MBA Everydays

Tom Eisenmann is a professor at Harvard Business School. He published this “best of the startup blog posts of 2012” the other day. Go take a look at it. It was a revelation to me when I saw it yesterday. I tweeted it out right away.

We are witnessing an important change in education. The practicioners are creating curriculum that the schools are leveraging. But more importantly, everyone is leveraging it.

Hacking education indeed.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. bsoist

    Wow, that’s a great reading list.

  2. William Mougayar

    I particularly like that he calls this “Startup Management”.All these lessons are making it easier for the next entrepreneurs to be successful. What often starts as an anecdotal learning soon becomes a practice to live by, and they all add-up to startup management. Startup founders should be required to take tests on some of this before getting funded. 

    1. Mac

      @wmoug:disqus William, I’d like to discuss a couple of things-non A VC related-with you. Is there an email address where I can reach you? You helped me with something a couple of months ago and I’d like to follow up with you. Thanks. Mac

      1. William Mougayar

        Hi Mac. Sure! You can email me at wmougayar AT gmail.

        1. Mac

          Thanks, William. I’ll be in touch soon.

  3. John Revay

    WOW!There is a good reading list

  4. brian piercy

    It’s simply the best reading list I’ve ever seen.

  5. Pete Griffiths

    It’s a good list.

  6. Richard

    The 2012 Freddy Awards.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      The Freddy Awards! Love it! And can the winners get a little gold-coloured statue called “A Wilson”?

      1. Richard

        LIke it. Categories? Here’s one: Best Repost:

        1. Avi Deitcher

          We need some humourous ones too: best faux-pas, and worst comment!

          1. Richard

            You’re right: post most likely to be made after opening an email for yet another pinterest for ____ pitch.

      2. Avi Deitcher

        And here it is!That didn’t work. I tried to upload an image. I’ll try again.

          1. ShanaC

            they’re not, they take time to appear

          2. Avi Deitcher

            It still didn’t show up 18 hours (and 2 hockey games) later. Good thing I put up the link. No comments on the Wilson Award? I thought it was worthwhile….

  7. Avi Deitcher

    Wow, what a list! Thank you for posting it.There is a section on sales management in there. Read an interesting, short (and contrarian) article by Norm Brodsky on hiring and compensating sales staff in this month’s Inc magazine.

  8. David Roman

    Love these lists. Content filtration in my opinion is yet to sufficiently be solved and quite often I find myself inundated and drowning in content. It legitimately presents a major problem in my mind now that content creation is democratized.I think part of the reason I’m not confident that the available services aren’t delivering me the best content is because I’m not fully aware and certain of what data points they are leveraging to decipher what content is of value and isn’t to me other than who I follow on twitter so I guess I don’t really trust it. In fact, I think many startups this can relate to could do a much better job at educating their users about the product to build greater user confidence. But even if I did the current available services just really aren’t flawless products.If anyone is building something involving content filtration or is interested I’d be more than happy to provide you with all my thoughts and ideas of what i’d perceive a flawless user experience.If you saw my Instapaper and Pocket queues you’d understand why this is a problem I passionately feel needs to be solved.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      David, how would you solve it? There are two issues here: absolute value and relative value. Absolute is obvious: Steve Blank’s post on customer development is higher absolute value than some 11-yr-old kid’s (and hopefully better grammar, although Four Steps had some awful errors)… or mine, for that matter.But I might be involved in startup strategy, so for me his post is very important, and you might be involved in corporate IT, so it isn’t. Or perhaps we both are involved, but I have read Four Steps and Startup Owners Manual and taken his Udacity course, so the post is less relevant than, say, one by John Allspaw because I am dealing with planning for scaling. The relative value is very personal…

      1. David Roman

        Ya know, to be honest my problem doesn’t persist because of absolute or relative values. Thanks to my social graph for the most part the majority of the content I see is relevant to me. Of course a flawless content filtration product would have to consider relevancy but most my thought has gone into filtering based on quality.There is only so much time I can allocate for content consumption so I’d want to feel as if i’m consuming the best content and I don’t always feel as if that is the case. I feel as if i’ve become a sucker for link baiting.I guess it’s probably best I list my feature set for a product that I would love.1. The most viable means I can think of to decipher the quality of content would be to collect as many analytical data points of which a formula is created that take shares, comments, traffic into consideration and arrive at a number that rates the content. However, this would require a learning algorithm because you’d also have to take into consideration the average traffic of a blog. This algorithm should know on average the traffic a blog receives and the traction rate at which that normally occurs which should effectively rate the content. So if on average say a blog receives 1k shares for a post and then a gem gets posted which hits 5k shares that’s a data point where we can make an efficient assumption and possibly deliver to user much sooner before it reaches 5k because we will also know the rate at which shares accumulate on average. So if a post normally hits 1k shares after 7 hours, if it hits 1k after 2 hours that’s another data point where we can make a valid assumption. Ideally, the algorithm would tap into every possible data point we can collect that would be the most sophisticated and industry leading at deciphering quality.So now that the algorithm is built the UX would require a cross platform mobile/web app.2. When I DL the app I connect my twitter and/or facebook so that it is familiarized with my interests. I can also customize and add different topics of interest. Once it gets to know me I can then set the threshold or barrier which would act like a test that a post would have to pass in order to be dumped into my queue to be read. Preferably this service would have bookmarking functionality as well and if I fall behind on my reading as my queue keeps building up the threshold auto sets higher so that content is filtered in at a slower rate so that maybe I can catch up.3. Eventually i’d like for this service to be my ONLY place for content consumption. But there will be other links and articles that I see of course while on facebook or twitter that I can right click and add to the queue and set it to only show if it eventually passes test or have it auto delete after a certain amount of time if it doesn’t pass. I can also set a maximum number of posts allowed in my queue so when I’m at the limit and add something new, the post with the lowest rating is deleted.4. The ability to insert a term and deliver the best content to appear after a certain time. For instance, Ubuntu made some major announcements today and was heavily covered. I’d love to be able to highlight the term, right click, set and at the end of the day a few Ubuntu posts that scored highest ratings are dumped into my queue in a stack or something.5. The BEST posts that you read the user would be taught to archive those posts which would be like a stamp of approval and would learn more and more about the user and their interest and likes. Over time as the product is used more and more that relevancy issue that you’ve mentioned should eventually solve itself. The user at any point could feed additional data to the algorithm– the more you share, the more we know, the better we filter. You could also allow all posts from certain bloggers to auto enter into test. It would be nice to follow news stories as well by tracking from certain source. I can follow a celebrity, startup, dog on twitter– why can’t I follow a story. This service would provide the ability to do so. That in itself would provide an invaluable data point for media companies as obviously the stories that are highest tracked you follow up on and stories that aren’t highly tracked you neglect.6. The mobile app would be used as means to access whatever posts are dumped into the queue. I can also set a threshold for mobile notifications which would likely be set to a very high rating that would ultimately function as a means to be fed urgent breaking news.Of course the product would be design focused with a beautiful, clean, minimal, fluid UI that the user would legitimately take pride in.And there you have it– my content inundation problem is solved with a product I am confident in. I control the valve– I can let as much posts into my queue as I want or as little posts as I want and this product would function as my only means of content consumption. You don’t pass the test– you don’t hit my queue.As we broaden our user base I think this would have an overall incredibly positive impact on journalism as the intent would be that it would push journalists to provide higher quality content because all content would be rated by an algorithm controlled by a community that will likely be made up of very smart peeps!

        1. Avi Deitcher

          On the first point, flawless doesn’t exist, in any field (perhaps a rare diamond or two, if you need, I can recommend a guy on 47th St in NYC 🙂 ). So all we need is good enough – meaning does it better than what people do now, sufficiently better that they are willing to adopt a new system.On the rest: it sounds like you want a reader Web/app, similar in many ways to how Facebook/Twitter or even Google Reader (and its variants) bring you content. But unlike Facebook/Twitter/Reader wherein everyone you follow/friend/follow gets dumped in your queue, you want:a) Everything gets dumped in a queue *and* gets properly filtered.b) Your preferred posts get “starred” (similar to re-tweeted/shared), so that it: shows others; learns your preferences better; archivesThis is Facebook/Twitter/Reader articles with intelligence.So:- Usage: how do you handle links-to-links (e.g. this post from Fred, which includes links to an article with links to dozens)?- Market: is the benefit sufficient enough that people will leave Facebook/Twitter/Reader to move? I will admit that I have the same issue, so I am also quite hungry for a solution, but I am a single data point. I will admit that I often am content to just ignore old/missed stuff (e.g. off for a religious holiday, missed 1,000 Tweets).- Competition: how will the incumbents (mentioned) respond?- Feasibility: is this doable? can we come up with algorithms that are good enough to understand the preferences of the human mind?The journalism quality question you mentioned is a broader question. People in the search business have been talking about “valuable results” (or other terms like “relevant results”, etc.) vs just “results” for quite some time.If you want to take this offline avi [at] deitcher [dot] net

          1. David Roman

            Flawless products rarely exist but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Every founder who uses their product should feel as is they’ve created a flawless experience. The ability to create a product that is perceived as flawless to others is the difficult part because we are all unique and have the ability to particularize our likings. The greater the understanding you have of people– the greater the likelihood you’ll arrive at a flawless product. Which is why investors are doing themselves absolutely NO justice by investing in such high IQ individuals that have a relatively low EQ. In my opinion the greatest founders have a much higher EQ than they do IQ.Your description is pretty much on par with what I have in mind– we’re def seeing eye to eye here.I just shot you an email. Subject was: AVC Comment

        2. Mark Essel

          Love the personal curation assistant that a product like this could become, talked about a need for something like it a few years back when I blogged regularly. This comment is blog post in itself David!http://www.victusspiritus.chttp://www.victusspiritus.c…The financial model necessary to support such a product’s development and iterative enhancement would better be matched by subscription than ads (one is customer driven, the other is selling the customers attention driven).

          1. David Roman

            Without a doubt a product of this kind would be a subscription based model. Maybe a tiered freemium model but DEFINITELY not an ad model.I took a look at your posts and definitely interesting stuff. I’m curious if you’ve began building anything?In 2009 I wasn’t as active on the web as I am now– but I get a very good feeling that the amount of noise then in no way can even come close to comparing to the amount of noise on the web today.Now is the right time for a product such as this kind as many users are starting to become coherent to this issue. The noise is simply unbearable– there is too much stuff out there being pushed at us and users need help!!With what I have in mind– I see how it could be so disruptive to many of the incumbent startups that are either out of ideas of falling to complacency.

          2. Mark Essel

            A cofounder and I started to in early 2010, but realized we didn’t have the resources to make a real go at it. It ended up as a semantic parser (Zemanta/Alchemy apis) of twitter posts and lingered there (intelligent media manager).

          3. David Roman

            What is your email, Mark? I’ll CC you into a conversation that has been started pertaining to this topic with another fella I met here on AVC.

          4. Mark Essel

            messel at gmail dot com

          5. David Roman

            awesome– just CC’d you into the convo. the subject was: AVC Comment


        “…than some 11-yr-old kid’s …”.Not if you’re selling toys!

        1. Avi Deitcher


      3. ShanaC

        hmmmm. I think also it is the topic you are involved in. some things are harder than just following four steps

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Yep, agreed. We are getting deeper and deeper into the complexities of human nature here. Not unsolvable, but interesting.

    2. Richard

      tough problemWatson level solutionneed multiple algorithms competing (nlp, author, location, etc.)group algorithmsweight groupingsassign a probability

      1. David Roman

        yea, definitely. I am not technical but I would imagine it would be incredibly complicated to build.I would suspect it’d be best for Google or even Facebook to build something similar but Facebook more so than Google seems to be suffering from the innovator’s dilemma and i’m starting to get this sense that maybe Zuckerberg really isn’t as great a visionary as one would initially assume. By no means do I believe he should be replaced– but despite having a billion users I do find myself questioning their future more often. It seems as if they’re tapped out of ideas and wall st. for sure isn’t helping the situation.This would be a feature that I would be willing to pay a pretty buck for. Facebook doesn’t have the benefit of Google’s ad model which is able to decipher user intent. I’ve been on facebook since 2010 and am yet to click on an ad nor do I know anyone that does and they are doing themselves an incredible injustice by relying so heavily on an ad revenue model because I can’t imagine it being too sustainable in the long haul.Instead they should be heads down building new products that improve the user experience and charge for these features.Facebook is so uniquely positioned– they are essentially the homepage of the internet and there is so many things that they could be doing that would be life changing for their users that are charge worthy. But for whatever reason they seem to be incapable of proliferating and the reason for that is they are just simply executing miserably on terrible ideas that never stood the chance in the first place.But, maybe one day i’ll be in a position to assemble a team and build the product I just mentioned because oh man would I love to use it for myself! 🙂


      “…often I find myself inundated and drowning in content…”.I’ve noticed that too. I’m trying to figure out how to eliminate that problem..Some of the requirements:I only want high-quality content.I want to only visit sites that will help me reach my objectives.

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      To me, I always manage to see everything I need just by following the right people (aka the right curators).Twitter sends me a daily email now that is actually pretty darned good (probably because it’s Summify’s old product). You can also use a product called XYDO (also known as CurateMe, I think). They evaluate your Twitter account and send you what they think is most important to you by email every day.I like those, but I find that just by creating lists of my favorite people on particular subjects in my Twitter account, I can be 99% certain of seeing everything I need to see each day.So, in fact, I think it’s actually a simple problem. Hang out with the right people online. They’ll always point you to the good stuff.(Shameless plug: my startup works in the area and can help filter out the noise. See my profile, if interested.)

      1. BillMcNeely

        I follow almost 500 people on Twitter but only see a fraction of their posts. Maybe I need to start compiling lists by subject I am interested in. I probably need to expand out of just business and startup related subject matter and get more info on sports and my hobby running.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I follow over 800 🙂 And most of them are “courtesy follows”. It’s definitely worth it to sort the important ones into lists.Then you can quickly import the lists into something like Kuratur or to eliminate duplicates and get summaries of all the links. Definitely a time saver once you set it up!

        2. ShanaC

          same, i’m in the teenhundreds. but I want to cut down but get as great data

      2. ShanaC

        I don’t like curateme. tried it, it became the same all the time

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Ya, I don’t like it nearly as much as the email that Twitter sends me.

      3. David Roman

        Twitters digest is cool. seems to be pretty on point. I see everything– but I think maybe part of the reason why I don’t feel so confident in these products is because I can’t control them, nor am I fully aware of how they make their selection. Also much of the content I read suggested by these products are primarily news and not so much posts of substance.The UX just isn’t what I’m looking for. Just in case if you missed it, I posted a lengthy comment above about what i’d love to use which would be life changing! haha

  9. Alessandro

    Phenomenal! Thanks for pointing it out.

  10. Ben Stewart

    Wow!! Great! It is simply the greatest studying number I’ve ever seen…Thanks

  11. Humberto

    Great list! Met Fred in Tom’s class about foursquare. Launching Tech Ventures .. Great class… Back then my problem was that 4sq, twitter, etc were (are) very narrow as platforms – meaning that eventually it would overlap its interests with developers, and clash.. While it hasn’t happened with 4sq, it is happening with twitter and Facebook.. I wonder what your position on this is right now Fred

    1. fredwilson

      i feel like facebook is declining and twitter and instagram are rising. good news that facebook owns instagram

      1. Humberto

        I meant as platforms.. Do you still think twitter is becoming a better platform (“more” platform), or just a much better product for users?

        1. fredwilson

          both. but developers don’t trust twitter as much. which is unfortunate. because its an incredible platform.

          1. Humberto

            thanks. i do think twitter is better positioned to become a true platform (one that reaches many many unforeseen uses) due to its simplistic nature: open communication + open tagging. I guess the paradox of current platform businesses can be summed in the following: Platforms are Pipes on top of which developers build Content and Reach. When a company decides to become a platform, they should understand that the majority of customers and businesses will pay for Content and Reach, but not for Pipes. Platforms frequently feed on user generated content, so despite having proprietary Content, Content is not the way to to. Reach implies you control the front-end, which will be on a collision route with the platforms’ developers objectives. In my point of view, it will be very hard for every social network to develop a business model based on Reach at least with nowadays tactics. I like Etsy’s kind of platform (market place) much more, because they charge for Pipes — per transactions, per payments fees.

  12. William Mougayar

    And the contextual introduction he provides for each piece is priceless. It tells you precisely the reason why you would read each one of them.Maybe invite him to do a guest post here?

    1. andyidsinga


  13. falicon

    So, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m reading this post as “Kevin, here’s a list of high quality blogs that should all have installed”…thanks! 😉

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I’ve been meaning to add it to mine for awhile now — I will add it now to mine now!Do you have instructions somewhere online to add it to Tumblr?Edit: Said instructors instead of instructions — yoga on the brain..


        Kevin is the installation instructor!

        1. Matt A. Myers

          That’ll work too. I can’t login to at the moment though …

          1. falicon

            Sorry for the troubles…do you have a pre-existing account that you can’t get into or are you just having trouble creating a new account? I’ll drop you an email and see if I can help you out (and also give you install instructions). Thanks!

    2. ShanaC

      smart man, that kevin

    3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      @falicon:disqusIt would be really good to put an idiots guide to installation up. We got there and as you know I sport a monster search for everyone to see, but was a bit like pulling teeth !Naturally my request for an idiots guide is primarily an “assist” for the AVC community 😉 < —- Bait !

      1. falicon

        Thanks! Yeah I have a *bunch* of work to do on install and on-boarding before the system can really go ‘mainstream’…been somewhat intentionally (and somewhat situationally) taking my time on all this…


    “Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.”.That pretty much sums it up for the educational landscape these days. I don’t know why an educator would post that to a blog, but oh well.


      Hmm… I visited that link only after reading Fred’s post..After reading the comments it appears the link didn’t work for me. People sound like there really was a list at that link.

  15. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Saw this yesterday, too. My first thought was, “Awesome, I already read a bunch of these.” And then, “Shit, how am I going to find time to read the rest?”It was interesting what he chose to list of yours.

  16. panterosa,

    Oh no! Such a great list to read I will never “get out of the building” if I read it!!

  17. andyidsinga

    wow – what a great list! two comments:1) going to go read the Joel Spolsky post ( how did i miss that?!)2) the Blake Masters series of posts about Peter Thiels lectures are *awesome*

  18. Luke Chamberlin

    1) Practitioners create content out of passion and desire for self-improvement.2) Institutions that charge students $40K tuition take free content and use in curriculums.3) Students end up $100K+ in debt to learn things they could have learned for free on the internet.Education isn’t hacked until we eliminate #2, in my opinion.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Students aren’t going to Harvard Business School to learn things they couldn’t learn elsewhere; they are going there to get Harvard MBAs, which have a unique signaling value. A Harvard MBA will get hired by a top consulting firm or investment bank; an autodidact who just read Eisenmann’s blog won’t.

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        Absolutely, they pay for that degree and they pay for a network of friends who also have Harvard MBAs.I guess my point was that we can’t consider education hacked while we’re still looking to the prestigious institutions for validation.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          I think education is pretty well hacked now. Validation hasn’t been entirely hacked, but we’re getting there too. For example, consider the signaling value of Y-Combinator for entrepreneurs — it might be higher than a Harvard MBA at this point, which is impressive when you think about how quickly YC built that signaling value.Conceivably, big companies could build their own accelerator-type programs for non-entrepreneur businessmen-in-training. E.g., Proctor & Gamble could set up a program where they give challenges and a budget to small teams (maybe coming up with a strategy to market an orphan product in some small market). And investment banks could do something similar, if they wanted to as well.But as the YC example demonstrates, there’s a big difference between hacking education and hacking validation: anyone can read Eisenmann’s or Paul Graham’s blog, but not everyone can get into Harvard or YC; validation comes from relative scarcity, and status in a hierarchy — the pyramid gets smaller as it gets taller. So, by definition, everyone can’t get the same validation.

          1. Luke Chamberlin

            You are right my issue is with hacking social validation.

          2. Modernist

            No, YC is part of the problem.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            What problem?

    2. Anne Libby

      There’s value in having Professor Eisenman there to connect these dots for students: creating this list took a level of mastery. There’s additional value in sharing some insight with the broader community. Thumbs up.On the other hand, at some universities 2) and 3) are financing an appalling level of staff growth.I’m an engaged observer, not an expert: it appears to me that staff is a fixed cost at most universities. As hierarchies and fiefdoms are being built up, some grow to the point where they serve as a strong barrier to the network effect you’d hope to have as part of a great university’s value prop.I probably read it here first: a hierarchy can’t manage a network.(Don’t get me started on facilities.)

    3. ShanaC

      it is really hard to learn for free. you have to do a collating to get there

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        I feel like we have a lot of wiggle room between free and $40,000/yr.

        1. ShanaC

          time helps with the 40000k thing

  19. aseoconnor

    Sadly, the link seems dead. Great post though

    1. LE

      Was working yesterday I just noticed that as well.Here is the correct link which I just found:http://platformsandnetworks…Seems the “s” was corrected that was after 2012 in the orig. post.

  20. Richard

    Is higher education loosing its focus?   It may be time for universities to reinvest in   the slow methodical, traditional sciences such as  material science, biological sciences, medical science, physics, chemistry, etc and yield the accelerator business model to the private sector. Not conflating these two important but different goals was mark zuckerburg’s (et al.) genius. 

  21. LE

    What would be an interesting project is for someone to take all the information on this list and to compile it similar to the “cookbook” Oreilly series.You take the info jeopardy style and turn it into questions and then write the answers (with attribution). This would require breaking down each idea into it’s atomic part with a question and answer culled from the list of reading material.#454. What are the pros and con’s of online retailing as a startup idea?According to Fred Wilson (link to blog post) “I have never invested in online retailing. I don’t like the economics of this business even though it is a huge market.” But according to (some other person on same topic) “more info….”. etc.#92a What is the “network effect”.”The network effect is …” according to … #92b How do I achieve the network effect and solve the chicken and egg problem?According to Brian Balfour (link) you solve the …..This would require of course a tremendous amount of work but would be a great learning experience (and perhaps a independent study project) for any student.The benefits of this to the user is that they can quickly scan and locate answers to their particular questions.Keeping with the theme of putting my money where my mouth is I will offer a reasonable stipend to any student who is well qualified and wants to take on this project.

    1. Cam MacRae

      Fantastic idea and very generous offer — I hope someone takes you up on it.

    2. David Roman

      Some how I feel like this presents an opportunity for Quora. Hmmm….

  22. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Thanks re-posting this Fred. I don’t think many people would have caught the original post on their own.

  23. Donna Brewington White

    I am really excited about this list. I would love to see more of this type of resource for startups, particularly by subject areas and curated by a relevant community. Maybe it’s out there and I just don’t know about it.I wonder what curation criteria were used? Of course I first went to the posts on hiring, recruiting, culture, etc., — many of which I have already read and appreciated. There were some great posts, but some that I wondered how they made it onto the list — compared to other posts that are out there. Was glad to see that a couple of the more exceptional posts from the MBA Mondays series on People were included. I would have included the post by Dana Ardi because it represented amazing thought leadership but perhaps Tom was going for more practical application.But not to sound ungrateful. It is an amazing gift he’s offered.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Just realized that the thing I described may be what @kidmercury:disqus was after with Fredsquare.Also, now if you click on the link it no longer opens to the page — you have to click on it on the right in blog archives: Managing Startups: Best Posts of 2012 -or- new link is: http://platformsandnetworks

  24. JamesHRH

    I always find these posts unmoving.Its a bunch of stuff from a bunch of people about a bunch of topics. Its very practical and useful, in the moment. It seems of little value otuside the moment.I don’t know what a post-secondary degree is supposed to mean anymore. But it must total up to more than a list of tips, regardless of the validity of the tips.

  25. William Mougayar

    Not to take anything away from this incredible list, the WSJ is doing a great job with The Accelerators series of posts, starring GG, Brad Feld, David Cohen, Steve Blank & a slew of others.I highly recommend it as well: