Networking Brings the Classroom to the Real World

Tyson Corner, Gabriel Papa, and Peter D’Ambrosio attend the shareholders event.

As the spring semester wound down, nine Babson College finance students boarded a plane to Omaha, Nebraska. They were en route to the 2022 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting, expecting to hear Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger discuss business philosophies, thoughts on industry trends, and their famed company’s recent business transactions.

While that was on the agenda, this group of eager students now found themselves in the same room as some of the biggest business names of the last few decades.

“Literally sat 20 feet away from Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Jamie Dimon, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Mohnish Pabrai, and the senior management team of countless Berkshire Companies,” Peter D’Ambrosio ’24 said. “Even on just the flight over from Boston, we sat next to doctors, pilots, and fund managers, all of whom were heading to Omaha.”

D’Ambrosio—along with Pavan Anandani MS’22, Alex Bowers ’24, Tyson Corner ’22, Nick Michaud ’24, Gabriel Papa ’23, Arya Patel ’24, Nathan Watts ’23, and Ryan Watts ’23—attended as part of a sponsorship program from the Stephen D. Cutler Center for Investments and Finance. The event brought together more than 40,000 investors, fund managers, founders, and other industry professionals ready to find renewed business energy and share ideas across ages and disciplines.

The Babson students had landed in a networking paradise.

Practical Application to Classroom Approach

For the students, it was not only a chance to get back in the networking game after two years of digital events but also an opportunity to see real-world applications for what they have practiced and studied at Babson.

Corner, D’Ambrosio, Papa, Nathan Watts, and Ryan Watts previously had competed in an equity research competition that focused on Purple Innovation, a company that manufactures and sells mattresses. They were able to talk with a representative from Nebraska Furniture Mart about the company.

The companies and theories they have been analyzing for semesters suddenly are desired talking points.

Pavan Anandani, Gabriel Papa, Tyson Corner, Nick Michaud, Arya Patel, Nathan Watts, Peter D’Ambrosio, Alex Bowers, and Ryan Watts at the 2022 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting
From left: Pavan Anandani MS’22, Gabriel Papa ’23, Tyson Corner ’22, Nick Michaud ’24, Arya Patel ’24, Nathan Watts ’23, Peter D’Ambrosio ’24, Alex Bowers ’24, and Ryan Watts ’23

“I was able to hear from managers at several industrial companies, one of which was one of the largest manufacturers of insulation products in the world,” Nathan Watts said. “This directly related to my experience in the Babson College Fund, as my team pitched Installed Building Products the previous semester, which is one of two major insulation installers in the United States.”

That wasn’t the only time the Babson College Fund course bore fruit. During the shareholder meeting, the students also had the opportunity to attend a road show demonstrating the products and offerings of Berkshire Hathaway portfolio companies.

“Several of these companies aligned closely with our holdings in the Babson College Fund,” Ryan Watts said, “and speaking with their management team allowed us to better understand how our thesis points would be affected by the current macro environment.”

A Babson Philosophy Comes to Life

On the first night, the students found themselves at Borsheims, a luxury jewelry store owned by Berkshire Hathaway, mingling with fund managers and founders (including some Babson alumni) at the shareholder night event.

They heard other investors’ perspectives on the macro environment and learned about their investment ideas. They even tested out a new fintech app designed to help veterans with financial literacy and provide the two co-founders with feedback.

And, for students looking to get their own feedback and start building out an investment portfolio, being in person only helped. They could find opportunities to grow their confidence and share their experiences and expertise and see firsthand how a business, no matter the size, can fit into the global landscape and make a difference.

“Something I think is often understated about entrepreneurship is the impact these companies can have on just everyday people … Improving people’s lives through entrepreneurship is one of the greatest impacts people can make, and I think this event helped me see that.”
Nick Michaud ’24

“Something I think is often understated about entrepreneurship is the impact these companies can have on just everyday people,” Michaud said. “See’s Candies (which Berkshire Hathaway bought in 1972) may just be a candy company, but every single person at this event was ecstatic to buy some. Improving people’s lives through entrepreneurship is one of the greatest impacts people can make, and I think this event helped me see that.”

At the actual shareholder meetings, Buffett and Munger spoke for over five hours about public and private equities, the macroeconomic environment, and capital allocation, as well as their portfolio companies. While the main event capped off the entire experience for the students, the whole experience was an amalgamation of what they are learning and striving for at Babson.

“Buffett and Munger are the living embodiment of what Babson teaches in terms of entrepreneurship,” D’Ambrosio said. “Thought without action is useless and action without thought is dangerous. Warren and Charlie definitely employ both.”

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