An MBA on Launch Day

By Nimish Shukla WG’15/G’15, Co-founder of Abaris

For me, becoming an entrepreneur has been an exciting (albeit somewhat unexpected) journey. This isn’t where I thought my MBA would take me, but here I am, working with a team of amazing Penn students—Matt Carey C’07/WG’15 and Adam Colombo ENG’14/W’14—to build a company. Since first meeting in late 2013, we’ve put in months of building, testing and iterating, and now we are excited to announce the launch of Abaris.

Abaris team sm
The Abaris team (L to R): Matt Carey C’07/WG’15, Adam Colombo ENG’14/W’14, and Nimish Shukla WG’15/G’15.

So how did Wharton turn me into an entrepreneur? Here’s how:

I enrolled in the Lauder Institute at Wharton after spending four years with an investment bank and one year with a non-profit in India. I decided to pursue my MBA to reenter the finance field in private equity. As an investment banker, I had contemplated making the transition to private equity and thought that an MBA would best position me to make the switch.

I met my co-founder and Abaris CEO, Matt Carey, socially through our cohort events. Our shared interests in the financial services industry often led us to discuss the inefficiencies in financial markets. What I quickly realized from Matt’s vision was that the annuity market, in particular, was in desperate need of innovation and that with greater transparency and information, consumers could be delivered far greater value.

We first started working together on Abaris in Professor Ethan Mollick’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class. We used the opportunity to draft our first business plan and a few months later, after further refining it, we entered the Wharton Business Plan Competition. We felt positive about being one of the eight teams that reached the final round. The Business Plan Competition gave us access to real-time feedback from industry experts and venture capital and private equity professionals. Through the competition we were able to further develop our idea, better understand the weaknesses in our strategy, practice our pitch and refine our approach.

Last spring, we also secured grants through the Wharton Venture Award and Wharton Innovation Fund. These awards allowed members of our team to work on the venture full-time during the summer between the first year and second year of school. While I was excited about what we were building, the personal goal I had set of transitioning to private equity still remained. So, while the rest of our team members headed to New York to focus on the business, I headed west to work with a small private equity firm in San Francisco.

While I enjoyed my time with the private equity fund, I quickly realized that the opportunity to fundamentally change a market through Abaris was something I wouldn’t find in the private equity industry. The skill set that I had worked to develop, through banking, completing the CFA, and Wharton could be used to drive tangible change for consumers. Additionally, I found myself envious of my partners who were working full-time to further develop our business. After returning from the summer, I was finally ready to make the transition to a full-time entrepreneur, focused on developing a solution to problems that exist in the markets today.

Abaris logo

And so, with launch day finally here I’m excited about the future and potential for Abaris. I look forward to the continued opportunities to learn more about operating a business, conducting sales calls, developing marketing plans and everything in between. We’re excited about what we’ve built and look forward to commercializing it.

Nimish headshotBio: Nimish Shukla, CFA is a second year dual-degree candidate the Wharton School of Business and The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the CFO and Co-Founder of Abaris Financial, Inc. where he oversees financial and regulatory efforts. Prior to enrolling at Wharton, he was an investment banking associate with Stifel Nicolaus and a William J. Clinton Fellow for Service in India with the American India Foundation.