By Munish Dayal WG’15, Co-founder of Bloom2Bloom
In addition to Wharton’s Business Plan Competition, Wharton’s Spring Pitch competition is the capstone event of a year filled with entrepreneurial activities at Wharton | San Francisco. Every year, hundreds of teams compete for a chance to pitch their startup in front of prominent venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and members of the wider Wharton community who attend the event. I was lucky enough to be selected to pitch a startup company I co-founded with my friend Laurenne Resnik called Bloom2Bloom.
At Bloom2Bloom, we are trying to bring the first affordable premium-branded bouquet to the mass retail market, and create a consistent floral buying experience for people through all channels. Bloom2Bloom flowers are available online directly through our website, as well as in-person through retail partnerships, and on-demand through delivery partnerships. We were inspired by other Wharton startups that went before us to build a socially responsible business; with each bouquet purchased, Bloom2Bloom gives back to an evolving list of non-profit organizations.
I was blown away by the high quality of the other startups that pitched during the event, which ranged from Fetchcap, an international logistics/shipping company launched by my classmate Ahmed Hassan, to Revolights, which offers a fresh take on bike lights that has already received investment through the TV show Shark Tank, to WebChalet, a vacation rental engine founded by my friend Chad Brubaker (WG’12) which is already generating millions in revenue.
During the event, each startup was assigned to two panels of venture capitalists and strategic investors to deliver a 5 minute pitch followed by 13 minutes of feedback and Q&A. Our two panels included Andrew (“A.T.”) Trader (WG’99), co-founder of Zynga and Madison Reed, Jon Soberg of Expansive Ventures (WG’09), whom I recognized from a presentation he gave in an entrepreneurship class that I took with Professor Ethan Mollick, Gareth Keane (WG’10) of Qualcomm Ventures, and Davis Smith (WG’11/G’11), co-founder of Cotopaxi, among others. We were very nervous about pitching our business to these accomplished investors, but every investor that we pitched to gave us incredibly helpful feedback and coaching, and many even offered to make further introductions on our behalf.
At the end of the panel pitches, the event was opened up to nearly 200 attendees. Each team gave a one minute elevator pitch to the wider Wharton audience attending the event, which included entrepreneurs, students, investors, service providers, and other interested parties. The two top teams (Vendri and Levanto Financial) were recognized, and A.T. and Irina Yuen (Senior Associate Director of Wharton Entrepreneurship, Wharton | San Francisco) gave keynote speeches. Irina’s speech focused on recognizing the amount of effort put in by the startups that participated in the pitch competition (each startup was required to attend a pre-pitch workshop to receive coaching), but I think everyone also recognized the high amount of commitment and effort that she and the staff at Wharton | San Francisco put in to deliver the pitch competition. During his speech, AT talked about the importance of the Wharton community, where he met both of his co-founders for both of his businesses, including Mark Pincus (W’88), and exhorted the audience to meet at least three people that they hadn’t met before during the networking reception that followed.
For me, there were two big takeaways from participating in the Spring Pitch competition. The first is the incredible value of Wharton’s entrepreneurial network, which offers much more than access to speakers, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs, but also support, mentoring, and a community of genuine people that are willing to give back to others and even participate in your business. Three particular examples of this spirit stand out in my mind from the event: A.T. offered us incredibly helpful advice; and two co-founders of startups that pitched along with us, Felix Hu and Daniel Lennon, offered to introduce us to other investors. The second key takeaway was the great out-of-classroom learning opportunity that the event represented for me and my co-founder Laurenne and how immediately applicable the advice we received was. We were able to incorporate the feedback we received into our next-day pitch to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, which allowed for a successful meeting, partially due to the feedback we received. I graduate next month from Wharton’s EMBA program, and though I must admit I already feel nostalgic that this is the last big entrepreneurship event I will attend as a student and participant, I look forward to attending, participating and giving back to the community at other events in the future as an alumnus.
Bio: Munish Dayal is a practicing attorney and second year executive MBA student double majoring in finance and entrepreneurial management at Wharton ǀ San Francisco. He is the Co-founder of Bloom2Bloom and a member of the Wharton Venture Initiation Program.