Entrepreneurship Blog

Launch Pad: Jason Wachob, Founder of MindBodyGreen

MindBodyGreen is the result of Jason Wachob almost getting back surgery.

The 6’7” serial entrepreneur traveled 150,000 miles domestic in one year—in coach—for his startup of the time, and aggravated an old basketball injury, resulting in excruciating pain. Two doctors in a row recommended back surgery.

Seeking something less extreme, Jason instead started doing yoga. And “that led me down a rabbit hole. I started to look at things like sleep and stress and nutrition, the environment, and made a lot of changes in my life.” He changed how he ate. Ultimately, “over the course of six months I completely healed, and I think yoga played a large role in that healing process.”

This was a life changing moment: “to me this idea of wellness was about living your best life, and it was nuanced, and it was this blend of mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and environmental wellbeing. And no one was covering it, and—MindBodyGreen. That’s the idea, was to really spread this message of living one’s best life with our unique lens, and do that through content. So it started with the first blog post, with me, back in 2009.”

From that one blog post, it took MindBodyGreen about two years to monetize, and three years to cross the 1 million reader mark—and that’s when they raised capital. These days the website boasts of “a readership of more than 15 million worldwide.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Jason discuss the path of building a successful new media brand, and all the lessons Jason’s learned from founding four companies.

Read more Launch Pad: Jason Wachob, Founder of MindBodyGreen

Angel Investors Rely On Gut Feel Over Data

Laura Huang, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship

New research shows that early-stage angel investors rely on instincts over data when looking for their next home run.

As the first source of external financing for most entrepreneurs, angel investors play an important role in the success of burgeoning startups. But investing in young businesses is always a risk. So what convinces an investor a venture is worth betting on—the product? The market data? The confidence and charm of the entrepreneur?

According to research by Laura Huang, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship, the answer might be found in an unexpected place: the gut. In her paper “Managing the Unknowable: The Effectiveness of Early-Stage Investor Gut Feel in Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions,” coauthored by Jone L. Pearce, a University of California, Irvine, management professor, Huang examined the ways in which angel investors make decisions. When she was speaking to investors for her research, she says, one theme kept turning up: “They would talk about the size of the market; they would talk about the product. But they kept coming back to: ‘Well, then I rely on my gut feel,’ or, ‘Then I invest based on my gut feel.’”

Read more Angel Investors Rely On Gut Feel Over Data

Launch Pad: George Karibian, WG’93, Founder of PaymentSense and Serial Entrepreneur

“Technology, data, people, you put those three together you can work magic.”

George Karibian, WG’93, serial entrepreneur and founder of PaymentSense

When George Karibian was at Wharton, in the early ‘90s, people came here, in George’s words, “because you wanted to go into banking or consulting. And if you weren’t in one of those two areas you were a loser back then.”

Today, “I love coming back to campus and seeing the number of students, these are some of the brightest people on the planet, put so much energy into entrepreneurship.”

As a member of Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Advisory Board, George was on campus for the Startup Showcase, and he took a few minutes to talk with Karl Ulrich about his fascinating life story, and in particular his takeaways from a tumultuous career as a serial entrepreneur, and currently the Founder and Director of PaymentSense (which George tells us processed about $6 billion of payments in the last year).

We love George, of course, for all he does for entrepreneurship at Wharton and at Penn. But also because he says things like this about us:

“Wharton has helped me out incredibly, much more than I ever imagined. Both the network and what I learned, it stays with you forever, and—and it continues, it doesn’t end there.”

And because, when he and his cofounder had the conversation that led to PaymentSense—at 4 am, in the courtyard of the Venetian Hotel, in Las Vegas—they decided they needed a manifesto (“This was at the time when Lars Von Trier, the film director had come up with this manifesto for films, so manifestos were very much in.”), and here’s the manifesto they came up with:

  • “We’re going to use our own money”
  • “We’re going to test and pilot everything”
  • “Technology is going to be at the core of what we do”
  • “We’re going to hire a head of HR as our first hire”

Why that last point? “In the past we’ve always been–the HR person was us. And so people were going to be at the center of everything we do in tech. And we built the perfect company with Paymentsense.” See above: technology, data, people.

Of course, as George also says, “I thought, third time around I know exactly what we need to do, I was wrong.”

Read more Launch Pad: George Karibian, WG’93, Founder of PaymentSense and Serial Entrepreneur

B2B vs. B2C

By Ajay Anand G’13, WG’13, Founder of Systmapp and Rare Carat

Life after graduating from Wharton’s MBA program went fast. And slow.

I turned down a full time offer to go back to the Boston Consulting Group, foregoing free dinners at Nobu and an office that looks like this, to work out of a food court in Hell’s Kitchen.

Mostly, it sucked. But lately it’s been more fun. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Read more B2B vs. B2C

Launch Pad: Startup Challenge Special

wep_startupChallenge_color

We’ve got a special edition of Launch Pad this week, featuring the top three winning teams from the Penn Wharton Startup Challenge!

Karl Ulrich talks with:

  • Perlman Grand Prize winners Joseph Quan, WG’17 and Nikhil Srivastava, WG’17, founders of Twine;
  • Second Prize winner Thomas Uhler, C’19, W’19, founder of RightAir;
  • Third Prize winners Mitch Gainer, WG’18 and Marc Giesener, WG’18, founders of CitySense.

Read more Launch Pad: Startup Challenge Special

Twine Wins The Perlman Grand Prize At The Inaugural Startup Showcase

Twine founders Joseph Quan WG’17 (L) and Nikhil Srivastava WG’17 (R)Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural Startup Challenge: Twine, founded by Wharton MBA students Joseph Quan and Nikhil Srivastava (both WG’17). The Showcase took place on April 28 on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Twine makes internal mobility within a company seamless by recommending the best employees to fill open roles, helping companies to boost retention and significantly reduce hiring costs by efficiently hiring from within.

Read more Twine Wins The Perlman Grand Prize At The Inaugural Startup Showcase

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: Pinch

Team Leader:
Sarah Budhiman, WG’17
Team Members:
Dylan Hooe, WG’17
Don Wang, IPD’18

2017 Pennvention winner

elevator pitch: For the modern consumer who wants to cook more and experiment with new recipes, Pinch is a revolutionary in-store machine that lets you buy the exact amount of fresh and organic spices, herbs, and seasonings that you need for your next meal.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Co-founders Sarah Budhiman and Dylan Hooe uncovered the need for Pinch while preparing a meal for 12 classmates in the Wharton Food Club. When 30% of the shopping bill total was traced back to the spice aisle, they knew there was an opportunity to eliminate a key friction in the grocery marketplace.

How will your venture change the world?
Home cooking is a special and unifying experience often enjoyed with friends, family, and/or significant others. Pinch aims to create more of these moments, one meal at a time.

Fun Facts:
Sarah, Dylan, and Don are all passionate foodies. Their all-time favorite meals so far have been Omakase Sushi in Tokyo, Blue Crabs from the Chesapeake Bay, and Matumbo Stew in Nairobi respectively.

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!

Launch Pad: Peter Weijmarshausen, Founder of Shapeways

Shapeways

“If you can’t find it anywhere else, then why not make it?” asks Peter Weijmarshausen, Founder of Shapeways, a 3D printing company that lets you do exactly that.

Peter explains: “Shapeways is a platform that is home to a vibrant community that enables them to make amazing products using 3D printing. So if you have a great idea, and you want it to turn in to something physical and a real product, you can go to Shapeways, upload your designs, and we make it for you.” If you’re not a maker, but want to buy unique pieces, Shapeways offers “a vast catalogue of amazing products. You can come to our site and you can find a very big variety of products ranging from toys and gadgets to jewelry, home décor, puzzles, and many, many more things.”

“In essence what we’re doing is we are giving people access to world class manufacturing capabilities, and giving them total freedom to make whatever they want.”

Listen to Karl Ulrich talk with Peter about how Shapeways has evolved over ten years, as the technology, and the company, have matured, and get his take on where 3D printing is at today: “We went through the completely unknown, and then super hype, and then after the hype typically comes a little bit of a time where people go like, really? Was this real? And we’re now starting to see real value creation.”

Read more Launch Pad: Peter Weijmarshausen, Founder of Shapeways

Startup Challenge Semifinalist: VisiPlate

VisiPlateLogo
Visiplate team

Team Leader:
Rui Jing Jiang, W’18
Team Members:
Adarsh Battu, W’18
Brandon Kao, ENG’18

2016-17 Y-Prize Winners

elevator pitch: VisiPlate is a nano-scale drainage implant to defend against blindness induced by open-angle glaucoma (OAG) by reducing intraocular pressure. It consists of a tube connected to a curved, ultrathin alumina nanoplate that is thinner, stronger, and more reliable than existing lines of defense.

Where did the idea for your venture come from?
Our idea came from thinking of an application for the ultrathin plates provided in the 2017 Y-Prize Competition. We personally know people who suffer from open-angle glaucoma, and thought that this nanotechnology can effectively be used as an implant in the eye, where small variations in size can lead to large consequences.

How will your venture change the world?
VisiPlate will provide a life-changing product for patients with OAG, as it will prevent irreversible blindness in a long-term, cost-effective way. With glaucoma prevalence worldwide expected to reach nearly 80 million people within the next 3 years, we hope that VisiPlate will make a difference by protecting people’s vision all over the world.

Fun Facts:

  • Adarsh likes to make shirts
  • Rui Jing has The Halal Guys following her on Instagram
  • Brandon knows how to unicycle

Come to the Startup Showcase to see the best student entrepreneurs from across Penn demo their companies and compete for cash and prizes to launch their startups!