The Very Entrepreneurial Class of 2016

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting time on campus. Students return, and suddenly Locust Walk is again crowded with people and leaflets, lines at the bookstore wend through the building, and we at Wharton Entrepreneurship put the finishing touches on the semester’s programming. We can’t wait to see new faces (and welcome back familiar ones) in our WE Weds workshops, WBPC info sessions, and VIP application pool.

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Enabling Entrepreneurship, Every Other Wednesday

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director at Wharton Entrepreneurship

I love our tagline: “Enabling Entrepreneurship at Penn.” Not only does it have that euphonious alliteration, but it’s such a great description of what we at Wharton Entrepreneurship do.

Like any good entrepreneur, we’re always looking for more and better ways to do that enabling, and this year we’re proud to roll out W.E. Weds: practical workshops and information sessions for the serious entrepreneur, which will take place throughout the school year, every other Wednesday.

We kicked off the series with our annual Entrepreneurship Expo, on Wednesday 9/11. Over a hundred students swarmed through Hoover Lounge in Vance Hall, talking to some of our current Venture Initiation Program members,  learning about entrepreneurial clubs, eating delicious sandwiches from Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches (a VIP company!), and talking to our enthusiastic staff members about everything from the Business Plan Competition to the Small Business Development Center.

The rest of the W.E. Weds series will be, we fully expect, a touch more intimate. The goal of the Expo, after all, was to get the word out about our many programs, and we think it went quite well. We certainly gave away a lot of @WhartonEntrep stickers.

Next week, we hope to see you at the first of our regular W.E. Weds sessions: Idea Generation, with Wharton Professor Ethan Mollick. Come to SHDH 351 on Wednesday, September 25, 12-1:30 pm, partake of a light lunch, and join this terrific workshop. Refine your own ideas, and meet other truly engaged entrepreneurs.

After that, it’s Marketing for Startups on 10/9, Library Resources on 10/23, Student Venture Case Study on 11/6, Business Model Generation on 11/20, and Market Sizing on 12/11. For full details, see our calendar. And that’s just the fall semester; W.E. Weds will be back in the spring with still more vital information for the entrepreneur.

WEWeds Postcard-page-0

Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love for Startups @ 2401

By Carlos R. Vega, Wharton MBA 2014 and School of Arts and Sciences Undergrad 2003; Founder, tesor.io

Last Sunday I was sitting in Philly’s Reading Terminal Market. In the late 19th century it was considered an innovative hub and several hundred merchants gathered there to forge ahead together. While waiting for an order of sugar-coated beignets from Beck’s Cajun Café amidst award-winning sandwich shops, local cheese producers and Dutch Amish delicacies (closed on a Sunday of course), I couldn’t stop thinking of our community at 2401 Walnut, Wharton’s improvised summer co-working space.

Brince & Baron partners Stephanie Mou WG’14 and Prarthna Vasudevan

I came to Wharton with a business concept in mind and the goal of transforming it into an operating company by graduation. Going into the summer after my first year, I knew it was an essential make or break timeframe to build momentum for the coming school year… but I needed a place to work.

As luck would have it, Wharton had recently created a new venue for MBAs at 2401 Walnut Street. Last spring, as co-organizers of Founder’s Club, Zach Simkin (C’06 WG’14) and I approached the School about using spare space over the summer—and they delivered. Thirteen other startups and I, founded by current Wharton MBA students, now had offices for the summer with views of 30th Street Station, the Post Office building, the Schuylkill river and in the distance, sitting above the inspirational “Rocky Steps”, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We fourteen startups have formed a community here and are using the summer to put our dreams to the test and see if we can turn them into real companies.

Justin Sapolski
Justin Sapolski W’08 WG’14, co-founder (with Nicole Capp WG’14) of Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches

We’ve received tons of both official and unofficial recommendations about what it takes to start and build a company—get the pitch right, form a team with diverse skill sets, stay lean, hack the system, and “Do things that don’t scale”. Some former students suggest skipping on-campus recruiting altogether and not taking an internship if you already have an idea.

However, by far the most important advice that we’ve gotten was that we should stick together and immerse ourselves in the startup scene. In one form or another we were forewarned that entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride that tests your passion and commitment. This is easy to forget during the initial buzz of getting tactical matters straight, but it can be a tremendous challenge as we each settle in to the day-to-day work of starting a business.

At 2401 Walnut we span children’s toys, fashion, 3D printing, social contact management, clinical analytics, co-working spaces, financial technology, child-care and even a gourmet Italian deli. We’ve formed a community in this building that has fueled our passion and strengthened our commitment as we celebrate each other’s success and work through our challenges together. If we had been working from home or random coffee shops we would have missed out on moments like these:

Senvol team members Annie Wang C'05/WG'13, Aedhan Loomis SEAS'16 and Mike Drewniak WG'14
Senvol team members Annie Wang C’05 WG’13, Aedhan Loomis SEAS’16 and Mike Drewniak WG’14
    • I got high-fives all around when I got back from a promising sales pitch I’d practiced on the group at 2401 for a Fortune 500 company—one I biked 8 miles to visit.
    • We’ve been well fed with taste tests from Matt & Marie’s modern Italian sandwiches, and offered ‘biting’ criticism that has shaped their launch menu.
    • Custom suits startup Prince & Baron has had us testing new looks and providing opinions about men’s fashion.
    • When one startup made the tough decision to fold, the founder was immediately welcomed as a free agent by many of us in need of his expertise. He was soon flooded with offers from more established startups and we helped him work through the process of choosing which opportunity was the right fit.
    • Demo day was coming up for two of our colleagues in a local accelerator and with just two hours’ notice they had fifteen engaged entrepreneurs, a Student Life Associate Director and Wharton Entrepreneurship Associate Director providing feedback on their pitch.
    • The community lives beyond the walls of 2401 and spills into restaurants, bars and late night conversations around Philly to discuss startup names, ask for introductions, or vent about getting kicked out of 2401 Walnut at 2 am, when the building closes.

Sitting in Reading Terminal Market, enjoying my beignets, I thought about the hundreds of merchants, farmers and entrepreneurs who have cycled through Reading Terminal Market over the years. Three original vendors from 1892 are still around today. They, and the vendors who joined them, banded together to make it through the Great Depression, both World Wars and several crises.

Thanks to the Student Life Associate Directors, fourteen startups found a home at 2401 Walnut this summer. We’ve banded together to make it through a salary-free summer sandwiched between two years of business school loans, and we hope to gather again in the near future to celebrate the next great startup to emerge from Penn.

 

Carlos VegaBio: Carlos R. Vega is a current MBA student at The Wharton School where he is also a Leadership Fellow and an organizer of the Founders’ Club. Prior to Wharton he worked in investment banking with Lazard Frères’ JV in Latin America, he co-founded a supply chain finance company in Panama and worked in the corporate finance group at General Motors Asset Management. This summer Carlos has focused on development of tesor.io, a marketplace start-up for working capital finance.

Why are you in such a rush?

By Dan Shipper, School of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate 2014

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on PandoDaily.

I see a consistent attitude among a lot of young entrepreneurs both technical and non-technical that I think leads to more harm than good:

They’re always in a huge rush.

They’re always in a huge rush to get the prototype out, to get it on TechCrunch, to get it to go viral, to raise money, to reach a million users in the first year, to be bought for a billion dollars the year after that, to retire to a beach somewhere before they’re 25.

And they always have a ton of reasons for why they’re in a rush:

“It’s a market opportunity that’s huge and I’m the first person to realize it so I need to move as quickly as possible to take advantage of it before competitors swoop in and claim it.”

“If we don’t get it done by the time I graduate then I’ll have to get a job so I only have a limited time to make it work.”

“I want to prove whether or not I can do it so I know if it’s a legitimate career path. So I’m giving myself 6 months to make it happen otherwise I’m going to do finance.”

“The funding climate is great right now and I want to raise money before it goes away.”

“When I graduate I don’t want to have to move back in with my parents so I either need to raise money for this, or make enough revenue to live on. If I can’t do one of those by June I’m going to have to find a job and shut it down.”

These rationalizations play off of the way an entrepreneur “should” think: Move as quickly as possible at all times, do not pass go, do not collect $200. If you’re a real entrepreneur you’re only going to experience success by throwing yourself 100% into your idea from the very beginning even if you have no experience or skills and very little else other than manufactured conviction.

Moving as “quickly” as possible feels good. It feels productive. But ultimately I think being in a rush often slows you down.

A few weeks ago I was talking to someone who wants to work on a startup to teach people how to code.

His thesis was that there aren’t enough coders because the technical education that you get from college is either non-applicable or inaccessible and expensive. He thought it would be good for the economy and a big business opportunity to build a company that could help young people learn programming skills online.

I buy that. Even though plenty of companies already do this, he had a specific international market in mind that he wanted to apply the idea to.

The problem? He’s a non-technical MBA and currently going through the process of finding someone to build the site for him.

It struck me as odd that someone non-technical would want to build a site to teach people how to program, but not entirely outlandish, so I asked, “If you really want to do this as a non-programmer, doesn’t it give you the opportunity to teach yourself to code first and then build your startup around the methods that helped you learn to do it?”

“Yes,” he said. “That’s true. And I am teaching myself to code. But we need to get this done as soon as possible so I need to find someone to work on it now because it could take a year or so before I’m good enough to build it myself.”

This is a very standard response, and it may actually be true for this particular guy. He seemed smart and may end up being successful building this company (I certainly hope so). But what happens to a lot of young entrepreneurs in a rush is that it leads them to ignore doing the one thing that will help them the most: building tangible skills.

They’re so focused on the artificial time constraints they set themselves and so convinced that what they’re currently working on is The Next Big Thing that learning skills like programming or designing or sales seems worthless.

I don’t blame them, either. If I actually only had six months to get The Next Big Thing off the ground I wouldn’t have bothered learning skills either – it would be a waste of time.

But what the people working on these ideas understand intellectually but not emotionally is that in a world of uncertainty, their special beautiful perfect concept that you need to sign three NDAs to see, will almost certainly fail.

By emotional understanding, I mean that they may know intellectually – i.e. from reading, or from hearing stories from other entrepreneurs – that their project has small chances of success. But knowing something intellectually usually has very little bearing on your behavior. When you know something emotionally – like you know that your project is unlikely to succeed because you’ve failed before the ball game becomes different. That kind of knowledge will change your behavior (hopefully).

But, as a young entrepreneur, when you do truly understand that your project has very little chances of success the only thing that becomes valuable is the personal capital you take from it. The only thing that matters is what you learn.

As a good friend of mine used to say, “It’s not really about this project. It’s not even about the next one. It’s about the one you do in five years. It’s about being able to execute perfectly on that one because you’ve done it and failed so many times before.”

In an article called That ‘Big Break’ well-known screenwriter Terry Rossio talks about his experience breaking in to the movie business:

“When I was twenty-one years old, I actually had a pretty brilliant observation. (I remember this observation distinctly, as it stood out in the relative wasteland of stupidity that was my thinking at that age.)

I made the observation that anyone who worked at a job for ten years invariably became an expert at that job. Didn’t matter the person, didn’t matter the field. Grocery clerk, college professor, machinist, airline pilot — after ten years of trying to do something, it seemed like you couldn’t help but end up knowing how to do it…

Since I [was] going to be working and studying screenwriting for ten years, that took some of the pressure off. It doesn’t make sense to kick yourself after failing at something for four years, when the path you’re on is designed to take ten. This allowed a period of time to undertake an analysis and exploration of the business, the techniques, the craft, the history, etc. Step by step, from style to format to character to concept to theme, etc. In other words, we gave ourselves room to practice. And in that practicing, we learned the elements needed to construct a good screen story.”

This passage resonated with me a lot, because it’s the exact opposite of the “rush” mindset. It’s not that Terry Rossio was lazy, or incompetent, or a coward that he didn’t run around at twenty-one trying to sell his script before he graduated college and had to get a “real” job.

It was that he looked at things on such a long time horizon that something like having to get a job to pay the bills didn’t faze him enough to make him “rush.”

And it was precisely because he gave himself the time to become a great screenwriter that he ended up actually creating enough space for himself to build the skills to become one.

If it takes 10 years to learn how to write a great script, what makes us so sure that it doesn’t take 10 years to become a great entrepreneur?

Here’s an interesting – if a bit anecdotal – piece of evidence for the truth of what I’m saying. Let’s take a look at the current Forbes 30 under 30 – the collection of the “brightest stars” Forbes can find under the age of thirty. Of the people representing the Tech category – one which is supposedly the domain of young hotshots – what do you think the age distribution is?

Half under 25 and half over 25? Nope.

60% over 25 and 40% under 25? Wrong again.

Of the 30 teams of co-founders on the list, only THREE, were composed solely of people under the age of 25. That means that 27 of the 30 or 88% of teams were run by people in at least their mid-twenties.

More tellingly, EIGHTEEN of those teams, or well over half, has at least one co-founder who is 28 or 29.

The verdict: It takes a while to do this stuff. In fact, to build anything valuable will take years. So if you’re young and have no experience, spending six months learning skills like programming and design and sales isn’t a waste of time. It’s an investment.

It’s worth looking deeply into why you’re saying things like:

  • I have to raise money before X date
  • I have to get to ramen profitability before I graduate otherwise I’ll have to get a job and shut it down
  • I’ll have to stop working on this and get a job because I don’t want to move in with my parents after I graduate

Sometimes those are real and legitimate concerns. Many parents can’t afford for their newly college graduated kids to move back in with them. Many people don’t have enough savings to give running a company a shot without reaching ramen profitability or raising money fairly quickly.

But for many people those things are just excuses to “rush” around. Do you really have to get a job right away? Or are you just trying to avoid embarrassment at having to move back in with your parents for a little while?

How much do you really want to do this?

And even if you do have to get a job – most of us do at some point – is that really the end of your entrepreneurial career? It’s not like working 9-5 precludes doing a startup.

As Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say: “7 to 2 in the morning is plenty of time to do damage.”

If you have to get a job then try to work for someone you respect who will teach you what you need to know to become a good entrepreneur. Failing that, just become a doorman.

Not to denigrate the work they do – but in the right situation doormen have essentially the perfect occupation for the still-learning entrepreneur. At the right building they are basically paid to sit for long hours behind a desk and occasionally buzz people through or sign someone in.

It’s great because during the time between when you actually have to do things, you can learn skills. You can learn how to code, learn design, or basically hone whatever entrepreneurial skill you need. Obviously actually building a product at your job might be a little sticky – but it’s something you might be able to work out with your employer (I don’t know the intricacies of the doorman profession).

Having to get a job is not an excuse to invent time pressure for yourself to succeed. Your life does not end when you work 9 to 5. It just forces you to manage your time better.

If you’re a young entrepreneur working on a startup I’d encourage you to think to yourself:

If I had 10 years to do this what would I be working on right now?

If I take away all of the external, invented time pressure what kinds of skills would I need to succeed at this long term?

And most importantly:

Why am I in such a rush?

 

Dan ShipperBio: Dan is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where he majors in philosophy. He’s currently working on a startup called Firefly that helps Web-based businesses cut customer support call times with cobrowsing. He can be found on Twitter or on his blog.

Don’t Read the Label … Write Your Own

By Shelley Boyce, Wharton MBA 1995 and CEO of MedRisk, Inc

How do you create and maintain a culture that embraces a multigenerational workforce when developing successful strategies to bridge generation gaps in the workplace has been a constant struggle for many businesses? The workplace reflects society, and too often, society simplifies differences in various age groups with labels. You know the stereotypes … the Baby Boomers are terrible with technology; Gen Xers are whiners; Millennials are lazy.

We know these tags are unfair and untrue; yet, each generation seems to hold to the negative perceptions of the others. However, what if we looked at each other’s positive attributes instead? Baby Boomers bring experience, wisdom, knowledge and hardworking attributes to the job. Most Gen Xers are college-educated, culturally diverse and flexible. The Millennials I’ve worked with are anything but lazy — they seek jobs with dedicated career paths, are technologically gifted and bring fun energy to the workplace. 

Of course, all of these attributes are not exclusive to one generational group. That’s why a first step in maintaining a productive workplace is to eschew the labeling theory and ensure that it doesn’t infiltrate your company’s culture. Labeling not only causes serious disconnects among coworkers, but also inhibits creativity and the spirit of entrepreneurship that’s vital to a company’s growth and sustainability.

So, how do you create and maintain a culture that embraces a multigenerational workforce? You listen! At MedRisk, we recently asked our team members how they would adapt their work environment to help stimulate creativity and production … and boy, did they respond! We took their suggestions to heart, and the result is a more energized team who are committed to their careers and their customers. To stifle stagnation and boost career development, we lifted long-established regulations that prevented new hires from transferring to other positions within the company months after hire. To encourage our hardworking staff to socialize and have fun, we built a one-of-a-kind employee lounge complete with a large lunchroom, videogames, big-screen TV and comfy chairs. We’ve also developed a “culture committee” made up of department team members who have been empowered to cultivate new ideas to help build on our “one team” foundation by remodeling our employee recognition programs and incorporating lively teambuilding activities.

The change that has taken place over the last several months is evident. We have developed a more vibrant, energized and enthusiastic workforce. In the process, we’ve also developed a new label for our employees: one team.

 

Shelley Business PhotoBio: Shelley is chair of the Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and CEO of MedRisk, Inc., the nation’s leading provider of specialty programs to manage physical medicine services for the workers’ compensation industry.   Shelley received a Master’s of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Virginia.

Wharton Entrepreneurship Snider Seed Award Winners for Spring 2013 Announced!

By Clare Leinweber, Senior Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

Wharton Entrepreneurship is proud to announce that Snider Seed Awards for the spring semester were granted recently to Wharton Venture Initiation Program members in Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Snider Seed Award provides up to $2,500 in seed capital to University of Pennsylvania students in the Wharton Venture Initiation Program (VIP) to assist them in the venture development process. The awards are given as grants, with Wharton Entrepreneurship taking no equity in the student companies.  To receive an award, student program members must meet eligibility criteria: membership in VIP for at least one semester; making significant progress on the venture; and being regular contributors to the student entrepreneurial community.

Award winners for the spring semester are:

 

GlassU

 

 

 

Dan Fine (W’15), founder of Glass-U.

Glass-U produces custom folding sunglasses targeted at fans, students, or anyone who wants to look good!

 

 OfMercer

 

 

Dorie Golkin (WG’13) and Emelyn Northway (WG’13), who co-founded Of Mercer.

Dorie and Emelyn met at Wharton and launched the business to create a women’s fashion brand that designs stylish, feminine workwear for modern professional women.

 

 

SocialGlimpz

 

 

 

 

Parry Bedi (WG’12) and Sami Kaipa (WG’12), co-founders of SocialGlimpz.

Embracing the evolving consumer and technical landscape, SocialGlimpz delivers a dynamic question/answer platform that makes the gathering of insightful market data simple, social and instantaneous.

So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?

By Jill Anick

As the glow of being back on campus fades and life settles into the routine of study, parties, exams, club events and trying to cram as much life experience as possible into 2 or 4 years, you may find yourself thinking “What am I going to do with my life and what kind of impact will I make?” Well, why not explore entrepreneurship? There are many reasons to pursue an entrepreneurial path – including research that suggests entrepreneurs end up happier and more satisfied – and they’ve been well detailed on this and other sites. I’m going to give you some tips about how to get started, whether you have a great business idea or just want to investigate opportunities.

Of course, there are opportunities to get involved with research and there are many classes you can take to support your entrepreneurial journey, but if you really want to get your hands dirty, Wharton Entrepreneurship has a number of co-curricular, experiential learning programs you can get involved in.

Penn Student Entrepreneur Engagement Opportunities (click on image to enlarge)

This slide details how you can engage in Wharton Entrepreneurship’s co-curricular programs, depending on what stage you are in exploring entrepreneurship. For example, if you have a fully developed business idea, have done market research, talked to customers, defined a business model, and have all the essential members of a team, then you could apply to the Venture Initiation Program, our educational business incubator. If you have an idea, but it still needs to be developed, you could participate in our Business Plan Competition or intern at a start-up over the summer to learn how a business works from the inside. If you’re not sure if entrepreneurship is right for you, then you can have a candid discussion with a successful entrepreneur as part of our Entrepreneur in Residence Program and learn about our alumni and current student entrepreneurs’ successes through our social media platforms.

All Penn students are eligible to apply and participate in our programs (except the Wharton Venture Award, which is for Wharton MBA 1st years & juniors only). In addition to the wealth of resources available through Wharton Entrepreneurship, there are loads of resources for student entrepreneurs both on campus and in the Philadelphia region, including Penn’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, the PennApps Hackathon, the Weiss Tech House, the Founders Club and MBA & Undergrad Entrepreneurship Clubs, co-working spaces (General Assembly, Indy Hall, Venturef0rth, Quorum), accelerators (DreamIt Ventures), Philly Startup Leaders, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and many more – not to mention the community of engaged, passionate and dedicated students and alumni!

So, as many students and alums will tell you, there’s no time like the present to get started on an entrepreneurial path. And as you can see – there are plenty of ways to get started! We hope you’ll join us to learn more at our Open House on Wednesday, September 12th (5 – 6pm) in Hoover Lounge (1st floor Vance Hall).

We wish you the best of luck on your journey and can’t wait to see what you accomplish!

Wharton Entrepreneurship – A New Name

By Emily Cieri

This week we change our name to Wharton Entrepreneurship, leaving Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs (or WEP as we have been called) behind.  This was not a decision that was made lightly, and it has taken quite some time to get us to this point.   Here’s the new look:

The primary reason for the change is to allow us to more effectively brand our vast program offerings across research, teaching and co-curricular activities.  We have created logo lockups for all of our programs, ensuring the Wharton Entrepreneurship brand leads the way.  Over the past years, we’ve realized students may be aware of one or two of our programs, but may not link them to our larger suite of offered programs.  This will correct that problem.

Here are two of our new logos:

 

 

Our new tagline:

This tagline addition is REALLY important to us.  We sit at the Wharton School, physically on the west end of Penn’s campus.  Many non-Wharton students don’t realize our co-curricular programs are open to students across the entire Penn campus.  One of Wharton’s biggest strengths is being part of a large, diverse and accomplished University that includes Medical, Engineering, Design, and Arts & Sciences schools–among Penn’s 12 professional schools.   Creating an environment where students from across these disciplines work together is critically important to student education, venture development and in building strong sustainable businesses.

We also wanted to have some fun with our new branding and created this mark that will be used primarily in cross-campus marketing.  @whartonentrep is our Twitter handle and seemed like the right notation to riff on.  So far it’s made it to our home page and it will be popping up across campus in the fall.

Yet to come, later this fall, is a homepage redesign that will feature inspiring stories about our students and recent alumni.  For now, take a look at our new logos and let us know what you think.