Funding Your Company via the Wharton Network

By Chris Rodde (WG’99)

In 2009, I started SeniorHomes.com, a service to help consumers find senior housing and senior care.  Since then, we’ve grown to 25 employees, operating in 50 states, funding the company by raising over $5M in capital.

2009-2010 was not a great time to be raising money as the financial markets were still in the midst of a global financial meltdown. The first quarter of 2010 (when we raised our A round) was the lowest amount invested in US venture investments in the last 35 quarters (since 2003)1. Nonetheless, my business partner and I were able to close a $1.6M Series A then. We did this with the help of the Wharton network.

Two-thirds of the funds we raised in our A round and half of the investors on our Series A cap table were either Wharton alumni or can be attributed to an introduction I received from Wharton alumni.

Here are a few tips for leveraging the Wharton network in your fundraising efforts:

  1. Reach out to your personal Wharton network. Even if you graduated years ago, trust that people will return your email. Go back through your facebook (with a lower case f) and see who either might be in a position to personally invest, invest via a fund they control, or have introductions for you.
  2. Use LinkedIn to find Wharton investors. You can search LinkedIn for free to find angel investors or venture capitalists who went to Wharton. It turns out most angel investors include “angel” on their LinkedIn profile and a simple search picks this up, likewise for “Venture Capital”.  We built a spreadsheet with 400 names of target angel investors, VCs, or people who could make introductions–a third of this list included Wharton intros or Wharton people, many of them found on LinkedIn.
  3. Pitch the “Wharton Friendly” VC funds. MentorTech Ventures (Michael Aronson, W’78, & Brett Topche, W’03), First Round Capital (Josh Kopelman, W’93), Felicis Ventures (Aydin Senkut, WG’96), and Shasta Ventures (Rob Coneybeer, WG’96) all have deep roots at Wharton and will likely take your call. If you aren’t a fit for their fund, they’ll introduce you to someone who might be.
  4. Reach out to your professors or former professors. This was the biggest win for us. I emailed Dr. David Reibstein, one of the few Wharton professors with whom I had kept in touch. Dave made an introduction to MentorTech, who led our Series A round and Dave now sits on our Board. Many Wharton professors are angel investors, like being involved in startups, and are incredibly well-connected so they can be a great source of introductions or capital.

Good luck!

Bio:

Chris Rodde (WG’99)

Chris Rodde received his MBA from Wharton in 1999 and is the co-founder and CEO of SeniorHomes.com, a nationwide service to help consumers find assisted living, independent living and memory care for themselves or their loved ones.

Sources: 1) http://www.nvca.org/