Staff collaborating at Movile headquarters. Photo: Movile Group/Courtesy.

Putting an MBA within reach of rising Latin American business leaders

LABS takes a closer look at how a Stanford University program and a Movile Group internship program reduce barriers to making MBA courses more accessible to Latin American entrepreneurs

The need for well-rounded, tech-savvy business leaders is greater than ever in Latin America thanks to the intense digital acceleration and global investment that has taken place during the pandemic. The demand for Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduates is also growing with starting salaries soaring in a tight labor market, rebounding “to new heights this year after flatlining early in the pandemic,” according to a recent news analysis in the Wall Street Journal last month. The median salary for this year’s graduates grew by $5,000 to hit $155,000, according to some of the top MBA graduate program leaders in the U.S.

Now, Latin American entrepreneurs and global MBA programs are teaming up to enhance the local talent pool while incentivizing those newly minted leaders to “pay it forward” in their home countries.

An MBA degree has been considered the gold standard of business education for many years, and graduates from top global programs are always in high demand. Recruitment interest from the technology industry is also on the rise and, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, MBA recruitment in this sector is expected to grow by 10% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels — ramping up the competition for talented leaders in an already tight job market. 

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With the current price tag of an elite, two-year MBA degree climbing to $200,000 or more, paying a $275 application fee may seem trivial, but that initial fee prevents many lower-income students from pursuing their MBA dreams. What’s more, until an application is on file, would-be students often have no idea whether they qualify for fellowships or other student aid that could defray some or all of those program costs.

Meyer “Micky” Malka, Venezuelan-born founder and managing partner of Ribbit Capital in Silicon Valley, recently launched a program with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) to help eliminate that roadblock and increase the number of Latin Americans pursuing an MBA.   

“The Si Se Puede Latin America fee waiver aims to remove barriers to applying to GSB and to encourage applicants from Venezuela and throughout Latin America to take that next step,” said Malka.

Meyer “Micky” Malka, founder and managing partner of Ribbit Capital. Photo: Courtesy.

By helping students apply to and attend the GSB, we hope to attract people who want to make a difference in their communities and the world.

Meyer “Micky” Malka, of Ribbit Capital.

Thanks to a generous endowment from Malka, Stanford’s GSB is now waiving its $275 application fee for Latin American and Caribbean students who make less than $40,000 per year. Students who are accepted to Stanford’s GSB are also considered for the university’s fellowship program, which supports a handful of students with scholarships that cover most of the cost to attend. Graduates who go home and invest what they’ve learned in their home countries may be eligible for further debt forgiveness.

“If you go back to your home region after studying and you end up having an impact in the country that you’re from, we will waive any other remaining debt,” said Malka. 

As further proof of the potential return on investment, Malka recently hosted an MBA recruitment event featuring five successful LatAm founders and GSB alumni. The all-star panel of entrepreneurs included Gabriel Braga, CEO and co-founder of QuintoAndar; Marcos Galperin, CEO and co-founder at Mercado Libre; Loreann Garcia, co-founder and chief people officer at Kavak; Jeronimo Uribe, co-founder of La Haus; and David Vélez, CEO and co-founder of Nubank.

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Together these leaders represent four different countries and their businesses have generated well over $100 billion of combined revenue in LatAm. All five founders spoke about leveraging their time in Silicon Valley to develop their startup ideas and then launching them after graduation, leaning on the knowledge and networking connections they built with classmates and mentors. 

“I launched Mercado Libre right out of the GSB, and I actually drove my first investor to the airport from a class at the GSB,” said Marcos Galperin. 

Likewise, NuBank CEO David Vélez attended Stanford from 2010 to 2012 and launched the company in early 2013. Gabriel Braga was at Stanford at the same time as Vélez and launched QuintoAndar when he returned home to Brazil. Loreann Garcia and Jeronimo Uribe described similar experiences but took a bit more time to develop their business plans for Kavak and La Haus, respectively.

Online MBA education has come a long way in recent years, but if you’re looking for a culturally immersive experience that could lead to future investment and valuable business partnerships, then a full-time program like Stanford’s could be worth the investment, according to both Galperin and Vélez. 

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“If you’re thinking of the [MBA] mostly in terms of the skills you want to earn, like finance or marketing, I think you can get those today online quite well. Stanford provides a much more comprehensive experience,” said Galperin. “In my case I [met] the person that invested in my company. My classmate, Stelleo Tolda, has worked with me for 23 years. He did the MBA one year ahead of me so, basically, I built the company with my classmates. And that is something that you will never get doing an educational experience online.”

Vélez agrees. “If you take the long view on your career, investing two of those years into a fundamentally different experience where you’re exposed to new ideas and people — and being open to having that network take you in unexpected directions — it’s a very powerful opportunity,” said Vélez. “While I was at the GSB I ended up working with Sequoia Capital for a year and, suddenly, they became my seed investor in Nubank. If I hadn’t gone to Stanford, I don’t think I would have ever met them, and I don’t know if I would have ever raised the capital for what I wanted to do.”

MBA recruiting the “The Movile Way” 

At the other end of the MBA talent funnel, Brazil’s Movile Group recently began partnering with top North American MBA programs to recruit mid-and senior-level Latin American leaders into its new summer MBA internship program that debuts next spring. The internship is designed to fast-track strong leaders into careers within the growing Movile ecosystem, which includes Afterverse, iFood, Mensajeros Urbanos, Moova, MovilePay, PlayKids, Sinch, Sympla, and Zoop.

To be eligible for the program, students must have at least three years of professional experience, be currently enrolled in an MBA program in the U.S., and be fluent in Portuguese or Spanish. Those selected for the 12-week virtual internship will be matched with an executive mentor from one of the companies within Movile’s nine tech companies to work on a specific project or current challenge. This is in addition to participating in an accelerator curriculum of workshops and training delivered by other C-suite executives from the Movile Group.  

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As one of the region’s fastest-growing groups of digital companies, Movile’s ultimate goal is to identify and directly hire more future leaders with three key attributes: creative problem-solving ability, learning agility, and resilience, said Matheus Fonseca, Movile’s HR products manager.

“Problem-solving ability is a common need for every company, but for us, it’s very important. We need to hire people who can help us solve the biggest problems we’re facing,” said Fonseca. “These people must be open to learning, not just about the position and project that they will lead, but also about our company, our sectors, and about everything that we do here. The third and most important thing is that we need people who are very, very resilient. We change a lot here. And we need people that could lead those changes and embrace the uncertainty of our work.”

For now, Movile limits the program to Latin American students pursuing their MBA in the United States, and the company is working on expanding its university partnerships. M.I.T., Stanford, and Wharton are among its early wins to promote the investment group’s new MBA internship program. 

Matheus Fonseca, Movile’s HR products manager.

We believe strongly in diversity and inclusion at Movile, and we are working to ensure that Black people, women and Latine American residents have access to this valuable program.

Matheus Fonseca, Movile’s HR products manager.

“It’s important to highlight that successful candidates may receive offers for more than one [Movile network] company.”Movile’s first summer MBA internship runs from April through June 2022. Applications are being accepted through December 31.