Thursday, April 17, 2014

I often get asked the question, “What is the difference between an MBA and an MBET degree?” My usual response would be that someone has to hire MBAs, but I realize that answer is a little too simplistic.

It is not that Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs are of poor quality or in some way inferior; in fact, on many occasions, I have suggested to students that the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program may not be the best path for them and that they may be better suited for the MBA path.

If you see your future as a derivatives trader or a corporate lawyer, then the MBET may not be the best choice for you. However, if you are driven to lead change, dream of starting a business or are actively building a business – then we are here for you.


If you were to look only at the courses offered, it would certainly be easy to think that the MBET is just another MBA offering the standard business courses in finance, accounting, marketing, strategy, etc. But at MBET, it's the way our instructors approach these "standard" business courses that makes the difference.

The MBET course content and its delivery is focussed on enabling the creation of new ventures, whether they be startups or ventures within established companies.

You might think, “Well, MBAs offer courses in venture creation and entrepreneurship,” which is true. MBA programs are increasingly trying to fill the gap created by demand for entrepreneurial education and support. However, teaching about entrepreneurship and creating an entrepreneurial environment are very different things and this factor is what separates MBET grads from MBA grads.

The commercialization practicum

The MBET practicum project is the cornerstone of the program and an integral part of how we create an entrepreneurial environment. The practicum projects are integrated with the MBET course work itself. Teams of MBET students work with local startups or established businesses, or startups founded by students within the class. Student-led practicum projects are startups that have a well-defined business concept, demonstrable commercial potential, and can effectively use a team of 4 students.  

I am often asked about what happens if your startup idea is not selected as a practicum? After all, there are up to 50 students in the class and only 10-12 practicum projects. Luckily, a unique aspect of the MBET program is that one of the courses, BET 604: New Technology-based Venture Creation, is set up as a concept-stage incubator. In BET 604, students are provided with a mentored environment in which they can develop early stage business ideas.

Students have an opportunity to work on both a concept-stage idea (in BET 604) as well as a more advanced entrepreneurial venture (in the commercialization practicum), and in many cases, get to experience the issues (okay, mistakes) that they may encounter in different stages of building companies.

Are you right for MBET?

Having said all this, in many ways, I think “What is the difference between an MBA and an MBET degree?” is the wrong question. The issue is not what courses are offered, but what are the desired outcomes and are they right for you. Providing academic content is important, but it is only a small part of the entrepreneurial picture. Entrepreneurship is as much a way of thinking and acting as it is a collection of useful content, and as much as you can listen and read about being an entrepreneur, you must experience it to truly understand.

So back to the question, what we try to do within the MBET program is create an environment where you experience what entrepreneurship is. It is not simply about teaching course content – you can read a book or enroll in a massive open online course (MOOC) for that. It is about the individuals in the program and the development of their self-efficacy, the skills to build and lead teams, a tolerance for ambiguity, and decision-making ability. It is about interpersonal skills and competitive courage – launching a new venture is not for the 'faint of heart.'

So, if you have the intellectual ability and ethical judgment, if you have the potential to lead change and are action-oriented, then MBET is the program for you.

For more information on the MBET program, check out our live webinars.