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4 Billionaire Entrepreneurs with MBA

Billionaire MBA EntrepreneursMBA or no MBA, Entrepreneurs have innate qualities that you cannot miss. They are confident, persistent, creative problem solvers and don’t do well with authority. They also have a strong work ethic and are good at selling their idea to customers, partners and team members. We have created a list of top four Billionaire Entrepreneurs with an MBA. Maybe an MBA for Entrepreneurial students is not a bad idea.

1) Phil Knight (Founder, Nike)

Phil Knight is the Founder of Nike, a leading sports footwear and apparel company with revenue in excess of US$24.1 billion. As of Sep 2012, Phil is worth $13 Billion. He is regarded as one of the most influential people in sports, enabling the mass adoption of sports shoes and apparels among non-athletes. Phil Knight graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S in Business Administration in 1959. Bill Bowerman, the head coach at University of Oregan, guided Knight with the track and field event. Later Phil joined the Army on active duty for one year.

After active duty, Phil joined Stanford Graduate School of Business for the MBA program. Frank Shallenberger's Small Business class was the turning point for Knight. During the semester-long project, students were asked to start a small company and develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Knight’s idea was simple – develop a high quality sports shoes at a country with low labour costs. On his worldwide trips after graduation, Phil visited Kobe, Japan. He was impressed with Tiger-brand running shoes, a leading Japanese sports shoe manufactured by Onitsuka Co. He made a cold call to Mr. Onitsuka and convinced him for a meeting. During the meeting, Phil proposed to distribute the shoes for Tiger-brand in Western America and surprisingly Mr. Onitsuka agreed. After one year, Phil received the shoes from Japan. He sent a couple to Bowerman, who was an accomplished coach with 24 NCAA individual titles.  Phil expected a bulk order and an endorsement from the Coach. To his surprise, Bowerman proposed partnering with Phil and in Jan 25, 1964 - Blue Ribbon Sports was formed, which would later become Nike, named after Greek winged goddess of victory.

Some might argue that Phil Knight would have been an Entrepreneur even without an MBA. It might be true, but Phil himself has attributed Frank Shallenberger's Small Business class as a turning point in his life.

2) Michael Bloomberg (Founder, Bloomberg L.P)

Michael Bloomberg is the Founder of Bloomberg L.P, a leading Financial Data provider and mass media company with revenue of $6.25 billion. As of Sep 2012, Michael Bloomberg is worth $25 Billion. He is regarded as a pioneer in Financial Data market with innovative data presentation.  In 1964, Bloomberg graduated with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and in 1966 received his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

After his MBA from Harvard Business School, Bloomberg joined  as a General partner at Salomon Brothers, one of the world's most profitable investment banks at that time. In 1981, Salomon Brothers merged with a publicly held commodities trading firm, Phibro Corporation and Bloomberg’s 15-year partnership with the company was terminated. Fortunately, for Bloomberg, the severance package was $10 million, which he used to start Innovative Market Systems that would later be renamed as Bloomberg L.P in 1987. The company was founded on the idea that Wall Street is willing to pay a premium price for quality business information and technical data (graphs with trend analysis). In 1982, Merrill Lynch was the first customer for Innovative Market Systems installing 22 terminals and investing $30 million in the company.

Bloomberg L.P has over 300,000 Bloomberg Terminal subscribers, worldwide. It also launched the news division in 1990 and produces over 5000 stories(daily), which are distributed to leading newspapers and magazines like The Economist, The New York Times and USA Today.

An MBA from Harvard Business School helped Bloomberg to join Salomon Brothers as a General partner, which was the foundation for starting and growing Bloomberg L.P into a leading financial data and platform provider.

3) Scott McNealy (Co-Founder, Sun Microsystem)

In 1982, Scott McNealy along with Vinod Khosla, Bill Joy, and Andy Bechtolsheim Founded Sun Microsystem, which was a leading provider of computer servers, workstations, storage systems and software products like the Solaris operating system and technologies like the Java platform and MySQL. On Jan 27, 2010, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystem for US$7.4 billion. As of Sep 2012, Scott McNealy is worth $1 Billion

Scott McNealy is not a typical MBA graduate. He joined Harvard University and majored in Economics, but he was not an A+ student.  His interest was in manufacturing and Golf. After a below average performance at his undergraduate class, Scott tried to get into Stanford Business School and was rejected twice. Harvard rejected him once. Taking a break from pursuing an MBA, Scott took a job as a foreman at the Rockwell International Corporation plant in Ashtabula, Ohio. He was known as the “Get things Done guy”  in Rockwell.

With a great work record, Scott was accepted at Stanford, but the pattern continued. His interest in Golf remained at an all-time high.  After graduating, Scott joined FMC Corporation, a weapons manufacturer that later spun off into a chemical manufacturing company.  Following FMC,Scott joined Onyx Systems, one of the earliest vendors of microprocessor-based Unix systems.  It was during his tenure at Onyx that Scott received a call from Fellow Stanford alumnus, Vinod Ghosla  to lead Sun Microsystems.  What makes Scott different from other Co-Founders is that he was the longest serving CEO of a Technology Company (22 years – 1984 to 1996) without any technical background. Scott’s expertise in manufacturing and his ability to lead a team with diverse skills and experience helped Sun Microsystem grow from a startup with $9 million sales to $39 million in 1984.

Scott’s example challenges a widely believed myth that startups should not have any MBAs. The connection that he had with fellow MBA Alumnus, Vinod Khosla was instrumental in getting the CEO position at Sun Microsystems, and his post and pre-MBA experiences helped him lead Sun Microsystems to one of the most valuable companies in Silicon Valley.

4) Scott Cook (Founder, Intuit)

Scott Cook founded Intuit in 1983 as a software company to manage bill payments. The idea for the company came from Scott’s wife, who was complaining about the difficulties of paying bills. He served as the CEO from 1983 to 1994 and as of Sep 2012 is worth $1.4 Billion. As of March 2012, Intuit has annual revenue of $4.15 billion.

He completed BA from University of Southern California and in 1976 his MBA from Harvard Business School . He was a Bain Consultant before joining Harvard Business School. After Harvard, he joined Procter & Gamble as a brand manager. The lessons from the processes, marketing plan, product development and market research at Procter & Gamble were used in Intuit.  A strong believer in Customer Centric product development, Scott is comfortable in allowing customers to reinvent the Business model. This approach has helped intuit to grow into a billion dollar enterprise.

Scott’s career path is not that of a typical Entrepreneur. He worked in two companies as a consultant and as a brand manager before embarking on an Entrepreneurial journey. The learning experience from Procter & Gamble was crucial for the success of Intuit. Post-MBA jobs before entrepreneurial ventures might not be a bad idea.

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