Start-up position...good or bad for MBA applications?

chocotaco99's picture
Rank: Monkey | 62

I recently received a LinkedIn message from a recruiter from a local start-up company regarding a Financial Analyst Position. I'm currently a Senior Financial Analyst for a superregional commercial bank and my pay is pretty underwhelming and my job function isn't anything interesting to talk about. I'm considering applying for b-school for either the 2014 or 2015 intake. With that in mind, I'm not necessarily looking for a long-term career at this start-up given my intent to get my MBA. So what do you guys think...would a position at a start-up HELP or HURT my MBA application? Here are a few points to consider:

1) In my current position there is very little room for upward movement...lateral move in the next year or two could be reasonable.

2) Start-up recently received $7.5MM in venture capital funding (first round) and has been in business since 2008. They just hired a new CEO who has experience as a C-level executive of a F500 company that everyone's heard of.

3) In the start-up role, I would be reporting to the CFO directly.

4) Start-up has lots of young employees (100-120 employees) and has plans to hire people rapidly as they enter a growth period.

5) Title would go from Senior Financial Analyst to Financial Analyst, but I think this could be negotiated. Taking this job would clearly be a risky decision.

My thinking is that I would enjoy the start-up job more than my current job given the start-up culture and abundance of young co-workers. Plus, I think I would be learning a lot more given that I will likely make up a large part of the Finance department at the start-up rather than one of 800 in my current role. It also might give me more to talk about in my MBA applications. So what are your thoughts, monkeys?

Comments (15)

Nov 30, 2012

It sounds like you want to join the start up -you have some evidence it will go well, nothing is 100%- so do it.

"Dont compromise yourself; you're all you've got" - Janis Joplin

Nov 30, 2012

Can't see any reason you should turn this down.

Nov 30, 2012

Anyone have advice on taking a position similar to this or an analyst position at a HF to transition into trading?

Seems like both have major potential for upside especially if the start-up would eventually go public.

Nov 30, 2012

If you want top 20 MBA, I'd stick with the bank until you apply. Unless you feel the start-up is really a winner [very unlikely]... Your title an perceived network will be worth more to an MBA program if you stick with the bank.

Nov 30, 2012

If you want top 20 MBA, I'd stick with the bank until you apply. Unless you feel the start-up is really a winner [very unlikely]... Your title an perceived network will be worth more to an MBA program if you stick with the bank.

I completely disagree with this. MBA programs love people that have entrepreneurial backgrounds. It also gives you a ton of interesting things to write about in your essays. They will already assume you have the network, title, etc. because you'll have the bank on your resume.

Nov 30, 2012

MBA programs love people that have entrepreneurial backgrounds..

He's not the entrepreneur though... He's just a financial analyst. Either way, just my opinion.

Nov 30, 2012

Go with the startup but definitely negotiate your title, thats important. The fact you have reasoning behind it already is great and if asked about it you can clearly explain why you made the move, to be more of a financial influence at a company. In the eyes of an MBA that shows leadership, responsibility, and entrepreneurship.

Dec 4, 2012

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I wanted to address a couple points you guys brought up.

I agree that an adcom might not see the start-up experience as true entrepreneurial experience since I would just be an analyst, but I think that I would have infinitely more opportunities to shine in the start-up role because I would be the only financial analyst. I think the idea of doing something different every day appeals to me because it is a stark contrast to my current role which is very cyclical and predictable.

I also agree that the title is very important. I don't want to "step down" from senior financial analyst to financial analyst.

Also, I don't have any delusions about the company being the next Google. I think they could be an industry leader in their niche but past that I think the company is limited in its scope. I'm not too worried about that since I don't plan on staying for more than a year or two before going to get my MBA. I guess my real question is whether an adcom would look more favorably upon a position in a small company with greater, more diverse responsibility or a position in a large company with uninteresting experience. Any thoughts?

Thanks for all of your replies so far!

Dec 4, 2012

Do it.

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.

Dec 4, 2012

I think you can easily get past the title issue in your application even if you don't get the title you want. Your first bullet on your resume could be something like "responsible for all of X, Y, and Z as the company's sole financial analyst." This would show that your scope of responsibility is far greater (because you are the only financial analyst). I am sure that the ADCOMs are used to people coming in with ridiculous titles such as "Grand Master Commodore Analyst," and they have to look at the resume to really figure out what responsibilities applicants have.

But to your larger question, I would go for it. It sounds like a better opportunity and something that you would enjoy. It should also help your MBA chances in the coming years.

Dec 4, 2012

have you had conversations with the company yet? I would definitely talk/interview with them, see how far you get first.

If you do get the offer, I would take it in a heart beat. MBA programs love that type of experience and it will set you apart from other applicants, and I 100% guarantee you will learn A LOT more at the start-up vs. what you are doing now. not many chances to work directly under the CFO. You are probably going to get paid more than you do now too and you will likely get some shares, so you can end up making a lot if it goes really well.

Dec 4, 2012

You're a bit too early into your job to quit. Leaving at the one-year mark would be much better; it shows you were able to actually perform in a job, you earned a ranking and a bonus, and you were there long enough for people to have an informed opinion on who you are.

Startup experience varies with ad-coms. If you found a company that successfully raises funding or successfully unlocks a revenue pipeline, it's viewed favorably. If you start a company that turns into a lifestyle business (it pays your rent and credit card bills as a founder), they won't see you as being too value-additive to the student body.

I know a guy currently at the GSB who's a startup founder. He is running the business (e-commerce) while in school (there are other co-founders involved who aren't in school). They successfully raised a seed and haven't yet come to market for a Series A.

Ryan Allis went to HBS after selling iContact, a startup he ran for nine years.

Do some digging on LinkedIn through the profiles of current students at your target schools who have startup backgrounds, then see what you can dig up on those startups (amount raised, revenue figures, etc.). Chances are that even if they aren't brand-name startups (this is presuming the MBAs were founders), there was real product traction, real fundraising, but something went wrong and it wasn't a home run. No lofty sale price, perhaps an acqui-hire, perhaps a simple wind-down.

Because if it were a home run ... why would you be going to business school.

Dec 4, 2012