Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Ted Birkhahn.
Last month, I was asked to judge a high school business competition for an organization called Youth About Business (YAB), on which I serve as an advisory board member. YAB is a non-profit that runs business camps around the country for underserved high school students. But it’s not like any business camp. It provides a fast track, deep dive into the world of mergers and acquisition by giving students access to investment bankers, deal lawyers, marketing experts and CEOs of global businesses as they compete in a weeklong M&A competition.
The competition I judged involved several teams playing the management teams roles of Amazon, Facebook and Zynga. The case involved the Facebook and Amazon teams bidding to buy Zynga. The team that won – Amazon — actually decided not to buy Zynga and floored the judges with their detailed reasoning as to why it wasn’t a good deal for Amazon’s investors. One of my co-judges expressed what everyone was thinking: “Are these really high school students?”
Yes, they are. The power of YAB and its M&A competition is its ability to unlock the potential of underserved youth who have no previous exposure to the world of business and enable them to soak up knowledge and gain confidence through an experiential learning model that rapidly progresses their understanding of business.
Below is a blog post from Aneesha Natarajan, (pictured above, second from right) one of YAB’s students, about her experience at summer business camp. I had the privilege of watching Aneesha as she presented her team’s case to a room full of bankers, lawyers and CEOs. Thanks Aneesha for inspiring me and setting an example for America’s youth.
It was a privilege to be able to participate in the Youth About Business (YAB) Basic Camp, and to be selected to come back for the Championship Camp. I entered the camp with limited knowledge of the business world, and even less knowledge on the subject of mergers and acquisitions; but I left the Championship Camp with valuable knowledge and insights that I can apply during my future studies in business, as well as in my professional career.
YAB is a truly unique program as it gives students the opportunity to get a look inside the world of business, and allows them to apply the skills they learn to their own mergers and acquisitions case. I got a chance to understand all the various aspects that go into such a transaction, regarding legal matters, finances, valuations, and negotiations. In addition to learning the basics of these matters, I got great exposure to the professional world by being able to spend time with senior executives from various companies, including rating agencies, auditing firms, and corporate law firms, who helped us on our cases. One of the most valuable parts of the program was being able to talk to these professionals first hand. Not only did I learn a lot about the specifics of mergers and acquisitions from them, but I also gained tremendous insight into their professions and the inner workings of the business world. While I went in with some idea about what they did based on their titles, it was really enlightening to talk to them about what they do on a day-to-day basis and the path they took to get where they are now. This experience was unlike anything I learned in school, and it really got me thinking about my future and what profession I want to pursue.
Furthermore, the program challenged me and all of my teammates to work together. We quickly realized that putting together a report and a presentation was too large a task for any one of us to accomplish on our own, and that the only way to go about it was to work together as a team. This also gave us a chance to realize our own strengths and weaknesses – we each focused our efforts on our individual task and trusted that our teammates would take care of their part. This collaborative effort allowed us to put together a report that we were truly proud of and ultimately helped us win the presentation portion of the competition. While it was nerve-wracking at the time, presenting in front of a panel of executives gave me greater confidence in myself and I felt a great sense of accomplishment knowing that all of our hard work had paid off.
Youth About Business was a wonderful experience that introduced me to the world of business and gave me invaluable skills that I know I will continue to use. It got me excited about my own future, and I look forward to keeping in touch with Youth About Business and attending Advanced Camp next summer.