Recently Wharton launched a new branding campaign that emphasizes how Wharton’s focus is around knowledge serving different purposes in the lives of its students and alumni. Last session in school was a good example of knowledge as it changes the way thoughtful leaders see their world (assuming that the cohorts that pass through our program are thoughtful, and are leaders 🙂 ).
Before we get there, a quick summary of the weekend. We had one of the lightest weekends of the term last session. One strategy class, a few sessions of international corp. finance (ICF) and Prof. Jonah Berger’s class on contagiousness of products and ideas. We also had an interesting talk by John Keagy, CEO of Go Grid who has had a dozen successful startups under his belt. He spoke about the need to bootstrap and grow companies rather than being beholden to investors. Was interesting to hear how it worked out for him though we do hear enough stories from the other side about how getting venture or angel funding also came with contacts and advice and mentoring, things that have equal value. We also started the weekend with an amazing talk by Rowan Chapman, a partner from Mohr Davidow Ventures on healthcare and biotech startups and investing. It questioned several prevailing myths about returns in this vertical and spoke about MDV’s approach towards investing in this area and what they expect in the medium term in terms of growth of this segment.
But what stood out this session was ICF. Prof. Bodnar is probably one of the best, if not the best faculty to have taught me at Wharton so far. The course is not easy, and assignments such as the Jaguar case make your brain hurt, but it is hard to find someone who can explain concepts so well, and care to make sure that you understand them. Walking a tight rope between the international angle and bringing it back to a corporate finance setting and how it impacts the lives of managers is not an easy task, and he does it so effortlessly. On top of the two sessions we had on hedging against exposure through instruments such as forward contracts, options and range forward contracts, he also agreed to talk to us outside of class about the current crisis in Greece. So after a day that started for many of us at 7.30 am with Rowan’s talk and ended at 7.30 pm with the ICF class, about 40-45 of us congregated at the Wharton pub to listen to Prof. Bodnar – all parties sufficiently lubricated by the wares available at the pub of course. From 9.15 pm to almost midnight, we heard him paint a broad picture starting from Iceland and Ireland, to Greece and then Spain and Italy. As the evening progressed we even found our way back to the domestic economy and discussed Medicare, social security, the impending Californian default and other hot button items. For someone as ignorant as I am about these issues, the discussion was immensely useful to understand how the different concepts we learnt in class applied to real life scenarios in one of the most challenging economic times in today’s world.
What took the cake, of course, was where Prof. Bodnar’s interests stood in terms of the Greek crisis resolution – he said that it would make a wonderful case study to see how a country could successfully secede from a currency union and what impacts it would have on its own economy and the union itself. Given the election results, he might just have to wait for a few more years to see that happen – unless Spain or Italy oblige him, of course.