Billhardt believes he is primarily competing with lower-tier schools. Online learning start-ups, he admits, are unlikely to worry top schools such as Harvard, his alma mater, because of the "signalling value" of an established degree, which attracts big employers.
Even so, Keith Bevans, head of global consultant recruiting at Bain & Company, believes alt-MBAs could help the consultancy tap new employee markets such as people with technical backgrounds who need to acquire business knowledge quickly. "If someone has demonstrated interest and invested in themselves, that is something we would look favourably on," he says.
However, Bain mostly hires from established business schools, because the "alt-MBAs don't have the track record yet of producing talent at scale", Bevans adds. "It will take time for their graduates to come into the firm, excel and advocate for recruiting their peers."