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MBAs Forgo Summer Internships for Startup Work

Schools are helping students hone their entrepreneurial skills
MBAs Forgo Summer Internships for Startup Work
Photo illustration by Darren Braun for Bloomberg Businessweek

While some of his classmates earned $8,000 a month or more working as interns at hedge funds or private equity firms, Andrew Ward spent the summer of 2011 starting a business and living in a one-bedroom, fifth-story walkup in Manhattan with two friends. “The summer at business school is a pretty low-risk time,” says the 28-year-old Wharton MBA 2012 grad. “I wanted to make the most of it by doing the riskiest thing possible.”

They’re still a minority, but the number of MBA candidates sharing that attitude is growing, judging from data compiled by B-schools’ career service offices. At the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton, 9 percent of this year’s graduating class either founded a company or worked at a startup last summer, up from 7.5 percent the prior year. At Harvard Business School, the comparable figure was 13 percent, up from 9 percent in 2011—marking the first time more students interned at startups than at investment banks or buyout firms. Nine percent of this year’s graduating class at Stanford spent last summer launching a business.