How the Class of 2010 Created Billions

Warren Buffett is widely considered one of the most successful investors of all time. During his 55+ years at the helm of holding company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) it has returned more than 3,300,000 percent to shareholders. Suffice it to say, when Buffett talks, people listen – but he isn’t always right. 

Both Buffett and Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Charlie Munger have been known to question the value of an MBA. Munger has suggested that paying exorbitant tuition fees to gain exposure to great minds is unnecessary – students would be better off reading the works of experts independently. 

Buffett hasn’t gone that far, but he has said that the main benefits of an MBA are networking and gaining insights from certain talented professors. By all indications, he doesn’t consider an MBA to be a must-have. 

While both may have fair points, the fact is that students who earned MBAs have gone on to achieve great things. In particular, the Wharton MBA Class of 2010 created billions. Here are four of the most successful Wharton entrepreneurs in the Class of 2010 who proved the value of an MBA. 

Joey Zwillinger: Co-Founder of Allbirds

When Joey Zwillinger was earning his MBA at Wharton, he had no idea he would soon be co-founder and CEO of a wildly successful footwear company. Not only did he have no interest in fashion – he wasn’t even particularly passionate about shoes. 

What Zwillinger did care about was the environment, and he knew there were opportunities in every industry to increase the use of sustainable materials and green manufacturing. When Tim Brown suggested reimagining the design and manufacture of shoes with an eye on environmental impact, Zwillinger was immediately on board. 

Zwillinger’s expertise in engineering and renewables made him the right choice to co-found and lead Allbirds, a certified B Corp, in 2016. In partnership with Brown, he developed an innovative new material from sustainable merino wool. The result? Shoes that Time Magazine called the most comfortable in the world

Allbirds (BIRD) sold more than a million pairs of its environmentally-sound footwear during its first two years. Along the way, the company earned accolades from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matthew McConaughey, and Jennifer Garner. Rumor has it that even Barack Obama is a fan. 

On November 3, 2021, Allbirds stock began public trading. Almost immediately, investor demand pushed the company’s value to over $4 billion. Share prices have since come down, due in part to the fact that Allbirds isn’t profitable quite yet, but all signs point to long-term success. Clearly, Joey Zwillinger put his Wharton MBA to good use. 

Neil Blumenthal: Co-Founder of Warby Parker

The costs of eyeglasses and contact lenses are shockingly high, and even the best vision plans don’t cover the whole expense. That’s a problem for those who need corrective lenses to do basic tasks. A lost or broken pair of glasses can mean financial disaster – and if it isn’t possible to get the cash together, learning, working, and other critical activities suffer. 

In fact, as Neil Blumenthal and the co-founders of Warby Parker (WRBY) discovered, there are more than 2.5 billion people worldwide who need glasses but can’t get them. An astonishing 624 million of those people can’t learn or work effectively due to their visual impairment

Blumenthal and his partners couldn’t understand why glasses are so expensive, so they did some research. What they found was equal parts frustrating and tragic. A single company held what is essentially a monopoly on eyewear, giving it the power to increase the cost of glasses to unreasonable heights. 

That’s when Blumenthal and several like-minded peers launched Warby Parker (WBRY) – a different kind of eyewear company. Its goal? To grow, generate profits, and still do good in the world without overcharging consumers. 

Warby Parker does more than sell stylish glasses at an affordable price. It also increases access to corrective lenses for underserved populations. To date, the company has distributed more than eight million pairs of glasses to those in need through its popular “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. 

Neil Blumenthal and his co-founders have succeeded in taking a basic idea – eyeglasses are too expensive – and turning it into a thriving company valued at more than $5 billion. He is proud of his MBA from The Wharton School, and he has represented it well.

Among other honors, the World Economic Forum named Blumenthal a Young Global Leader, and Fast Company included him on its list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business

Guy Friedman: Founder of SteadyMD

In 2020, healthcare spending accounted for nearly 20 percent of the United States’ GDP. That’s a total of $4.1 trillion, and by all indications, that figure will continue to grow. However, despite the resources poured into healthcare, Guy Friedman and Yarone Goren noticed that patients still struggle to connect with primary care physicians. On the other side of the equation, doctors face a variety of challenges in delivering care.

Friedman and Goren decided it was time for a change, and in 2016, they launched their answer to quality primary care: SteadyMD. For the first time, patients and practitioners had the option to make direct connections using state-of-the-art digital tools. 

In just two years, the company expanded services from two states to 50, thanks to an enthusiastic reception from consumers and providers. Finally, there was an opportunity to create deep, long-lasting relationships between doctors and patients without fear of disruption due to the constant change that is a hallmark of the US healthcare system. 

Since it was first introduced, SteadyMD has expanded into mental health services, and it has become the go-to option for healthcare organizations seeking support and partnership to launch their own telehealth platforms. The company is growing at a rapid rate, and it has attracted tens of millions of dollars from investors

For the moment, SteadyMD remains privately held, and its valuation isn’t public information. However, it is safe to say that given its addressable market, the sharp rise in the use of virtual healthcare, and SteadyMD’s successful rollout in all 50 states, it has the potential to become another billion dollar company and Guy Friedman will rank among the most successful Wharton entrepreneurs.

Abi Mandelbaum: Founder of YouVisit

It’s a big world. No matter how much time is devoted to travel, most people can’t get to all of the places they want to see. That’s bad enough when travel is a leisure activity, but it creates all sorts of issues when business, education, or other critical activities are involved – for example, in-person visits to college campuses for prospective students. 

Abi Mandelbaum was quite certain that available technology could reduce the need for physical visits to important destinations. In partnership with Endri Tolka and Taher Baderkhan, he began to explore new applications for immersive technology. The three created a platform that allows institutions and brands to offer interactive 360-degree experiences based in virtual reality. 

In 2009, they launched YouVisit with the goal of giving all students the opportunity to visit college campuses, regardless of their ability to travel. Dozens of higher education institutions signed up, and then that number grew to hundreds.

Companies in other industries saw the value of providing alternatives to on-site visits, and soon leading organizations like Mastercard (MA), Hilton, Hewlett Packard (HPE), and Mercedes-Benz began partnering with YouVisit as well. 

Ten years after Mandelbaum and his partners founded YouVisit, EAB – a consulting firm that works with more than 2500 schools, colleges, and universities – made an offer they couldn’t refuse. While the terms of the transaction aren’t available, it is clear that Mandelbaum will be one of the Wharton MBAs who creates billions. 

How the Class of 2010 Created Billions

Earning an MBA isn’t the only path to success. After all, there are plenty of billionaires who dropped out of college and created vast business empires without a degree. Examples include Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren fashion), Jan Koum (WhatsApp), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook/Meta), Ted Turner (CNN), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Bill Gates (Microsoft). 

However, based on the extraordinary accomplishments of Wharton alumni, it is clear that for many entrepreneurs and innovators, an MBA offers the knowledge, skills, and connections to bring billion-dollar ideas to life. 

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