what does it look like if we win? what are the risks? now go and get on with it

The title is a line Colin Angle @ iRobot shared in a talk last Friday.

As I enter my second semester in business school, with fewer misgivings than in my first, I am just starting to attend my first purely entrepreneurship-related class, which HBS calls The Entrepreneurial Manager or TEM. So far we’ve had one class, focused on Dr. John’s foray into manual+electric toothbrushes, and I just finished reading the case we have for tomorrow’s class on Dropbox. Though I am not a true insider at Dropbox, I feel like I have a more intimate than normal relationship with the company given my observation of its growth, of an investment in its Series B, my relationships with some people who work there, and my personal experience recruiting for the company in early 2012.

It’s odd to sit in a class about a topic that is usually really interesting to me, observing a professor who is clearly very skilled at his craft and feel completely disengaged. I felt the same way reading the Dropbox case, despite that there were a few insights a la Drew Houston that I thought were worth jotting down (1 – no startup has been built successfully through distribution deals without a strong brand of its own, 2 – look for users requesting features that already exist on forums because that means they can’t find it, 3 – if you’re building freemium, you have to view your free users as your marketing cost — only then does it make sense; the product has to grow organically).

There is something that is too rational about this approach to entrepreneurship. The case was too rational, the path was too clear cut, there’s no way somebody without entrepreneurial experience before this case and some insider knowledge of what actually went down at Dropbox can get a sense of the utter chaos of entrepreneurship from this case. They can’t even get a hint of it.

So that leaves me wondering…why? Why did it have to be written this way, in this neat little package? The case is a relatively flexible format; we’ve even had full multimedia cases before. Why did the writers choose to create such a cool-headed, logical story out of something that clearly isn’t? If HBS really wants to be competitive in entrepreneurship, why is it misleading its students about what building a successful company looks like?

I’m both baffled and disenchanted.

what does it look like if we win? what are the risks? now go and get on with it