Learning, Networking, and Connecting in Singapore

Cyril Camus addresses a room full of people sitting at tables while behind him is a model globe

Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD looked out over the crowd. 

The Babson College president stood at a podium a long way from campus. He was speaking in Singapore, the bustling, cosmopolitan island country located more than 9,000 miles, or the equivalent of an 18-hour airline flight, from Babson Park. 

Spinelli often talks of the role Babson plays in educating entrepreneurial leaders and the global impact they are making. Those words, however, felt different in Singapore, where Babson was hosting the latest edition of Babson Connect Worldwide, or BCW for short, which Spinelli described as “the premier global summit for entrepreneurs.”  

Spinelli’s talk of entrepreneurial leadership, before an engaged group of founders, executives, and thought leaders on the other side of the world, felt even more essential here. The vibrant location and diverse audience seemed to illustrate exactly what he was talking about. 

“At Babson, we create entrepreneurial leaders who impact communities everywhere,” Spinelli told the crowd during BCW’s opening. “Babson Connect Worldwide is core to that strategy. You make us an everywhere institution.” 

The globetrotting BCW, which has taken place in locations around the world, touched down in Singapore last month, marking its first conference since 2021 when BCW went virtual during the pandemic. For several days in Singapore, nearly 300 attendees from more than 45 countries networked, attended educational sessions, and toured a city-state that proved to be an apt entrepreneurial destination. 

“Singapore is a cultural melting pot, much like Babson, rich with traditions and backgrounds and experiences from around the world,” Spinelli said in his remarks. “It is an honor to be with you in such an innovative and inspiring place like Singapore. This is a fitting venue for a global entrepreneurship summit.”  

A Fitting Entrepreneurial Setting 

The story of Singapore is an entrepreneurial one. “I am very glad that Singapore has a chance to host Babson Connect Worldwide this year,” said Singapore’s Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How, who spoke after Spinelli’s opening remarks. “There are many similarities with the Singapore story and the Singapore spirit.” 

A former British colony, Singapore became an independent country in 1965. “We are a young nation,” Tan said. At the time of its independence, the country faced tough challenges. It was small, and it had no natural resources. “We had nothing,” Tan said. “The only thing we had were people.” 

The country also had what so many successful entrepreneurs possess: grit, a sense of purpose, and perhaps a bit of luck. “Like many startups, our founding fathers had a belief, a belief that if they worked hard and followed their hearts and passions, hopefully something will work out,” Tan said. 

“The energy to me is the most important part of this event. You get to mingle with so many cultures, people from all these countries.”
Wilma Miranda ’89, who has attended every Babson Connect Worldwide

Today, the country that hosted BCW is marked by a robust, diversified economy with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. More than 4,000 tech startups make their home in Singapore. “We are a vibrant startup nation,” Tan said. 

That entrepreneurial spirit resonated with BCW attendees. “It was fascinating hearing about the history of Singapore and what an entrepreneurial place it is,” said Ab Igram MBA’96, the executive director of the Tariq Farid Franchise Institute at Babson. “I think it is perfect we are here to talk about entrepreneurship.” 

Talking About Entrepreneurship 

Entrepreneurship was certainly the matter at hand at BCW, which was supported by a number of sponsors, including TN Group, Camus Cognac, Indorama Healthcare, Shruti Lohia Hora ’98, and Ingrid Prasatya P’19 ’19 ’20. With a theme of Shaping the New Tomorrow, the summit featured sessions on many pertinent topics, such as leadership, sustainability, artificial intelligence, health care, family entrepreneurship, and women’s entrepreneurship. 

Besides attending educational sessions, attendees at Babson Connect Worldwide took time to see the sights of Singapore.

Alumni and leaders from around the world served as BCW speakers. They included Khailee Ng, managing partner at 500 Global, a venture capital firm; Nikhil Kamath, co-founder of Zerodha, an Indian retail brokerage platform; and Jacqueline Poh, managing director of the Singapore Economic Development Board.  

In addition to the array of panels, BCW kicked off with executive education workshops from two Babson faculty: Lauren Beitelspacher, the Ken and Nancy Major Romanzi Senior Term Chair in Marketing, and Scott Taylor, the Arthur M. Blank Endowed Chair for Values-Based Leadership.   

“It broadens your horizon listening to speakers’ stories and their entrepreneurial path,” said Wilma Miranda ’89, a CPA, who has attended every BCW since the first one in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2015. 

Global Connections 

Beyond the entrepreneurial learning, attendees were networking and connecting, not only with old Babson friends but also with people from all over the globe. “The energy to me is the most important part of this event,” Miranda added. “You get to mingle with so many cultures, people from all these countries.” 

Babson Connect Worldwide
Speaking at Babson Connect Worldwide, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How discussed the history and entrepreneurial spirit of the country.

Babson’s Global Advisory Board, an enthusiastic supporter of BCW, is constantly looking to expand these sorts of global networking opportunities. Cyril Camus ’91, P’26, a member of Babson’s Board of Trustees, serves as the Global Advisory Board’s chair. “The Global Advisory Board always gets so involved, so enthused, in being given the opportunity to bring Babson to the world,” Camus says, “and to bring the world to Babson.” 

This feeling of openness and connection, in the dynamic city-state of Singapore, made for an inspiring summit that celebrated and empowered that global impact of Babson that Spinelli so often talks about. 

“What makes Babson Connect special to me is very simple,” said Harsha Agadi, also a member of Babson’s Board of Trustees. “Unlike in the world where some leaders are de-globalizing, Babson believes in globalizing. And it is connecting the world.” 

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