Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 MBA Post 1

This year has been incredible. It has also been insanely busy. I guess my main updates have moved to FB - still, I think it is worth keeping this blog alive. To avoid letting 2014 pass without any posts, I am putting up some of my MBA essays. The ad-essays I have written for Oxford and Harvard etc. are probably more interesting BUT are probably too personal to be splashed around. So, here are some last-minute postings:

Part 2: “Personal Entrepreneurship Reflections” (800 words, i.e., 2 pages)
In this part you should describe your personal reflections on entrepreneurship. This is a short essay on what entrepreneurship means to you, and how it relates to your own life ambitions. In this essay you should incorporate several of the concepts that were covered during the lectures, and critically discuss how they relate to your own entrepreneurial ambitions. You are welcome to challenge or deepen some of the theories that were discussed in class, and you might want to explain how these concepts relate to your own personal experiences and ambitions.

Throughout history, humanity has progressed thanks to those lone pioneers—the visionary, the prophet, the maverick scientist and the courageous scholar who defy received conventions to revolutionize our way of looking at and dealing with the world. The world did not spontaneously throw ‘common sense’ out of the window and come to the conclusion that time and space are relative and that energy and mass are equivalent—it was one Albert Einstein who changed our paradigm. A brutal world did not suddenly decide by a mass election that effective political action can be non-violent – it was one Gandhi who showed the way and, like Jesus before him, gave up his life to change the world.

It may seem too much to put Steve Jobs, Henry Ford or Larry Page in the same category as Gandhi, Einstein, Darwin or Jesus Christ. Yet, the greatest entrepreneurs share much with the pioneers of science and spirituality. I believe their defining essence is their drive to upset the established order of things. They impose their unusual way of seeing to do the 'impossible', bringing down the ‘impregnable’ economic castles built by lemmings. They find new ways of production (Ford), bring wonderful new products to the market (the Steves), sell cheap and direct (Dell) or build a new kind of firm that organizes the information of the world (Page and Brin). A flame of Schumpeterian creative destruction is lit, and the way we consume or produce or distribute is changed forever.

The second characteristic of entrepreneurs is a desire to make an impact beyond the financial. Obviously there are some barracudas who are in the game solely for financial gain. Yet, given our self-rationalizing and altruistic tendencies, it is plausible (though I have no hard research data) that the majority of entrepreneurs set up shop with something more in mind. Of course, business must still be about business to some extent – but in the founders’ minds, some element of the business will transcend business. It is plausible that at least some legalized marijuana dealers believe that they are delivering something socially valuable. And for the greatest companies, they usually have “cultures of purpose” which strongly motivates their staff (Deloitte, 2013). Apple, with its fanatical zest to build the best products in the world, or Tesla, with its focus on ‘accelerating the advent of sustainable transport’, are archetypes. So where do these cultures come from? Most of the time, their founding leaders first inspired them – and they could do this because they sincerely believe in making a wider ‘social’ impact beyond gold and gain. As such, I do not believe in any binary distinction between ‘social’ enterprises and ‘for-profit’ enterprises. All enterprises are ‘social’ to some degree (the lowest degree will be that they make their goods and services socially valuable solely to make profits) but they differ in their commitment to making an impact beyond economic gain for their owners. As such, visionary entrepreneurs are actually quite similar to other celebrated revolutionaries.

Finally, to light a fire to change the world takes great courage and resilience. It takes courage to lead a Salt March; it takes courage to build a company. Jack Ma apparently had encountered countless failures. He failed twice at the entrance examination for a local college.  He applied and got rejected by 30 companies. At Kentucky Fried Chicken, 24 people applied. 23 got jobs but not him. (George, 2014; Stone & D’Onfro, 2014). But he persevered to build up Ali Baba. The inspiring stories of Steve Jobs and Henry Ford are well known. Given the high failure rates of startups, it is true almost by definition that successful entrepreneurs need to have the tenacity to go through hell and high water.

To sum up, entrepreneurs are the ones with the grit and heart to change the world. Of course, they need skill and luck as well – but if the base conditions are there, these others will usually come. I have already described my passion to build a new kind of educational enterprise in my previous essay. I think I have the heart, probably the grit, but not yet the skill. I am, however, determined to build my skills and later, the team to incarnate my vision. Given what I have argued earlier, I see no purpose in categorising it as a social or for-profit organization. It is what it is, but let us get on with the task to change the world.   


Deloitte. (2013). Culture of purpose: A business imperative. 2014 core beliefs
& culture survey. Retrieved from

George, Bill. (2014). New York Times DealBook: Jack Ma on Alibaba,

Stone,  M., & D’Onfro, J. (2014). The Inspiring Life Story Of Alibaba Founder

Jack Ma, Now The Richest Man In China. Retrieved from

No comments: