Babson MBA – Why #1 in Entrepreneurship, but low overall ranking?

Babson MBA Olin NaveenBabson’s MBA program may not be rubbing shoulders with Harvard/Stanford/Wharton in the general rankings. But it is very much at the top when it comes to specialised rankings (Top honours for Entrepreneurship). Strange, naa? Ever wondered why or how that can happen? Naveen Venkataraman logically, scientifically and statistically unravels the mystery.


1. Why is Babson ranked #39 on Businessweek rankings?

The BW MBA ranking 2010 indicates that Babson students gave faculty (across streams) an A in teaching quality. For perspective, of the top tier schools in this ranking (30 in total), 12 received Bs and Cs from their students, including 7 of the Top 10 MBA programs. This indicates that it is not the teaching quality or resources alone that dictate the ranking for a school and certainly a lack of quality is not the reason for Babson’s ranking.

In contrast to the above, Babson received a C in two areas: recruiter assessment of a candidate’s analytical skills and MBA career services.

There are some key reasons for this, in my opinion. The Babson MBA is a one of the smallest programs in the US with an annual graduation number of roughly around 150 – 165 candidates (including One Year MBA). It is also not selective to the extent of top 10 schools and average GMAT scores are almost 80-100 points below top schools. Key reasons (from my personal experience at Babson) are that students are more street-smart as compared to book-smart and largely come from business family or self-owned business backgrounds where business skills are emphasized more than academic skills.

Both these factors (size of program and type of student) contribute to companies in traditional MBA recruitment areas not making a large effort to recruit at Babson or to recruit in large numbers. A graduate is given help through career services (which is being actively ramped up as we speak), but is largely dependent on the (comparatively small) Babson network and a smaller pool of companies to land a position in the industry. Given Babson has one of the largest international classrooms in the US (41% international in the Class of 2012), and given the well-documented challenges for US work visas, a majority of international students (who choose to go into the industry) have struggled with placements due to this aspect as well.

2. Why Babson is #1 in entrepreneurship?

In my discussion with students around campus, the following key reasons emerged as contributing factors to the entrepreneurial culture at Babson.

* Background of students that Babson MBA attracts

A majority of incoming MBA students come from family or self-owned business backgrounds from various countries. I don’t have hard numbers on the overall class, but in my experience (I’m an Indian), from 9 Indian students in my two year MBA class, 6 have family or self-run business backgrounds. The numbers are similar or trending upwards if you consider second year students and one year MBA students.

I also have entrepreneurs from New Zealand, Chile, Mexico and the US amongst other countries represented in my class. This demographic, combined with the business focused strong undergrad program creates an environment where small business thought is fostered actively.

* Curriculum

While major schools teach entrepreneurship as a concentration or a stream, Babson imbibes entrepreneurship into every aspect of the program. The first year of the MBA is divided into four Modules: Creative Management in Dynamic Organizations, Assessing Business Opportunities, Designing and Managing the Delivery System and Managing Business in a Changing Global Environment. Each of these modules conditions you to creatively identify opportunities in an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial manner and develop those ideas using well-defined frameworks.

Classes are taught using business cases that give you broad insights into the practices of small businesses and the second year electives (including Marketing for Entrepreneurs, Managing Growing Businesses, M&A for Entrepreneurs) offer an in depth view into small business issues and the viewpoint of small business owners. This goes beyond the current level of entrepreneurial teaching at peer schools, as things stand.

* Environment at school

– School facilitated

The Arthur M. Blank center is the nerve center for entrepreneurship at Babson. It has recently setup the Babson Venture Accelerator Program that places new business ideas into different levels (depending on the maturity of idea and execution plans) and provides facilities including office space and mentoring. Different programs including Rocket Pitch competitions, Summer Venture Program, partnerships with Angel and Venture circles and limited funding also add to the facilities offered to kick start your business while in school.

– Student driven

As I mentioned, the peer group (grads and undergrads) comprises a high percentage of current or future entrepreneurs. You are constantly exchanging and collaborating over business ideas. Often, there is a direct collaboration between the Grad school and Undergrad engineering program at the independent Olin Engineering school to develop prototypes and products.

I hope this answers the question sufficiently. I will be happy to connect with anyone who has any queries. I’d again like to stress that rankings are a single data point and one needs to really understand the ethos of a school to understand what it stands for.


This article originally featured on Quora.com. We’ve adapted it for this blog. As far as we know, no book-smart (to borrow Naveen’s term) egos were hurt in the editing process. Check out Naveen’s Babson MBA blog for some cool (ice-cold to be technically correct) pictures of the snow and winter at Babson. Also, our homeboy is part of the Grad School Marketing team. So if you’ve got Babson on your list, now’s the chance to ask him all you wanted to know about the school and the program.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

13 Comments

  1. Sorry.. this time i have missed some action on the blog front because of some other commitments and travel.
    First of all, thanks to Naveen for his insight into Babson. I like the answer to question 2 better and this point can be further taken to debate about the enterpreneurship programs at different schools and some statistics to indicate how the alumni at these schools have fared in enterpreneurship.

    Coming back to the post, I like what you have mentioned about Babson’s curriculum for Enterpreneurship and also facilities to help you start your business while at school sound good.
    I also like your honesty about the type of student Babson is attracting but calling other students/applications book smart is a bit too presumptious.
    A financial analyst / management consultant needs to be street smart as well to do well in today’s world and its not fair to call them bookish/academic. Students pursuing finance/consulting/other non-enterpreneurial functions cannot be termed academic.You would not land a job being ‘academic’!!

    • Pranjali,

      Thank you for your comments in response to the article. I am happy to take any specific questions you may have in follow up regarding Babson.

      To answer your point regarding street/book smarts: It is a widely acknowledged fact that adcoms use the GMAT score in your application (along with GPA) specifically to benchmark your academic competence (book smarts). A great GMAT is supposed to be a positive contributor to your app and you can overcome a low GMAT/GPA through demonstrated career experiences (street smarts). I am extrapolating this commonly followed model to conclude that Babson’s lower GMAT average points to the fact that Babson gives higher emphasis to career experiences over your academic scores. It is not that people with good GMATs don’t apply to Babson (I myself had a 700+ score), but that the majority of students are selected based on the quality and diversity of their work experiences instead of using academic pointers to filter them out.

      On a side note, you are right in saying that one will not land a job by being “academic”. But you will be surprised how many MBA students focus on keeping up a high GPA and lose out on the networking that brings in the best quality jobs tailored to one’s specific needs.

  2. Jackson says:

    Because no one cares about the “quality” of the education at business school (whatever that means) or that fact that a school is #1 in Entrepreneurship. It’s not like you learn a different kind of accounting at Wharton than you do at Babson. And you don’t need a $100,000 MBA to write a business plan. People go to business school because they are pipelines to investment banks, management consultancies, hedge funds and Fortune 500 management programs. The whole #1 in Entrepreneurship is a rankings shell game that no one who matters cares about. Where are all the billion dollar companies founded by Babson entrepreneurs?

    • Firstly, I hope you have heard of Toyota Motor Company and Home Depot. They are two of the many Babson-alumni founded/run businesses. In addition, there are many more businesses which you probably haven’t heard of, but are top of mind with major clients and well-respected in the startup community in the US. Few contemporary ones: Gemvara, IdeaPaint, CocoMama Foods, BigBelly Solar, TrueFit.

      Babson alumni also run many businesses in India and if you get in touch with me, I am happy to connect you with the alumni coordinator/students I know so that you can speak with them to verify facts. To start with, here is the business run by the guy who interviewed me when I applied to Babson. The business is a low-cost women’s health delivery center based out of Coimbatore, India: http://www.womenscenterindia.com. You are welcome to call him up and speak with him. I will make the connection.

      I have people in my class who have run or have been in family owned real estate, fire security services, education, heavy machinery, automotive, textiles businesses amongst others. Get in touch with me and I will put you in touch with them.

      What I request from you: Don’t let your opinions lead to harsh judgements of my school and create an antagonistic tone for readers. Lets be civil about this and debate using verifiable data and facts; not opinions.

      Second, I know what we teach here at Babson and I have verified the structural differences between our pedagogy and certain other school pedagogies before writing what I wrote. There are certain things we learn at Babson, ways in which we learn at Babson and people who teach us at Babson which makes the learning experience, and the takeaways, completely different to the experience you would get at other schools.

      Third, the rankings metrics are independently evaluated and are standard for all schools. Stanford, MIT and other schools provide the same datasets we do BEFORE the rankings are decided. We do not receive any additional privileges as compared to other schools whether we are being ranked #1 or #50. Given this verifiable information, I would be careful throwing out loose comments.

  3. Jackson says:

    @Naveen Venkataraman – Did Babson just open the Thornton Melon Business Library? “…more street-smart as compared to book-smart …from business family or self-owned business backgrounds where business skills are emphasized more than academic skills.” sounds a little too close to a rebranding of “mediocre students sent off to learn the family business.” Which is really just a polite way of saying “dumb rich kids”;). I am hardly impressed by people who have worked their way to the top of their Daddy’s business. Then again, Babson is hardly alone in that regard.

    But in all seriousness, would you rather go to a school with “street smart” kids destined to take over the family business or the best and brightest students destined for Wall Street or Fortune 500 careers?

    The question is 1)why is Babson #1 for entrepreneurship but 2) otherwise mediocre in terms of rankings. The answer to the first part is simple and should know it from marketing class. Babson picked one particular niche and branded the heck out of it. And the reason they did that is related to the answer to the second part of the question. Babson, quite frankly, simply is not Harvard, Wharton, Stamford, Kellogg and so on. It simply does not have the history, global name recognition and alumni networks of those higher ranked schools. That immediately prevents Babson from ever cracking the top ten.

  4. Sameer says:

    So now that we’ve heard both perspectives, can I suggest that we allow Naveen to make one final comment (if he wishes to) and we then stop the comments for this topic?

    Of course, others who have questions about Babson are more than welcome to post them here.

  5. I personally think that despite this ranking, Babson cannot truly be crowned number 1 in entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur myself, I know that there is a huge value in your network. Going to a school like Stanford or Duke, both in entrepreneurial hot beds and bosting strong international names, is a much more attractive idea than going to a relative unknown.

  6. VIRANG says:

    I have done my engineering (BE) from Mumbai with GPA-3.3 , GMAT-690. I am working in my family business in Mumbai,India since last 2 years. The primary business being exports and supply-chain of Home decor items.

    I want to pursue an MBA and my long term goal is to expand my family business. Being from a family business background and having 2 years of work experience, should Babson be a good option?

    Also, since I want to get back to my business faster, would 1 year full time MBA at Babson be a good choice? Can you help me with the real difference between 1 year and 2 year program.

  7. Sameer Kamat says:

    Virang: Babson would be a great choice for someone like you.

    The shorter 1 year MBA in USA is meant for folks who already have some business qualification and experience. For you, the regular 2 year format would work better.

    If you are looking at 1 year MBA in India, ISB is a fantastic option.

  8. Sanjeev says:

    Can any one provide feedback on the Babson undergrad program for some one who does not come from a business background. Also are their Alumni located in NCR (Delhi)

  9. Aviral says:

    Hi,
    I am just a young student interested in Entrepreneurship, and Babson has drawn my curiosity.
    It was previously mentioned that Babson, has a way of teaching that differentiates it form other top schools. My apologies in advance if I am being repetitive, but could you perhaps give SPECIFIC INSTANCES of such things that make Babson’s learning so unique?
    Thanks

  10. Komal says:

    Can you connect us to some alumni from India please

  11. Akshay Shardul says:

    Might be the old thread but still would like to comment on this..
    Great Article :)

    Got selected for the Babson interview (next weekend- 23 Jan 2016)
    Nervous…

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