60-Day MBA: An online bootcamp to give colleges a run for their money

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on June 20, 2013

From The News Desk

So, you think you have the chops to start your own business? Well 60-Day MBA, an online crash course for wannabe-entrepreneurs, isn't so sure. This "how to start a business" bootcamp is coming out of beta next week claiming to teach the skills that are necessary to start a successful business.

According to co-founder Dave Llorens, the skills people learn in MBA programs, while helpful, don't focus on the knowledge and talents people actually use while building a business. In response, Llorens and his co-founder Ryan Ferrier created a distilled 60-day curriculum to explain to potential upstarts what they need to know to build a successful company.

Llorens isn't alone in his thinking. Studies continually surface showing the erosion on salary returns from formal MBA educations. Vivek Wadha no longer encourages hiring MBA grads. Even Marc Andreessen (an investor in PandoDaily) believes that spikes in MBA class sizes portend a potential bubble. MOOCs and online universities are popping up to try and give formal education a run for its money.

While 60-Day MBA is completely remote, the curriculum requires one-on-one interaction between the students and their teachers. The video course was built for students to "consume at [their] own pace." It includes six live interactive classrooms formed via Google Hangouts, official peer interactions with other students to brainstorm ideas, mentorship from the program's founders, and other hands-on tools meant to help people build their own business. Llorens, who seems to be a fan of fitness metaphors, called it the P90X of business programs (one time during the interview he compared it to CrossFit, as well).

According to Llorens, the first thing taught is: "How to get going, learn from your customers, and then learn after that." Then students are asked to create a simplified business plan that takes customers' reactions into account. Each week the business plan gets altered based on the feedback received.

60-Day MBA is sort of a test of Lloren's own curriculum. It's completely bootstrapped, and the beta program acquired students via friends and word of mouth. Further, the student interactions and feedback are then used as the basis for the constantly evolving curriculum. So in the way the students are asked to find customers, receive feedback, and change plans accordingly, so too does the 60-Day curriculum.

Llorens believes that experience breeds success, and he has the track record to prove it. He has co-founded three companies over his career, including One Block Off The Grid (1BOG), a solar energy company that sold to Pure Energies Group last year for an undisclosed sum. Most of the skills he utilized as a successful CEO weren't necessarily taught in formal business educations. Or, if they were, they were only five percent of that education -- which informed his thinking on what potential MBA students should be focusing on. "You should really only learn the five percent that an MBA needs," he says.

So are MBAs completely useless? Well, in some cases, perhaps. Or they're just unnecessary. Llorens believes that diplomas are generally unnecessary for learning how to start a business. "People focus on diplomas. There's this thing where it's not cool not to have gone to college in the US." But these MBA programs don't teach you the nuts and bolts of customer interactions. As he put it, "you can't learn anything, and you probably won't end up doing anything, unless you just start talking with potential customers."

In addition, MBA programs are expensive. Part of the allure of 60-Day MBA is that it doesn't carry the $10,000-plus price tag of an MBA program (right now it's at $300 and is considered "part-time"). While some forecast that the payback period for some MBAs is as little as 3.5 years, Llorens sees the experience gained in that three years actually working, and not shelling out the enormous tuition, as surpassing any MBA's original worth.

In some ways it seems like an "As Seen On TV" scheme circa 1997 for learning how to use Microsoft Word. But in other ways it makes a lot of sense. If you're going to be hiring yourself, why do you need a diploma from Stanford?

In the end, it is really a test to all of the MBA naysayers out there. While it's only been in beta for a few months, the students' outcomes a year or so from now will be the real indicators of its worth. And, if you start a business that ends up making a few million, well that speaks more highly than your Harvard diploma. As Llorens puts it, "The way we see it, the accreditation comes from you starting a business."

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