B School Applications advice for people who have worked in startups
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B School Applications advice for people who have worked in startups

Admission Counselling :
  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Admission Application
  • Published on 06 May 2022

The biggest challenge that a B School applicant, with startup experience, faces is around validating his/her profile. Often, if you work in a sub-unicorn startup, there is a good chance that no one would have heard of your company. Plus, often job descriptions in a startup-professional’s work profile tend to be non-specific with fungible KRAs, thereby making your professional claims all the more tenuous. 

There are multiple ways for you to strengthen your application when you have significant startup experience in your profile. We will discuss some key points in here - 

Recommendations: Often in a startup you would have the opportunity to directly work with co-founders. If your co-founders have a stellar background/ or have gone to similar schools that you are putting your application in, then it's a great idea to seek recommendations from them. Their personal brand, more than the company that they have started, would have a larger impact on validating your application. Alternatively, if you have vendors/ clients who have worked with you from larger or more renowned companies, then they can be another set of possible recommenders. Be wary of the fact that vendors could be directly influenced by you, so you have to be careful about seeking recommendations from the people, whose personal or company brand indirectly establishes that such influence was non-existent. Other recommendations may come from coaches or mentors - people who have known you for a longer time and have a strong profile on an independent basis.

In a small startup, often your recommendations are the most salient aspect of the profile that you bring forth in your application. That is why you have to be doubly sure in figuring out who your referees are! Once some validation happens, other elements in your profile also get corroborative support.

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Specific Outcomes/ Significant milestones: Try to pinpoint those specific outcomes which could be validated by an external party. For instance, a funding round or a sale to an existing company; a partnership with a large player; or a new product launch. These could then be related to the work that you did in that context. The very fact that the larger events can be properly validated, your contribution can also be appropriately viewed, plust it gets additional validation points on account of its contextual association with the larger event. Furthermore, in putting down such outcomes or events try to give as many details as possible within the constraint of the overall narrative.

Narrative association with other experiences: I had a client who had worked at Amazon for 3 years, and then became a part of another social-commerce startup. His drivers for the move were largely based out of a more challenging job-description and better growth opportunities. 2 years at that startup was a more intense experience and a more salient parameter across a host of factors, including his motivation for an MBA and his future career. However, the narrative was based on the association of both the ecommerce jobs - virtually stating that Amazon’s inability to do social-commerce because of lower ticket size and poor unit-economics drove him to seek opportunities in the social-commerce space, which had a greater upside, especially in a low-price geography such as India. Nobody had heard of his existing startup, but by virtue of his association with Amazon, his narrative got the authenticity that it deserved!

In essence, all other elements of your application would be the same, except a greater thrust on validating whatever you are saying. This is achieved through a variety of means. However, make sure that your overall impact and narrative are not compromised in the process. In fact, B-Schools are increasingly picking up more and more people who have startup experience in their profile.

All the best!

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