2016-2017 Highlights

This past year was one of exciting change for Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship. We took a hard look at every one of our programs, and made changes to all of them in order to better meet the needs of our entrepreneurial students and alumni.

Last September, I told you about all the things we were going to do. This year, I’m very proud to tell you that we succeeded even beyond our own ambitions, engaging even more students from across the University, and giving them better and more meaningful support in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

— Karl Ulrich, Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Save the dates! Our Entrepreneurship Expo is coming up on September 25, 2017, and our 2nd Startup Showcase is on April 27, 2018.

Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship helps Penn students interested in entrepreneurship & innovation find their unique path and career, whether they’re ready to EXPLORE the world of startups, DEVELOP a venture, LAUNCH a startup, or SCALE their company.

Got a favorite program? Click to learn more about it over the past year… or scroll down to read about all our amazing activities:

Angel Day
Beijing Alumni Dinner
Experts in Residence
Launch Pad podcast
Open Space
Penn Wharton Innovation Fund
San Francisco Alumni Dinner
Scale School
Startup Challenge
Startup Expo
Startup Internship Award
Startup Showcase
Student Trek
Summer Venture Award
Wharton SBDC
Wine Chats

Explore the world of startups

Start Here / Join A Startup

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New this year in the Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program, the undergraduate specialization and the MBA major have been aligned, with the same intellectually rigorous and practice-oriented course requirements: both are now “Entrepreneurship & Innovation.”

The Management department hired two new assistant professors as members of the Entrepreneurship sub-group, Valentina Assenova and Jacqueline “Jax” Kirtley; they will be teaching foundation courses in entrepreneurship. We are also delighted to share that Ethan Mollick was promoted to Associate Professor of Management with tenure.

Approximately 20% of MBA students continue to major in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and this year we saw a rise in the number of undergraduates concentrating in Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Entrepreneurial course offerings continue to expand, including Scaling Operations, new last year, and IP Strategy for the Innovation Driven Enterprise, new this fall.

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Website Update

The Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship website is the online hub for entrepreneurship at Penn. A year ago, we launched the Penn Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, a sortable tool that brings together all the entrepreneurial resources available at Penn, in the Philadelphia region, and at Wharton San Francisco, and which has nearly 7,000 users.

This summer, we redesigned our website to make all of our–and Penn’s–entrepreneurial resources easier to find and engage. Users can sort themselves by the stage of their journey to find a curated list of resources for them, and new pages like our funding page bring together awards, prizes, competitions, and funds from across the University.

Startup Internship Award

Startup Internship Award

The Startup Internship Award provides financial support to students interning at startups. This year, it was given to 63 students. Some significant statistics:

  • Of these 63:
    • 11 MBA
    • 43 undergrad
    • nine other Grad
    • 26 have a connection to the School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • 28 interns are working at companies founded by a Penn alum or current student (24 companies; four companies have two interns)
  • 3x increase in non-MBA Masters students awardees
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Launch Pad

On November 15, 2016 we launched our new podcast, Launch Pad from Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship. Hosted by Karl Ulrich and Rob Coneybeer WG’96, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Shasta Ventures, each weekly show features interviews with successful entrepreneurs. Subscribe or listen on Soundcloud, iTunes, or Google Play. So far, Launch Pad has had 8,693 total plays.

In addition, once a month, Karl picks the Elevator Pitch of the Month, featured on Forbes, highlighting the best of the podcast. The series began in October 2016, and so far, these articles have had 10,682 reads.

Read some of Karl’s recent Forbes pieces:

AnaOno, founded by Dana Donofree. Comfortable, sexy bras for breast cancer survivors, from a survivor herself. The story of this Philadelphia startup is a case study in why we need more women entrepreneurs and VCs.
Twine, founded by Joseph Quan, WG’17 and Nikhil Srivastava, WG’17. The winners of the Startup Challenge, and why they may just have the qualities it takes to succeed as entrepreneurs.


Wharton SBDC

New Director Celeste Corrado had an energetic year at the Wharton Small Business Development Center, which has new tech entrepreneur offerings, accelerator programs, and workshops.

Two pilot programs that ran this spring include advisory consulting for startups in the University City Science Center’s Phase 1 Ventures, and e-pitch deck coaching for tech entrepreneurs pitching to DOE-ARPA. Wharton SBDC is also offering a new workshop, “Tech Start-Up Toolkit.”

This year, Celeste began co-hosting a radio program with Forbes Senior Editor Loren Feldman on Business Radio on Sirius XM, “Mind Your Business, with the Wharton SBDC.” Listen to recent segments on the website.

MBA Career Management

Startup Expo

At Wharton San Francisco, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship and Wharton MBA Career Management partnered to hold the annual Startup Expo, which took place on April 7, 2017. The expo brought together students with startups and tech companies that were hiring in the Bay Area: 35 companies participated and 141 attendees registered, including full time MBAs, Executive MBAs, and alumni.

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Student Trek

Wharton MBA students traveled to San Francisco this winter to visit these startups and tech companies: Atomic Labs, Pinterest, Nerdwallet, eero, 500 Startups, Coinbase, Leap Motion, Okta, AngelList, Dropbox, Datafox, Github, Luxe, Square, Thanx, and Twitch. See some fun pictures:

Wharton Tech Trek

Develop a venture

Plan / Project / Build

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What Are You Doing For Winter Break?

We had some fun this year, asking some of our students this question–and made our first ever holiday video card out of the answers:

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Penn Wharton Innovation Fund

The Penn Wharton Innovation Fund was endowed by Alberto Vitale WG’59, who hopes that it will be “a catalyst to stimulate innovation at the School and to surface the brainpower of its students.” This year, the Innovation Fund awarded a total of $198,500 to 92 companies.


This past year, we made changes to the Venture Initiation Program (VIP), our incubator for student startups. VIP-Community (VIP-C) offers the community, support, and resources you need to develop your venture, right here on the Penn campus. Rolling admissions mean that students can apply at any time.

VIP-C by the numbers:

  • 90 member companies
  • 43% founded by women
  • 35% undergraduate / 65% graduate students

Experts in Residence

We expanded our Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program to include Experts in Residence, who offer practical advice and assistance with building a company. As part of the program, Start Here Mondays helps students navigate their unique entrepreneurial pathways in conversation with one of our expert staff members.

Start Here Mondays – 187 student appointments

Experts in Residence

  • Entrepreneurial alumni met with 162 students;
  • Student experts in business, tech, and design met with 169 students;
  • Legal experts met with 81 students.


Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship, the Mack Institute for Innovation Management, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Penn Center for Innovation co-sponsored the Y-Prize, a contest in which members of the Penn community compete to propose the best applications for an emerging technology.

The 2016-17 Y-Prize winner, VisiPlate, founded by Brandon Kao, EAS’18, Rui Jing Jiang, W’18, and Adarsh Battu, W’18, qualified as semifinalists in the Startup Challenge.

Y Prize Winners VisiPlate

Launch your startup

MVP / Sell / Test

Startup Challenge

We transformed the Business Plan Competition into the Startup Challenge. Watch this video about the change:


  • Penn schools represented: Seven
  • Total participants: 276
  • Teams: 112
  • Female team leaders: 39

Out of these entries, 25 Semifinalists were chosen by entrepreneurial alumni. An additional five semifinalists qualified as high-ranking representatives of other campus competitions: Pennvention, PennDesign’s iDesign Prize, Y-Prize, Hult Prize @ Penn, and the Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition.

Startup Showcase

On April 28, 2017, we held our very first Startup Showcase, including the semifinals and finals of the Startup Challenge. We could not have held such an amazing entrepreneurial celebration without the many staff volunteers from across Wharton!

During the morning, the 29 semifinalist teams pitched in closed room sessions to panels of alumni, who then chose the Eight Finalists. Those finalists pitched live that afternoon.

Enjoy this video, which captures the excitement of the Showcase:

The Perlman Grand Prize winner, Twine, founded by Joseph Quan WG’17 and Nikhil Srivastava WG’17, ran the NASDAQ closing bell on Friday, July 16:

Photography by Christopher Galluzzo / Nasdaq, Inc.


Accelerate your business, for when you’re ready to launch. For VIP-C members who have met their goals and grown their ventures; applications are by invitation.

2016-17 VIP-X members:

  • Fall 2016 VIP-X
    • Barn Owl, Josh Phifer, WG’17 and Vince Kuchar, WG’17
    • Slice Capital, Rohan Shah, ENG’19 and Nihar Sheth, W’19
    • SolutionLoft, Will Fry, W’17, C’17 and Jacob Wallenberg, W’16
    • Twine, Joseph Quan, WG’17 and Nikhil Srivastava, WG’17
    • Jubilee, Emily Tung, WG’17, G’17 and Yue Li, WG’17, G’17
  • Spring 2017 VIP-X
  • Summer 2017 VIP-X
    • brEDcrumb – Scott Elfenbein, WG’17
    • E-Health Now – Kelly Xu, WG’17 and Vinayak Kumar, C’13, G’13, M’18, WG’18
    • Eager Academy – Chris Hanson, C’17 and Shresta Balachandar, C’17, W’17
    • Fellow Hunter – Parker Barnett, GEN’18
    • Neuroflow – Christopher Molaro, WG’17 and Adam Pardes, GR’19
Summer 2017 VIP-X members


For its first year, VIP-SF was open to students and to alumni within two years of graduation. This summer, we opened up VIP-SF to all Penn and Wharton alumni.

2016-17 VIP-SF members:

  • Fall 2016 VIP-SF
    • BioCellection, Miranda Wang, C’16
    • Spotful, Gandis Mazeika, WG’17 and Edward Jiang, WG’17
  • Spring 2017 VIP-SF
    • Bitter Brands, Deepika Yerragunta, WG’17 and Nikhil Nirmel, W’08
    • Matcha Dating, Edward Wu, C’15, GEN’15 and Diwei Shou, GEN’15
    • In addition, the two companies from the fall cohort, BioCellection and Spotful, continued in VIP-SF for the spring session.
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Open Space

Wharton San Francisco has quietly been implementing an Open Space initiative, making space in the facility available to entrepreneurial alumni for work and meetings. Thus far, we have 490 registered users, and on any given day, all our 16 group study rooms are booked for the day!


Angel Day

A new event, Angel Day, on June 1, 2017, was held at Wharton San Francisco, where we hosted Wharton Alumni Angels of Silicon Valley (WAASV) for a pitching event and reception:

  • 60 angels and alumni attended the pitch event
  • 142 alumni and guests enjoyed the reception

Summer Venture Award

We had 26 applications to the Summer Venture Award. Finalists pitched live before the alumni selection committee. Of the applicants:

  • 19 were male, seven female
  • 24 were graduate students, two undergraduates
  • 21 were from Wharton, three from SEAS, one from Medicine, and one from Law

2017 recipients of the Summer Venture Award:

  • CitySense – Mitch Gainer, WG’18
  • Fellow Hunter – Parker Barnett, GEN’18
  • Incidnt – Timothy Blomfield, GEN’18, WG’17
  • Regrade – Achille Verheye, GEN’18

Scale your company

Grow / Hire / Raise Funds

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Scale School

Scale School, held at Wharton San Francisco, in partnership with Lifelong Learning, has now held five highly successful events, with a sixth coming up on September 28, 2017:

  • June 8, 2017: Beyond the Core: Becoming a Multi-Product Company
  • April 24, 2017: Scaling with Analytics
  • December 7, 2016: Alternatives to Equity Financing
  • June 1, 2016: Scaling Talent
  • March 23, 2016: Scaling the Sales Process

Not able to attend? We’re posting videos of Scale School online:

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Wine Chats

For our alumni, we continued hosting Wine Chats in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York to further activate our alumni network. On average, each event in San Francisco had 15 attendees, for a total of over 90 alumni.

The 33 alumni and students who attended our Wine Chat in New York on December 5 had a wonderful time. They greatly admired CommonBond’s office space, had a terrific time networking, and enjoyed hearing our VIP-X members pitch. Get a glimpse of the experience with this story:

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San Francisco Alumni Dinner

Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett and Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship & Innovation Karl Ulrich were the featured speakers at the San Francisco Alumni Dinner, which 103 guests attended.

Beijing Alumni Dinner

Our 2nd Beijing Alumni Dinner on March 8, 2017, honored Dr. Gang Yu GRW’90, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of New Peak Group (111.com.cn) and Co-founder and former Chairman of Yihaodian with the Penn Wharton China Entrepreneur Award.

Our video about the Beijing dinner highlighted the message that Penn entrepreneurs are worldwide. The video was shared on WeChat by the Penn Wharton China Center, and had 238 clicks:


New sources for funding for the Penn community

Wharton Alumni Angels of Silicon Valley (WAASV) formed this year, with support from Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship, joining existing chapters of the Wharton Alumni Angel Network in New York and Southern California. Watch out for additional events in Boston and London!

Red + Blue Ventures: Longstanding seed and early-stage venture capital fund MentorTech rebranded as Red + Blue Ventures, but they have maintained their mission to invest in companies from the Penn ecosystem.

Chestnut Street Ventures: New this year, Chestnut Street Ventures is a community of Penn alumni investors, investing in Penn alumni-led companies.