GSV is making a new investment in education. But this time, it’s not pouring money into a startup or a conference.
Instead, the edtech investment firm is helping to launch a new online MBA program focused on entrepreneurship. Its partner? A small, Christian college in Jackson, Mississippi.
“What we’re focused on is creating an amazing program that attracts people who have dreams, and we help those dreams come to reality,” says Michael Moe, founder of GSV. “The goal is to be able to provide these students, these aspiring entrepreneurs, with the knowledge and tools and connectivity and confidence to not only survive but thrive.”
The 30-credit GSV MBA program offered by Belhaven University is designed for people who want to start businesses and are ready to learn how to develop concrete plans and attract investors. Belhaven faculty will teach the courses, while Moe plans to serve as an adjunct instructor and participate in virtual office hours for students, along with other members of GSV.
“Part of what I’d like to bring to the program is real-world war stories,” Moe says.
The college and the investment firm will share the degree program’s costs and revenues, according to Moe, who declined to provide more financial details about the partnership.
Belhaven hopes to attract an initial cohort of 15 to 20 students to start this summer, says Kevin Russell, vice president for university enrollment and marketing. The tuition for the entire program is listed as $24,500.
GSV is not committing to back any students’ business plans. But that’s not out of the question.
“If we do this right, not only should GSV have a strategy in investing in these companies, we hope other investors see the value of the students coming out of there and are attracted to it as well,” Moe says.
Ethics and Entrepreneurship
GSV is short for Global Silicon Valley, a name that reflects Moe’s enthusiasm for the entrepreneurship that is associated with the Northern California region—and that Moe hopes to spread across the world. Over the years, GSV has invested in the likes of Facebook, Spotify and Twitter alongside education companies including Chegg and Coursera.
Moe was intrigued when the longtime president of Belhaven University, Roger Parrott, pitched him the idea for an entrepreneurship MBA last year. Belhaven’s experience in offering online degrees (two dozen), plus Parrott’s serious interest in collaborating on an innovative new program, made the prospect exciting to the seasoned investor.
Parrot has “been at the university for over 20 years and is a very strong leader, somebody who is really thinking about the future of education and the future of universities,” Moe says. “He’s a president who I felt had the aligned vision and had been there long enough, had enough credibility and resources, to make this happen.”
At first, Moe thought his relationship with the project would be relatively casual. But over the past nine months, GSV has become more involved in helping to design the curriculum.
“I realized it’s our name on the MBA,” Moe says. “It has to reflect our goals of really providing excellence and an outcome for these students we are proud of.”
Belhaven classes are taught with what its website calls “a Christian worldview,” and Russell says the GSV MBA will likewise have a “faith-based element.”
The university, which has a statement of faith and is a member of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, does not require students to have any particular belief system, although it does “always try to teach from a Christian worldview that is faith and ethically based,” Russell explains.
Moe hopes that emphasis on ethics will help differentiate the new curriculum from what’s offered in MBA programs elsewhere.
“It won’t be in-your-face religion,” Moe says. “I really believe the great businesses of tomorrow are going to have a foundation of values that are embedded in the businesses themselves.”
Plans for the new program predate the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread unemployment that has accompanied it, but the timing might work out well for attracting potential students, since economic downturns often coincide with people seeking more education and workforce training.
“We really believe that there is going to be a lot of opportunity for those who, for whatever reason, say, ‘Now is the time to launch my business,” Russell says.