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The Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship

The school discards the traditional MBA silos of finance, accounting and marketing to revolve around the start-up cycle.
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   13-02-2015
Acton's red brick headquarters in Austin, Texas.
The Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas has a laser focus on a single goal: educating aspiring entrepreneurs. In contrast to the often-esoteric orientation of business schools, Acton includes hands-on projects such as operations simulation, plant tours and studies of case histories and company structures. A day in the life of an Acton MBA is nothing short of an endurance run. One-hundred–hour weeks are the norm. Mandatory study groups begin at 6.30 A.M every morning and last until classes start at 8.00 A.M. and the case load prep work is rigorous.

Socratic Method

The school crams two years worth of material into just 12 months and discards the traditional M.B.A. silos of finance, accounting and marketing to revolve around the start-up and entrepreneurial cycle. Courses have names like “Opportunity, ” “ Raising Money, ” “ Customers” and “Harvest,” and they are all taught by professors who are successful entrepreneurs. Acton adopts the same case–study or Socratic Method used by many of the best business schools, particularly Harvard Business School and, in a single year students analyze over 300 cases.

"We want our graduates to start, buy, or work their way to the top of a successful business. That’s what Acton is all about — learning to run a successful business. But it’s even more important that our graduates learn to lead meaningful lives too," says Acton founder Jeff Sandefer, who was ranked one of the top ten entrepreneurship professors in America by "BusinessWeek."

Entrepreneur Teachers

Sandefer himself is a serial entrepreneur and started his first business at age sixteen. After earning an MBA, he founded Sandefer Offshore, an oil and gas company that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in less than five years. He then ran Sandefer Capital Partners, a half-billion dollar energy investment fund.

Like Sandefer the current roster of professors at Acton boast advanced degrees from elite institutions, and they have collectively built businesses with over $4.5 billion in assets. Acton has made a clean break with the tenure system which gives professors more credit for publishing articles and books than for actual business experience. Acton professors publish no research, and Acton grants no tenure. Teachers (like students) are expected to perform.

Mix of Online and Face-to-Face Learning

Students complete the first portion of the program which is four months studying online from anywhere in the world prior to spending the rest of their time on-location in Austin, Texas to complete their MBA.

During the online phase the budding entrepreneurs are familiarized with the case method and learn basic financial skills like reading a balance sheet and discounting cash flows. The time commitment during this phase is only 20 to 25 hours a week. This allows students to keep full–time jobs and pare down the cost of the degree.

On average, tuition and fees at Acton cost $49,500 compared with $127,000 for other schools.

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