Exit Interview: Jennifer Meller WG’16, Co-founder of Navimize

Recent Wharton Executive MBA grad Jennifer Meller took advantage of every entrepreneurial resource while she was a student, including becoming a member of our incubator, the Venture Initiation Program. Before she graduated last month, we asked her a few questions about her experience as a student entrepreneur. Here’s what she said:

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It’s About the People

By Stephen Robert Morse C’07, Co-founder of Skillbridge

I didn’t go to Wharton.

I majored in English and history—I know what you’re thinking… but at Penn, I started making films and founded a documentary film production company that focused on films that created social change. I teamed up with two friends, Jeff Levin C’07 and Jon Levy W’07 to pitch the company to the Wharton Venture Initiation Program (VIP). Somehow, we beat out a load of talented competitors and were selected for the program.

The Skillbridge team.
The Skillbridge team.

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GenHERation: Empowering Girls to Become Leaders

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Penn website as part of President’s Engagement Prize-Winners Launch Social Impact Projects. Katlyn Grasso W’15 is one of five winners of the inaugural President’s Engagement Prize. As a student, Katlyn was an active participant in the Wharton Entrepreneurship community: she was a member of the Venture Initiation Program, a semifinalist in the Business Plan Competition, and the recipient of a Wharton Venture Award.

Only five percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, and there are even fewer women who start their own businesses.

“I grew up in an environment where I was conditioned to believe that girls can do anything,” says Katlyn Grasso, a Wharton School graduate who majored in economics, with concentrations in finance and strategic globalization.

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A Startup Ecosystem Made for Ambition

By Matt Carey C’07/WG’15, Co-founder of Abaris

Editor’s note: This post was previously published on the Wharton Magazine blog.

Conventional wisdom used to be that Wharton was strictly a finance school. At a certain point, Wharton became known as a factory that churned out bankers and consultants. But this stereotype is wildly outdated. (To an extent, was it ever accurate in the first place?) Exhibit A: The new dean, Geoffrey Garrett, has put innovation and data analytics at the center of where Wharton is going. This is exciting because it reflects not only the future direction of the institution but also validates the foundations that already exist.

Abaris Financial Co-Founders (left to right) Adam Colombo, Matthew Carey and Nimish Shukla
Abaris Financial Co-Founders (left to right) Adam Colombo, Matthew Carey and Nimish Shukla

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Reflections of a New VIP Member: To Good Beginnings and Sound Sailings!

By Tess Michaels C’15/W’15, Founder of Soceana

Editor’s note: Tess Michaels was recently accepted into our educational incubator, the Venture Initiation Program. We asked her to reflect on why she wanted to join VIP, and what she hopes to gain from the experience.

On my 21st birthday, I learned a doozy of a lesson from a serial entrepreneur. If I want my company to be valuable, I must have a secret—one that results from charting an uncommon vision and exploring uncharted frontiers. The advice came from Peter Thiel, who was in Philly for a book signing.

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$7500 Each to Tesorio and Take Command Health

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

The spring is an action-packed time for Wharton Entrepreneurship. The Venture Finals capped another exciting year of our Business Plan Competition, the Wharton Venture Award was given out, and a new class of Venture Initiation Program members was admitted.

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ChargeItSpot: The Next Indispensable Retail Service?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Wharton Magazine blog.

By Matthew Brodsky, Editor, Wharton Magazine

Doug Baldasare, WG’12, laughs now about the first time he delivered a ChargeItSpot machine, Aug. 12, 2012, to the Whole Foods market in Jenkintown, a suburb of Philadelphia. He pulled up in a rented Ford Fusion, lugged the machine into place, and waited and hoped for the first customer interaction—any interaction. In the first six hours, more than 50 people engaged with the kiosk. Since, Baldasare has forged partnerships with local retailers such as Urban Outfitters, and he’s conducted informal research to prove correlation between charging phones in-store and sales (including shadowing customers in-store and taking notes himself). But Baldasare needed confirmation—if you give consumers a place to charge their mobile devices, securely and for free, will they shop longer and spend more?

A ChargeItSpot device in action at an Urban Outfitter store.
A ChargeItSpot device in action at an Urban Outfitter store.

Read more ChargeItSpot: The Next Indispensable Retail Service?