I don't have an MBA, but I have earned my SIlicon Valley MBA. Let me explain.
When I was a few years out of college, I considered going back to get an MBA. I liked working in the valley and knew that I wanted to spend my career in tech and ultimately around startups - at that point I had only worked for Apple. So I asked around to a lot of people I knew well and respected. People who I thought had been successful in their careers and whose path I wanted to learn from. Many of them had MBAs and some did not. I wanted to hear their perspectives on the value of a traditional MBA.
I distilled all the feedback I received into three primary benefits I, or anyone, would gain from pursuing a top-flight MBA : 1) building an extended network of contacts that I would know throughout my career, 2) if I wanted to make a switch to a different industry, finance, consulting, etc., then an MBA would give me the opportunity for a fresh-start, and 3) for a number of different professions, an MBA is a requirement and with it comes a step-up increase in both current compensation and the compensation trajectory that the person is on.
I knew that I wanted to stay in technology, so #2 wasn't relevant and I was already in the job that a graduating MBA would be trying to get so #3 wasn't important in my situation either. What I struggled with was the value of the network I could build. I got accepted to the MBA program I was interested in, but ultimately decided to start my first startup versus spending 2 years in grad-school. Seven years and three startups later when I was selling my third company, I realized that although I had not earned a traditional MBA, during my 4 years at Apple, I had earned my Silicon Valley MBA.
Being an entrepreneur is in my blood. My father is an entrepreneur and growing up I always knew that I wanted to start companies too. But my ultimate success as an entrepreneur would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, if not for the amazing people I worked with in my time at Apple. There are people I first met back at Apple that I still work with regularly to this day. One of the best things about the valley is that there are always at least a handful of companies that the best and brightest from around the world strive to work for. Apple was one of those companies then and is again now, but over that time there have been many, many more among them - Cisco, Netscape, eBay, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc.
For anyone who loves tech and wants to make a career of working in the valley, I encourage them to first earn their Silicon Valley MBA. Go work for a company that is either already an institution, but hasn't lost the Magic (Yahoo and eBay fit into the latter category), or one that is on a clear trajectory to become one (Facebook and Twitter). Whether you have a traditional MBA or not, a Silicon Valley MBA will pay dividends throughout your career. Not only will you build your network, learn a ton, and most likely have a blast while doing it, you also have more opportunity for upside than you may realize.
I've been giving people this advice for years, but I used to couple it with: "the real upside is probably gone, but at least you'll be building personal equity for the future." I told that to a former HBS-MBA grad friend who in 2003 was trying to decide between an offer at an early stage startup and an offer at Google. I told her to take the Google offer because it was the best way for her to earn her Silicon Valley MBA, but, I cautioned her not to do it for the upside in Google stock because that game had probably mostly been played out. Happily for her I was only half-right.