By Julia Peng W’17 and Erica Polle C’17
Come join Management Visiting Lecturer Henry Han and student entrepreneurs, Erica and Julia, at 4:30pm on August 27th at the Entrepreneurship Preceptorial (location TBD), supported by Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship. We will cover the various resources, classes, and opportunities available to students.
College is stressful—balancing exams, extracurriculars, social life, OCR, and family time is no easy task, especially at Penn. Despite these pressures, the best time to start a company is during these 4 years. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or a senior, Penn offers you a unique set of resources to experiment with your ideas and build something impactful.
- Opportunity costs are low. Economics students are taught to weigh decisions based on opportunity costs—what you could be doing with your time instead of launching a business. College is a time when opportunity costs are probably at their lowest. You’re not giving up much to dedicate time to your business. Unlike life after college, students usually don’t have to worry about turning down a full-time job, having to earn a stable income, raising kids, etc. Instead, these 4 years are one of the last chances you have to be selfish. College responsibilities pale in comparison to the “real world”. So you might as well invest your time and energy into something you believe in, and take a risk.
- You’re surrounded by world-class resources. In college, you receive an automatic support network—friends, professors, administration. Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship is an amazing resource to take advantage of. They not only provide information on application deadlines and speaker events (instant networking), but also connections with the right people in the industry. The peer network is diverse and readily available. You probably won’t ever again be in a position where asking for specialized advice means grabbing coffee with a friend who’s coincidentally taking a class on that topic. You’re in a hub where ideas are constantly flowing, leading experts randomly stop by to give talks, and an entire alumni network is just a click away. Penn’s professors are leaders in their fields, and a perfect resource. Take advantage of your “.edu” email address—it opens many doors.
- Reputation. “But what if I fail?” is a question that prevents many people from taking a risk. Fear of failure is a legitimate fear to have. However, the consequences of failure only increase the longer you wait. When we talk to serial entrepreneurs and company executives, they tell us they need to constantly live up to their previous successes. They have their reputation on the line, which may prevent them from chasing a “risky” idea. College students simply do not have such a reputation to uphold, leaving them free to pursue unconventional paths.
- Learning from failure. It’s true that the majority of startups fail, for a plethora of reasons mostly unrelated to the idea. Pursuing a startup means rejection—sometimes daily rejections. It’s full of highs and lows. But even if your company fails, you will at least have tried, and walked away with experience and a set of skills others do not possess. The most important skill you’ll gain is rapid, critical decision making. When you’re responsible for a company, no matter how small or young the company is, every decision comes back to you. No other job, club leadership position, or class will push you to make critical decisions with imperfect information on a daily basis in the same way.
So to all aspiring entrepreneurs at Penn, don’t be afraid to pursue a startup in college. You probably won’t be given another chance as perfect as this. And take it from two students who have worked hard to balance entrepreneurship with Penn’s academic and social pressures—you definitely won’t regret taking the risk.
Julia Peng W’17 spent her summer at The Next 36 incubator in Toronto, working on a biotech startup. She is the recipient of the Summer Venture Award, the M&T Innovation Fund, and the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund.
Erica Polle C’17 is the Co-Founder and CEO of GivTake, an online marketplace for college students. She was selected to participate in Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS’ Project Entrepreneur Intensive last spring.