There are many posts on the internet about what makes a great founder.  The topic has been covered by great minds over the years and continues to be debated.  However, I wanted to write articles on two particular founder profiles that I have had significant experience of investing in and working with over my twelve years in startups. 

The founder profiles are:-

MBA Graduates

Defining the MBA founder is pretty straightforward.  We are talking about an individual who has recently graduated from their MBA or eMBA and is looking to get into entrepreneurship either immediately or in the near future.  For the purpose of this article I want to look at this time frame so I can somewhat segment the profile, also, this is the main experience I have had and we have had at MOHARA. 

Sector Specialists

Defining a sector specialist is straightforward but I will give some clarity to my thinking. Sector specialists are people who have had significant experience within a particular sector and are clearly able to see problems or opportunities within that sector.  They have a deep understanding of their ‘why’ for founding a business.

Today, in part one of this series,  I will be reflecting on whether MBA graduates can make great founders. 


My experience with MBA grads

Way back in 2011 I founded Say Digital, a digital agency to support early stage product development and my first customer was a chap named Ben Blomerley, an MBA graduate fresh out of INSEAD business school. Ben and I worked on his business (please look at this beauty – East Lancashire Valentine worm farm wins Dragon’s Den star’s heart) for 4 years before founding MOHARA together. The rest there is history . 

During those early years I also had the opportunity to work with another talented MBA graduate, Aron Gelbard at Bloom & Wild.  Aron had recently completed his MBA at Harvard and had an idea. We collaborated closely during the early days of his company.  Bloom & Wild has gone on to become a darling of the UK startup scene, and Aron has proven himself to be a highly impactful entrepreneur.

Working with both Ben and Aron early in my startup building career offered a clear indication of how capable MBA graduates can be.  Ben and Aron, whilst very different human beings, both demonstrated similar characteristics that have enabled them to go on to be successful entrepreneurs in their own right. 

In addition, MOHARA has also been fortunate enough to support the INSEAD Venture Competition since 2018.  This exposure has allowed us to meet many students, offering further insights and seeing first hand the great work that Nancy Hsieh, Raomal Perera and the wider team at INSEAD do in supporting entrepreneurship.

I want to list some key takeaways from working with, mentoring and supporting MBA graduates over the years and draw attention to a few of the characteristics that I believe make MBA graduates potentially great founders. 


Merits of the MBA founder:

  • Typically incredibly driven – school isn’t cheap and it definitely isn’t easy
  • Bright – getting into these schools in the first place is no cake walk, succeeding in the environment is even harder. You have to have the smarts. 
  • Tend to be theoretical and organised
  • There is a confidence and desire to prove themselves in the business world
  • Some graduates have sector experience prior to their MBA studies  and this can be invaluable – Jim Ratcliffe initially trained as an accountant before obtaining his MBA at the LSE.  He then worked within Private Equity before founding INEOS. 
  • We have worked with very entrepreneurial graduates.  Some immediately after graduating, others after a period of time in Management Consultancy, where they learn a few chops and subsequently come back to entrepreneurship.
  • They are educated in ‘how’ to run a business.
  • Business schools come with a powerful and supportive alumni network – this can be very valuable

I personally believe that is a heady mix for a founder. Naturally, it also comes down to the individual as to whether they have the grit, perseverance, coach-ability and ideas, but as a suite of skills, it is no doubt compelling. 


A deeper look

Over the last 3 months we have been conducting deep research into MBA founder profiles in collaboration with Kalium, run by a good friend and podcast co-host Doug Haines. We expect that the report, which will come out as a result of this research, is going to offer terrific insight into the companies that MBA founders have built, the schools they have graduated from and the trends that we can see. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the research when it drops please email



In the world of start-ups, there is increasing interest in founders that graduate from MBA programmes.  Dare I say it, perhaps something of a groundswell.  Recently we have seen dedicated VC firms being founded, such as MBA Ventures and longer standing firms like Loyal VC have proved out their model by existing beyond their first fund. 

This is  truly an interesting space to watch whether you are a co-founder studio like MOHARA, a traditional startup studio looking for MDs or a VC looking for opportunities.   With my MOHARA CEO and investor hat on, all I can say is bring on the next round of MBA founders from INSEAD, Wharton, Harvard, Imperial, Saïd…etc.