Launch Pad: Davis Smith G’11/WG’11, Founder of Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi logo, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship

With Cotopaxi, founder Davis Smith G’11/WG’11 is “looking to build a world-class example of how to have social impact through a company.”

He and Karl Ulrich had a fascinating conversation about ventures that integrate social impact into their business models, as Cotopaxi does–a certified B Corp, Cotopaxi designates 2% of revenue “to help alleviate poverty around the world,” (as the website explains). Want to know more? Hear Davis dig in to why the social impact piece is crucial to him as a founder, and the several ways he’s tried out for implementing it.

To those who think that social impact and running a business should remain separate, Davis says: “I believed I could have a bigger impact on the world by creating a business that had core values that inspired the world than I could if I just did something on my own.”

Beyond the social impact piece, listen for a fascinating analysis of why the right domain name is key–and for some clever ideas for how to get/finance the one you want. Also: how Cotopaxi is getting customers to essential pay them to get acquired, which is very nice model if you can pull it off.

Read more Launch Pad: Davis Smith G’11/WG’11, Founder of Cotopaxi

Leveling the Playing Field

By Kumar Dhuvur WG’08, Co-founder of PowerScout

Kumar Dhuvur WG'08, Co-founder of PowerScout
Kumar Dhuvur WG’08, Co-founder of PowerScout

I am a Co-Founder of PowerScout, a big data-enabled online marketplace where consumers can research and purchase clean energy products such as rooftop solar systems. Before I became an entrepreneur, I spent 10+ years at big companies with big brands and thousands of employees.

It has been two years since we founded PowerScout and, looking back, I am amazed that despite a limited budget and a small team we have been able to accomplish goals faster and cheaper than any of the big companies I have seen operate. This is in large part due to the proliferation of software tools & platforms that make launching key business functions efficient and simple.

Read more Leveling the Playing Field

Launch Pad: Nat Turner W’08, Founder of Flatiron Health

Flatiron logo

What’s a guy supposed to do when he sells his first startup to Google for over $80 million, just 2 years after graduation?

Found another company, Flatiron Health (which has so far raised $228 million from, among others, Google Ventures) that is working to cure cancer using big data.

This is the life story, so far, of Nat Turner W’08. Listen to hear him talk with Karl Ulrich about choosing your funding strategically (“taking investment is much more than just capital”), the benefits of being an industry outsider (“I think, honestly, it’s an advantage that we did not come from the industry”), rising healthcare costs (“maybe this crisis, maybe this opportunity will actually give rise to some innovative thinking and some better solutions. We can all be hopeful for that.”), and more.

Read more Launch Pad: Nat Turner W’08, Founder of Flatiron Health

Launch Pad: Neel Premkumar WG’08, Founder of Stur and Forto

Forto and Stur

With a background at Nestle, starting a company in packaged foods was a natural fit for Neel Premkumar—but it wasn’t until his pregnant wife needed something more fun to drink than water to keep her hydrated that he got the idea for Stur.

She wanted something truly natural and organic, but also tasty, so Neel developed Stur, a liquid concentrate that uses real fruit extracts and some stevia leaf extract for sweetness; 2 ml flavors an 8 oz glass of water.

However, the way Neel built his company didn’t match the Nestle model. He explains: “how I built the business was more like a software company, less like a packaged goods company.”

Read more Launch Pad: Neel Premkumar WG’08, Founder of Stur and Forto

Launch Pad: Nadine McCarthy Kahane WG’12, Founder of Stone & Strand


Stone and Strand earrings

Valentine’s Day is coming! Whether you’re shopping for your sweetie or indulging in a gorgeous piece for yourself, Stone and Strand has the jewelry you want.

Elevator pitch: “Stone and Strand is the leading online jewelry retailer for stylish millennial women. We are founded for women by women and our mission is to empower the female self purchaser and really modernize what has traditionally been a very stuffy overpriced shopping experience and turn it into a fresher value driven fashionable and importantly include our sassy take on it as well.”

Read more Launch Pad: Nadine McCarthy Kahane WG’12, Founder of Stone & Strand

Warby Parker Returns To Philly

Warby Parker glasses at the new Philly store

Last night, we were delighted to attend the opening party celebrating Warby Parker‘s Philadelphia retail store (1523 Walnut Street; opening to the public on Saturday, January 28). Warby Parker got its start right here at Wharton, when four MBA students got together over a beer and started to wonder why glasses were so expensive. We’re proud to say that Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship helped them every step of the way.

We’re thrilled that Philly has its very own retail store–although we reminded cofounders Neil Blumenthal WG’10 and Dave Gilboa WG’10 that this is in fact their second retail location in Philadelphia. The first was Neil’s apartment at 20th and Walnut.

Read more Warby Parker Returns To Philly

Deliveroo Tops Poets & Quants’ List Of MBA-Founded Startups

Deliveroo logo, founded by William Shu WG'12, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship

Every year we wait to see which startups—and which schools—will find their way onto Poets & Quants’ list of Top MBA Startups, ranked by venture capital-backed funding. Only ventures launched within the past five years (2012-2016), by founders who graduated within those five years, qualify. This year’s big winner is Deliveroo, founded by Will Shu WG’12, with $474.59 million. Read more Deliveroo Tops Poets & Quants’ List Of MBA-Founded Startups

Bootstrapping? Invest In Your Employees

By Nigel Lobo W’08/WG’13, CEO and Founder of Quikchex

Quikchecks founder Nigel Lobo W'08/WG'13, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship

As the CEO of Quikchex, a 50 employee, 3 year old bootstrapped Payroll and HR Software startup, I sometimes find it difficult to relate to my fellow founders who have opted in for the VC funded path. Right from the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I made a conscious decision to avoid external funding as long as I could. Bootstrapping offers a number of obvious benefits, including greater control on the strategic trajectory of the company. Yet, bootstrapping also has significant drawbacks, the primary one of which is the ability to hire the best (aka most expensive) talent in the market. Read more Bootstrapping? Invest In Your Employees

Launch Pad: Slava Rubin W’00, Founder of Indiegogo

Back in 2006, Slava Rubin and his Indiegogo cofounders had some very interesting ideas for a company: “So we had this very naïve concept which is, if YouTube, which was very new at the time and wasn’t owned by Google yet, is doing this democratization of content thing, it’s quite interesting, anybody can put up any content. People can watch it if they want. And eBay was already quite established as democratizing this auction concept. Why is it that access to capital is all about the gatekeeper, knowing the right investment banker, knowing the right VC, knowing the right loan person, knowing the right person at the grant institutions?”

In short: “Why not just maybe use that ultimate democratization tool, which is the internet, to create a marketplace?”

Unfortunately, the Securities Act of 1933 made that impossible–then. So they found another path forward, and kicked off the crowdfunding industry (Kickstarter, in case you were wondering, launched in April 2009).

A decade later, the rules have changed, and Indiegogo is finally doing what Slava and his cofounders first envisioned: equity crowdfunding.

Listen to Karl Ulrich and Slava talk about equity crowdfunding, how Indiegogo is implementing it, and where he thinks companies will meet with the greatest successes using it. Plus everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the beginnings of crowdfunding.

Read more Launch Pad: Slava Rubin W’00, Founder of Indiegogo