Historically, top business school graduates cashed in on their pricey credentials by accepting lucrative positions with consulting firms or investment banks in New York, London, San Francisco, and other global business hubs.
However, we live in a different world today.
Since the financial crisis in 2008, many MBAs are finding these opportunities both more scarce and less appealing.
At the same time, a larger number of graduates are discovering that entrepreneurship can be a rewarding experience, both financially and personally.
Not only are more MBA's switching from banking to entrepreneurship as the "hot" post graduation career, but they are also increasingly pursuing opportunities, both corporate and entrepreneurial, further from home than ever before in emerging markets such as Latin America.
As an entrepreneur and Wharton/Lauder graduate living in Bogota, Colombia, I can attest to the abundance of these new opportunities and understand the allure they have over other post MBA roles.
Historically, only one or two percent of top MBA graduates accepted positions in Latin America.
Well, that was then.
At Wharton alone, the percentage of graduates moving South-of-the-border after graduation has increased 300 percent in the prior 4 years, growing to 4.9 percent of the class of 2011. Chicago Booth is seeing a similar phenomenon, with 3.0 percent of the classed heading to LatAm, an increase of nearly 70 percent from 2007 to 2011.
The increase in MBA graduates pursuing positions in Latin America has been matched by a surge in graduates deciding to create their own opportunities through entrepreneurship after graduation.
Since 2007, the number of Wharton grads launching new businesses has soared almost 350 percent to represent 7.1 percent of the graduating class. Sounds small, but one out of 14 graduates are foregoing a stable salary, and taking the plunge, betting the future rewards will pay off.
And after seeing the results these entrepreneurs have been able to achieve in the year since graduation, you can start to understand why the increase may just be getting started.
Here are three promising startups created by the class of 2011:
Davis Smith, a2011 Wharton/Lauder alum, and his cousin, Kimball Thomas, a 2011 HBS alum, launched Baby.com.br, a baby focused e-commerce company in Brazil. The company launched less than a year ago and his raised $21 million in funding from investors such as Accel Capital, Tiger Global Management, SV Angel and Monashees Capital.
Jacob Rosenbloom, a 2011 Wharton/Lauder alum, along with Derek Fears and Nathan Dee, started Emprego Ligado, a mobile-based recruiting service for operational workers in Brazil. The company has hired senior Brazilian executives from the local wireless, human resources and technology industries and is backed by a consortium of 9 investors, including 4 Brazil-based venture funds. Investors include 500 Startups, Initial Capital, Rising Venture, the Head of Private Equity and Venture Capital at one of the biggest funds in Brazil and Peter Fernandez, Head of LatAm Mobile & Social at Google.
Clemens Raemy, a 2011 HBS alum from Switzerland founded SaferTaxi, a company who´s mobile application allows customers to reserve taxis, pay by credit card, leave comments about the driver, and accumulate miles for their trips all from their smartphone. The company is currently operating in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Santiago. In October 2011, SaferTaxi received an investment of $1 million by investors including Tim Draper and Kaszek Ventures.
So, not only are young graduates moving to the region to start ventures, the international venture capital community has also taken notice.
Although, it's not just the larger international firms that are interested in the market, a number of venture capital firms have sprung up locally over the last few years such as: Aurus and Austral Capital in Chile, Kaszek Ventures in Argentina, Monashees Capital in Brazil, Progresa Capital in Colombia, and Prosperitas Capital Partners in Uruguay.
This new local capital formation is helping assure even greater success in the future for local startups in the region.
MBA graduates tend to have their finger on the pulse of global economic trends so their behavior speaks volumes about the overall global business and employment conditions. In the same way, VC funds go where they can find and invest in the "next big thing".
It seems to be that all these various factors are beginning to align for Latin America at a crucial time of rapid economic growth and a new era of political stability.
Follow my blog for insights on Latin American entrepreneurship, venture capital, travel and other random ramblings.