinched pennies in this project. I am a big believer in investing in myself, my career, and my personal development. Having saved over $100,000 on business school tuition, I felt free in this project to spend on anything that might enhance the value of my education.  At the higher end, counting everything I’ve put into the No-Pay MBA project, including starting a business, I estimate expenditures upwards of $19,000.


Without further ado, here is my final accounting of what I have spent to get a complete No-Pay MBA:


Direct costs of the education


I got into this MOOC thing while the gettin’ was good. Consequently, I earned a lot of course certificates while they were still free. I am about to start my first Coursera Specialization, Essentials of Corporate Finance, for which I will pay $395. I took a fabulous (and fabulously discounted) course on branding from Made Vibrant for $50. I also had a subscription to Lynda.com for about six months at $25/month, which was great for brushing up on Excel and learning more of the practicalities of managing.  I also read about 20 business books, most of which are displayed here. At $10 per book, that’s about $200 on books.

(Note: No-Pay MBA is an affiliate of both Lynda and Coursera, which means that if you click on the links in the preceding paragraph, we will get a couple of bucks if you end up buying something. Same goes for the link to No-Pay MBA’s Amazon Store, where you can see my favorite business books.)


Grand total for the education itself: $795


Cost of having a basic blog site:


The next category of costs associated with my No-Pay MBA iss creating and managing a website. While having a website wasn’t part of my business education per se, it was a vital part of getting the word out about the project. The website has also been a tremendous source of inbound traffic, and so has contributed greatly to my overall experience by expanding my network. As I said earlier, I started with a simple (free) Blogspot site. A few months into the project I got more serious and purchased a .com domain at a cost of about $60. Web hosting was another $8 per month on an inexpensive hosting site.  I shelled out $69 for a nice theme from Elegant Themes (another affiliate. They make some beautiful stuff!). Finally, I paid for some serious help in setting up and search engine optimizing my website. That cost about $1000. And I was in business!


Grand total for the No-Pay MBA blog site: $1321


Cost of career development and networking services:


Another key component of my education has been figuring out where I want to go with it and meeting the people who can help me get there. I am a huge believer in the value of coaching. I worked with a coach on several occasions during my education, primarily as a way of getting clarity around how to leverage my education in the course of my career. I even paid a pretty penny for one 90-minute session with a high profile executive coach. That session was so jam-packed with insight that it kept me busy for the better part of a year. Worth it, even at the cost of several hundred dollars.


The best value service I took advantage of in the career development realm was the Career Leader assessment. This comprehensive inventory cost $95, and it helped me to understand that my greatest professional interests and aptitudes lie in product development, project management, and mentoring/coaching. That insight ultimately led me to create a business centered around those elements. Well worth a hundred bucks, if you ask me!


Another big ticket item  in the career development and network category is my upcoming attendance at the South by Southwest Education conference (SXSWedu). Attending an industry conference can be a great way to expand your network and introduce you to the latest greatest ideas in your field. Expensive, but again, worth it.


Grand total for career development and networking: $2050


Cost of starting a business:


Finally, by far the most expensive thing I did as part of my education was to start a business. Now, on the one hand starting a business wasn’t strictly part of my business education. It was more an outcome of the education. I’ve also earned back nearly all of the money I invested in my business within the first 8 months of operation, and I stand to be fully in the black within the next several months. But that initial outlay was significant, I could have failed, and by far the greatest value of starting a business has been educational. So in that sense, starting a business was part of my business education.


I won’t go into too much detail, but between setting up my website for ecommerce, developing the portfolio feature on the site, registering a business and establishing a trademark, and hiring an assistant to help me with all the extra work, my investment in my business was 10X the investment in the education itself.


Grand total for starting a business: around $15,000


So, as I said at the beginning of this post, depending on how you slice it, I spent somewhere between $795 and $19,000 on by business education. That might sound like a lot, but even at the upper end, it’s only about 1/10th of what many traditional business students spend on an MBA when you count all the expenses.


What should you pay for as part of your business education?



Clearly, there is quite a lot you can spend money on, even as part of a tuition-free business education. If you’re operating with limited resources, deciding what to spend your money on requires a great deal of discernment. At the risk of making this into an excessively long blog post, below are my recommendations on how to make the highest returning investment in yourself and your education.

Course content and learning


Despite Coursera’s recent changes in policy (students now have to pay to access quizzes and other assessments), there are still plenty of free courses out there. Platforms such as FutureLearn, edX, and Alison still offer many if not most of their courses for free. There’s also iTunesU, which is often overlooked given the focus on MOOCs, but they’re still offering a lot of great courses.


I’m also a fan of professional training courses through Lynda and Udemy, which are typically quite affordable and oftentimes more practical (less theoretical) than what the university MOOC providers are offering. (See sidebar banner links for special deals at both of these sites.)


When it comes to course certificates, I stand by my advice to be choosy about what you pay for. That said, a serious business student should probably do at least one rigorous series of courses all on the same topic. It may be helpful to get a certificate that covers that whole series, in case a future employer ever asks to see proof.


And let’s not forget books! I’m currently reading Managers, Not MBAs by Henry Mintzberg. It’s a great read, and it’s really gotten me thinking about what the overall purpose of business education is and ought to be. Some of my other favorites can be found here. (Full disclosure, as with some of the other links in this post, I will earn a few cents if you purchase any books after clicking on the links above.)


Career development and networking services

At the free tier, there is a lot you can do in the networking department. You should definitely have a LinkedIn account and a fully filled out profile. Free Facebook and LinkedIn groups provide some opportunities to meet professionals in your field, as do the course forums for MOOCs themselves. By far the best thing you can do to build your network is to make a habit of conducting informational interviews (more on that in a future blog post), and it doesn’t cost a penny.


If you have a little bit of money to spend, coaching can be a phenomenal investment, especially if you are feeling stuck or are at a career crossroads.  I also recently learned about a service called Evisors, which is a kind of hybrid between coaching and informational interviews. The service allows job seekers to book short sessions with people who work at the companies or in the fields they are interested in.


As I mentioned earlier, I got a lot out of the Career Leader assessment. There are others like it, and they can sometimes reveal unexpected insight about where you ought to be focusing your career development efforts. Some colleges and universities offer free access to their alumni, so you may be able to get Career Leader or another assessment for free. If you don’t have that kind of access,  Strengths Finder 2.0 is an affordable alternative.


Industry conferences are also a valuable way to connect with professionals in your field. If the price of admission is too high, it may be worth it to show up at the event just for the coffee dates and networking opportunities, without actually attending any sessions.


Experiential learning


Getting out of the classroom and into the real world is key to a great business education. It’s free to apply your new skills at work, and doing so may even lead to a raise (as it did in my case). Volunteering or interning with a local organization or through a virtual placement requires some work to set up, but is also generally free.


International travel, which you may be able to combine with volunteering or interning, is an important add-on to many MBA programs. International exposure is highly valuable, no matter what you plan to do. But of course, international travel can be expensive.


Starting a business is an incredible, life-changing learning experience. It’s also difficult, risky, and expensive. But if you can swing it without draining your life savings or quitting your job, starting an entrepreneurial venture can be the ultimate business education.


Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the No-Pay MBA Network, which brings together as many networking, career development, and experiential learning services as I can offer at a price under $20 per month.

How do you get the best bang for your educational buck? Let us know in the comments below!

What Belongs In Your Business Education Portfolio

Here’s university education in a nutshell: First, the university deems me talented enough to succeed by putting me through an admissions process. Next, the university provides a series of hurdles for me to clear, primarily courses that I must complete. The courses are of varying levels of difficulty and quality, and I have a fair amount of choice over which courses I take, so my set of hurdles may be higher or lower than my classmates’, but no matter. After I complete the requirements the university has set out for me, it grants me a diploma and allows me to carry around the university’s brand name for the rest of my working life.


With the university’s stamp of approval, I am able to access higher quality and better paying jobs. Which is a pretty good thing because in exchange for this process, I have paid the university a pretty penny. I need a high-paying job in order to be able to pay off my students loans.


But what if higher education didn’t actually work like this at all? What if education were actually a transformation that occurred inside of the learner’s mind? What if professors were neither task masters nor the arbiters of my success but were rather guides in a process of transformation that I, the student,  was ultimately in charge of? What if I could learn not just in the classroom but also in the real world? And what if everything I learned, no matter where I picked it up, could “count”?   It sounds lovely, but of course there is a problem with this method of learning. Who will be there to attest to the change the learner has gone through?  


In other words, if you direct your own education, how will future employers know that you’re qualified to hire?


This, of course, is exactly the situation at hand.

The credential problem


When I started the No-Pay MBA project, I set out to complete the equivalent of a two-year MBA program in three years of part-time study. I have used MOOCs and other free and low-cost online resources to complete this education. I based my course progression on the curricula of top-flight MBA programs.   Now that I am nearing the end of my program - I expect to finish in May of 2016 - I have proven (at least to myself) that I am capable of learning what is taught in business school, even if I wasn’t willing to drop a hundred-fifty grand to do it.  And I have indeed gone through an internal transformation. However, I am still left with what I have come to think of as “the credential problem.” Who will legitimize my transformation so that I can take it into the job market and be paid for it?


Ultimately, I would like for my business studies - and yours - to provide a direct pathway to increased employment prospects. But new survey data from the Graduate Management Admissions Council shows that we still have a ways to go toward that goal. Currently only 8% of recruiters in the US see MOOCs as a viable alternative to business school (other regions view MOOCs more favorably).   I’ve thought about various solutions to this problem. Would a university grant me ‘credit’ for the courses I’ve taken? How much would they charge to do it? Would I be willing to pay $5,000 for that service? $10,000? Would I be willing to trade in my No-Pay MBA for a degree from a lower-tier university? Or would I hold out for a degree from a mid- or top-tier school? It seemed unlikely that the better business schools would go in for a scheme like this, and I wasn’t sure I was willing to pay even a modest sum for a lower-tier degree. I even thought briefly about creating my own credential, which I could grant to others who go through my program, but ultimately I rejected the idea. Quality control seemed much too difficult, and it seemed like a risky business overall.

The portfolio solution


The credential problem is not just my problem. Anyone who wants to leverage a MOOC-based education for career advancement faces the same issue.

Fortunately, there is a solution to the credential problem.


While MOOCs have gone on a wild roller coaster in the press, by turns hyped as the great disruptor and scoffed at as entertainment for the overeducated, a quieter revolution has been occurring in education. The serious thinkers seem to agree that the real disruptive potential rests with competency-based education, which emphasizes skills over seat-time or course completion.

Furthermore, while recruiters may be tepid towards MOOCs, fully 92% of employers say that proven ability to perform is critical to their selection of who to hire, more employers than for any other criterion.  

Hence, I would like to present the portfolio solution to the credential problem.   The portfolio solution says that you can legitimize what you’ve learned in MOOCs - or any other means - by demonstrating your competency, displaying what you can do for anyone who wants to know.  By creating a portfolio, you can provide external evidence to anyone who wants to understand your education. No third-party validation, just direct observation of what you are able to do.

Core business competencies


When I first released the portfolio feature on No-Pay MBA, I didn’t yet have specific guidance to give about what to put in a portfolio. Having had some time to mull it over, here is my take on what a competency-based business education might look like. (Keep in mind that this is just a first draft.)  Below is a list of the skills that I believe every business student should strive to master, along with some suggestions on how to display those skills in an educational portfolio.



Business professionals need to be able to express themselves in a variety of settings and through a variety of media, including oral presentations, written reports, and slide decks. You should be able to make a case for your point of view, giving a compelling argument that draws on concrete evidence. You should also be a good listener, able to understand the viewpoints of others.

Suggested portfolio pieces:

  • Recording of a talk you have given,
  • Slide deck you have produced,
  • Article or blog post expressing an opinion.


Strategic Analysis


A business professional should be able to analyze the strategic position of an organization, understand market opportunities, and assess the potential of a new project or idea. Strategy brings together many disciplines, including finance, entrepreneurship, and marketing. Effective presentation of a strategic viewpoint also requires excellent communication skills.  

Suggested portfolio pieces:

  • Strategic analysis report,
  • Business model canvas for an entrepreneurial idea.


Management and Leadership


Management and leadership are at the core of the MBA, yet they are the most difficult skills to demonstrate virtually. However, among our colleagues we all know who we want to have on our team. A business professional should be able to organize a team to produce a deliverable (project management), delegate and supervise the work of others (management), and be able to contribute to a team she is not leading (teamwork). She should also be able to conduct a negotiation on behalf of the organization she represents. One of the main functions of the No-Pay MBA Network is to provide opportunities to hone one’s management and leadership skills, including managing projects, facilitating teams, and conducting negotiations. We do this through facilitated group courses, team projects, and business simulation activities.

Suggested portfolio pieces:


  • Narrative feedback from those you have supervised or from a team you have facilitated (available through the No-Pay MBA Network),
  • Narrative assessment of a negotiation or feedback from a negotiation partner,
  • Feedback from team members in a business project or simulation.

Financial and Quantitative Analysis


Business professionals need to be able to work with numbers. They must understand the key concepts and language of finance, and should be comfortable reading and interpreting financial statements. They should be able to build financial models, value projects and companies, and make recommendations regarding investment decisions. In today’s data-rich environment, it is also helpful to be able to extract insight from large datasets.

Suggested portfolio pieces:


  • Financial model you have built,
  • Valuation report for a project or company,
  • Data analysis report.




While a business professional does not need to be a computer programmer, he does need to be able to use the technologies of the day. Coming out of a business program, a graduate should be comfortable with a wide variety of organization, communications, and productivity technologies. These include email, shared calendars, video-conferencing, messaging (e.g. Slack), file sharing, and project management softwares. Standard business software solutions such as spreadsheets, word processing, slide presentations, and database management should also be part of the repertoire. Above all, a business professional should be comfortable adopting and learning to use new technologies, given the rapid pace at which technology is changing and the impact technology has on all businesses.

Suggested portfolio pieces:


  • Links to social media profiles,
  • Implicit use of technology as demonstrated in other portfolio pieces.

What will you learn this year? 3 ways to use MOOCs in 2016

It’s New Year’s resolution time. Apparently MOOC platform edX’s new year’s resolution was to create a ton of new business and management content. edX has a bunch of great courses coming online in the new year, including some on specialized topics that aren’t covered on other platforms. This is great news for MOOC business students and a good sign that we will continue to see increases in the number and variety of courses available to us.

edX’s expanded business content provides a helpful starting point for showing the range of ways to use MOOCs. Whatever your professional goals, here are three ways MOOCs can help you reach them. 

1. To become more productive, whatever your industry

Some of the most popular MOOCs cover topics that apply to nearly every industry. Leadership, time management, design thinking, and communication are a few such subjects. One of edX’s new courses is project management from Australia’s University of Adelaide. Project management is one of my favorite topics, and I find that I learn new tricks from every course I take, even though I have been managing projects for years. Another edX course I’m excited about is Get Beyond Work-Life Balance from Catalyst. One of the interesting things about this course is that it was developed not by a university but a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women advance in business.  Get Beyond Work-Life Balance is a self-paced course and is part of a series of Catalyst courses on inclusive leadership. The next course in the series, Becoming a Successful Leader, starts mid-January.

2. To learn about a particular industry

You can also use MOOCs as an introduction to an industry. For example, edX has a new course on hospitality management from Cornell University, a must-take if this is an industry you are considering moving into, especially given that Cornell is home to one of the top programs in hospitality. For entrepreneurs, edX’s new course on getting venture financing for a startup could be the start to your journey into the world of venture-backed startups. Take this course on its own or after learning the basics of entrepreneurship in MITx’s popular suite of courses, User Innovation, Understanding Your Customer, and What Can You Do For Your Customer?

Online education allows learners of all ages to be life-long learners and acquire new skills or brush up on the latest business trends.

3. To achieve expertise, or as a pathway to a professional degree

This is where things get interesting. Are MOOCs meant to be previews of coming attractions, or are they feature films? Universities seem torn on this issue, and it is fun watching them negotiate what must be a sometimes frightening new reality. On the one hand, MOOCs have the potential to open up new revenue streams; on the other hand they have the potential to cannibalize the core business of the university. Many universities would be happy to have MOOCs act primarily as marketing materials for the programs that produce them, serving perhaps as a pipeline for admissions into traditional programs.  

But the real movers and shakers are dabbling with more radical alternatives.   For example, last year MIT announced a new way of getting a master’s degree. Through edX, students can take a semester’s worth of courses from MIT’s highly-ranked Supply Chain Management program. They can then spend one semester on campus to earn a master’s degree. Or, students can complete just the online portion of the program and earn what MIT is calling a MicroMaster’s in supply chain management.   Perhaps the most exciting part of the supply chain master’s program is that it relies on an inverted admissions process. The supply chain courses on edX are open to the public. Admissions into the master’s program is based on completion of those courses. Hence, admissions happens after a student has demonstrated mastery, not just potential. Classes start February 10, 2016.   I’m certainly partial to status quo-challenging approaches like the MicroMaster’s and professional certifications such as the one edX offers on mergers and acquisitions, which provide affordable options for career transformation without taking on massive debt or leaving the workforce. As CEO Anant Agarwal explains, edX is committed to continuing to offer more of this kind of content.

“We know that professionals and employers are interested in new forms of credentials that demonstrate in-depth knowledge and skill. And, online education allows learners of all ages to be life-long learners and acquire new skills or brush up on the latest business trends. It also affords an evolutionary path for universities in the face of mounting costs, and a way to leverage technology to blend online and on-campus learning pathways.”


Making your New Year’s Resolution

With all these great courses coming online in early 2016, it’s the perfect time to set a learning goal for the year. What’s yours?

Steve Blank Speaks to the No-Pay MBA Network

“One of the key characteristics of an entrepreneur is that you tend to show up a lot.”

This was one of the first things Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank said to the members of the No-Pay MBA Network during a recent video call. He was explaining the genesis of How to Build a Startup, his course on Udacity’s platform, and telling the story of how he became one of the first professors to teach a massive open online course.

“I was trying to solve a problem,” he said. At the request of the National Science Foundation, he was teaching his Lean Launchpad course to a geographically dispersed group as a series of web lectures, when it occurred to him that he might be able to enhance the student experience by pre-recording lectures and adding drawings to them. Once the lectures were recorded, it would be easy to share them with many more people than the small group he was teaching under the grant.

Coincidentally, friend and fellow faculty member Sebastian Thrun was at that time leaving Stanford to found Udacity. The two decided to team up to offer How to Build a Startup as a Udacity course. “Full disclosure, I also handed him one of his first checks,” Blank said. Thus, he became both an early investor and an early participant in the MOOC experiment by doing what he has done throughout his career - showing up, solving problems, and saying yes.

“One of the key characteristics of an entrepreneur is that you tend to show up a lot.”

These three themes - showing up, solving problems, and saying yes - are more than the formula for Blank’s success; they are innate. Long past the point when he has earned the right to say no, Blank continues to say yes. This generosity of spirit is evident in all of his work - from his website, where he shares a treasure trove of resources, including blog posts, video, audio, and presentations; to his radio show “Entrepreneurs are Everywhere,” in which he interviews entrepreneurs from all walks of life; to his willingness to talk with a small group of students from among the 300,000 who have taken his free online course.

As one of those students, in a way I felt like I already knew Steve Blank, even though I was meeting him for the first time. After all, I had spent some formative hours with him in the online classroom learning how entrepreneurship works. And yet, nothing compares to being face-to-face (albeit virtually) with someone whose work you admire. In person, Blank is just as warm and candid as he is in the course. He curses, he jokes. He thinks fast and doesn’t waste time, so he sometimes cuts people off - not to be rude, but just to get to the point. Talking with him was thrilling and invigorating.

From the MOOC experience, our discussion turned to corporate innovation. Network members raised questions about how to become involved in intra-preneurial activities at work, and Blank shared suggestions and insight from his exploration of this topic over the past several years. We talked about the value of business school - a set of foundational skills and tools and a personal network - and about whether it’s better to go to business school or start a company - depends on how you learn best.

When one person asked about how to form a founding team, Steve waxed poetic about startup founders. “The company to them is not a job, it’s a calling. The founder is closer to an artist than any other profession. Startups are not run by accountants; they’re run by artists. And by artists I mean composers, sculptors, writers, people who see things that other people don’t, and people who have a passion burning inside that they want to share with the rest of the world. Those are the people who build successful startups. [A founder] creates a reality distortion field around them, so other people can see things that are not yet there.”

“Startups are not run by accountants; they’re run by artists.”

Finally, we talked about this current moment in technology, education, and entrepreneurship. Again, Blank grew philosophical.  “This is one of the best times ever [for entrepreneurship]. This is like living in Florence in the Renaissance or like being a writer in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Very few times and places have existed like this in the world. We should enjoy the hell out of it. It won’t last, but while it’s here, we ought to just remember we were part of it.”

To learn more about Steve Blank’s work, check out his website. His Startup Tools, slides and videos, and many other resources appear as tabs across the top of the site.  You can find the How to Build a Startup course here.

If you’re interested in joining the No-Pay MBA Network, you can learn more about it here.

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