Penn undergrad Miranda Wang made Business Plan Competition history as not just the first undergraduate team to win the Perlman Grand Prize, but also the first team to take home a total of five prizes–as the winner, Miranda and her co-founder, Jeanny Yao, were invited to ring the NASDAQ closing bell on Friday, July 1. All told, Miranda won over $90,000 in various prizes and grants from across Penn. Before she graduated in May, we asked her a few questions about what it was like being a student entrepreneur. Here’s what she said:
What school are you in and what is your major/concentration?
College of Arts and Sciences. BA Biology with Cell and Molecular Biology concentration. Double minor engineering entrepreneurship and philosophy.
How did Penn help you become an entrepreneur?
We received a total of $90K of funding in non-dilutive grants, as well as huge press outreach that landed us on Fast Company, Poets & Quants, NBC, and The Vancouver Sun, which increased our valuation and helped us close our $400K round. The GLGShare Fellowship from the Business Plan Competition is going to give us an edge in having incredible access to Fortune 500 companies. Free legal and accounting consulting is going to solve some potential existential problems for the company. Year-long community of friends, supporters, organizers, mentors, professionals, etc. that stick with you for life as you succeed together.
How did your classes help you?
Few classes truly teach you how to think and arrive at your own defensible conclusions. MGMT 264 Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Management class with Professor Raffi Amit was one of these transformative classes. Having taken it, I know what the investors are thinking when they sit across from me at the table, and I know how to play my part. Engineering Entrepreneurship I and II, and Negotiations (OPIM 291) also broadened my knowledge from the engineering perspective to bring high tech to the market.
What’s been the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur at Penn?
Not having enough time to sleep and do homework. Not all professors across campus understand and appreciate what being a “student entrepreneur” means, so not everyone is willing to be flexible. You need to be able to have a very rigorous work schedule and learn how to say “no” to things.
What’s been the best thing about being an entrepreneur at Penn?
You know your risk for failing in life is low because 1. You are graduating from Penn and 2. Your startup can get an IPO before you get married. Even if 2 fails you get experience and a better network to choose a more fulfilling career path. Also, it’s fun! There are a lot of travel opportunities, work with people of all types of backgrounds and perspectives, and you can feel yourself growing at light-speed!
What advice would you give to a new student who wants to start his or her own business?
- Never settle for an idea or a team if it doesn’t feel completely right.
- Don’t start a startup just for the sake of it. Do it because you believe in the cause.
- Do everything you can to reduce your risk. Take things a step at a time and realize that your startup’s wellbeing depends on your mounting the learning curve, so go at your own pace and don’t let others push you around.
- Don’t take things personally. Someone once told me it takes 75 iterations to make a decent slide deck. Turning an idea into an awesome business hard, and you’re going to get things wrong sometimes.
What Wharton Entrepreneurship programs did you participate in and how did they help you?
Business Plan Competition: My team learned how to make a business plan and win the support of both the judges and the crowd. The confidence and exposure that we gained changed the course of the company future.
Wharton Innovation Fund: The first grant we received at Penn to work on BioCellection. Using this money, we were able to convince Dr. Huff to give us an independent study opportunity with lab access. Having lab access made everything possible for us this year.
The lovely team of staff in Vance Hall showing up at all pitch competitions and cheering us on. Awesome cohort of peers that has endless energy.
How does it feel to be graduating?
I am relieved to be working one job at a time. The sky’s the limit!