If there was one vertical that has been hit hard during the pandemic it has been higher education. As the Great Accelerator, COVID expedited trends that were already happening, causing them to happen in months instead of years. Higher education was already changing due to online courses, the rise of global entrepreneurship, and the cost-benefit analysis of paying a high price for a degree such as an MBA (that many times was only differentiated by the degree’s prestige and network). Students were looking for more skill development, and many were already flocking to programs like General Assembly and the Holberton School to learn coding skills.

During the continuing pandemic, universities, especially in the United States, are suffering financial challenges; students do not want to pay the hefty price tag for the honor of attending a university because in the near future a four-year degree may not be worth as much. However, the picture is complex, the pandemic has worsened undergrad enrollment as this “most recent data from the National Student Clearing House, which analyzes data from 3.6 million students from 629 colleges, indicates that undergraduate college enrollment is down 2.5%”, but not necessarily MBA enrollment.

This data shows there has been an increase in students applying for MBA programs, however, enough potential students believe it may future proof their resume: “at Columbia, for example, applications rose by more than 18% to nearly 7,000 — an increase of more than 1,000, or 18.6%. That blows away the school record of 6,188 set in 2016-2017.”

From a personal perspective when the pandemic began, I considered getting an executive MBA (though I am an entrepreneur at this point). I am a lifelong learner and some elite institutions were waving GMATs (at the time). After some initial research I concluded that the workload and the cost out of pocket for me were not worth it, even with a degree from a top program. As the old adage states, when the student is ready the teacher will appear, and appear it did, in the form of digital content and an app on my smartphone.

Entrepreneur MBA

When it came to sharpening my mental toolkit, I feel a good use of time has been taking the PowerMBA. There are other courses out there such as Seth Godin’s altMBA and NYU professor Scott Galloway’s courses. While I am a fan of Professor Galloway’s books and insights, I ended up choosing the PowerMBA.

Continuous education is such an important aspect of the post-COVID economy; learning to be nimble, and learning real skills and mindsets one can monetize online in this economy are keys to becoming recession proof. What is important today, especially for those who are entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, or a small to medium sized business owner is finding an effective framework not just to learn theory but also practical skills on how to grow their business.

An aspect I like about this program is its creative use of cheap/free resources such as Typeform, Telegram, and LinkedIn to effectively not just engage its students, but also to market the program globally (they got me with Instagram ads). I feel that the team at the PowerMBA have internalized many of the lessons they have been sharing with us; call it Hustle 101.

From a local perspective Uri Levine of Waze is one of the instructors, and a large number of students are based in Israel. As ThePowerMBA co-founder Borja Adanero states “we ran a number of tests to see the reaction to our value proposition in different countries, and the response from Israel was very exciting. Because Israel is a country with a vibrant startup community, we felt that the content that our program provides, and the way it allows people to learn while they’re doing the actual work and to apply it straight away, would be just right for the market here.”

COVID networking

Who have been the winners of the pandemic? Those who have a backyard, but also professionals who had a network pre-COVID. It is hard to build, though not impossible, to develop new relationships during this time. Zoom, Hopin, and other platforms offer just average experiences, and the events themselves take a long time with the breakout sessions being awkward most of the time.

I realized that when I got to Israel that I would need to be networking and decided to go the route of building community first. So, I spoke with my friend Alex Taub, the founder of social networking app Upstream (whose co-founder is Israeli born Michael Schonfeld) about helping build their community here in the Startup Nation.

As Taub states “at Upstream when we built our events component, we were trying to mimic the experience of going to an in-person event and socializing before the event started. The 20-30 minutes before a panel and fireside chat when you met people, exchanged contact info and then followed up after the event. That’s what we thought we could virtualize.”

He further adds “there are communities being added daily ranging from job functions like a Biz Dev and Customer Success communities. They are industry specific like a Healthcare community and a Sports Business community, to locations like an LA tech community and one of my favorite communities - an Israeli Tech community.”

Both the Upstream events, and the Telegram group curated by ThePowerMBA have been a source of connecting with good people here in the Startup Nation. The real challenge platforms that Upstream are looking to solve is how to develop authentic relationships during the pandemic. Most importantly, how can you create serendipitous relationships digitally, something that is missing during these days of lockdowns and Zoom. Personally, I have felt Upstream has gotten the closest to that experience.

This is 2020 though, and life moving forward; online education and digital networking will be the norm, but it does not have to be all that bad. As humans while we crave social interactions the solutions these entrepreneurs created come close to the real thing.

Written by Jonathan 'Yoni' Frenkel CEO of YKC Media