Lastminute.com founder Hoberman backs free alt-MBA

Business Education

Entrepreneur Brent Hoberman is to launch an alternative MBA programme offering free tuition and paid internships with some of Europe’s fastest-growing tech start-ups.

The Founders Academy’s nine-month study and coaching programme will be led by practising entrepreneurs rather than academic staff and use an east London co-working office space as its campus.

The aim is to broaden the talent base for European start-ups and offer a way for those interested in switching careers to work for start-ups and earn as they learn, according to Mr Hoberman, whose previous start-ups include travel website Lastminute.com and online furniture retailer Made.

“There is a gap in the current MBA solution to provide something that is more practical, more experience-led,” Mr Hoberman said.

“When I was looking to move out of consultancy [into entrepreneurship] I really wanted to do an MBA, but just didn’t think I could spare the time.”

Big tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are now among the biggest hirers of MBA graduates, and in recent years many smaller ventures have started hiring from business schools.

However, even the top MBA courses have suffered sharp falls in applicants, partly because of a healthy jobs market making promotion easier for those in work and partly because of a sharp rise in the fees top MBA courses charge.

All but two of the top 10 US business schools in the Financial Times global MBA ranking list have reported declining demand for their 2019 course intake, more than in 2018.

Unlike conventional MBA programmes, which can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds per year, Founders Academy will not charge for tuition. In fact, students will be paid £1,800 per month during the internship stage at companies including green energy provider Bulb, ethical supermarket Farmdrop and online property finance marketplace LendInvest.

Applicants must have a minimum of three years’ work experience, the same requirement of standard MBAs. But with just 16 people due to be accepted in the first cohort in January, Founders Academy is unlikely to worry business schools.

David Asch, a director at business school accreditation body EFMD, said: “Business schools can be rightly criticised for not being on the ball when it comes to new trends, but many are responding to the needs of those looking to become entrepreneurs by running projects and internships with start-ups.”

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