My Wharton Experience Through the Lens of Launching a Startup

By Lisa Lovallo, Wharton MBA ’13, Arts & Sciences MA’13, Founder & CEO of Hemishare

I came to Wharton with the objective of starting a business, so I was looking for opportunities from the outset.  As a dual-degree student with the Lauder International Studies Masters degree program, I began the journey that took me to Brazil three months before my MBA peers set foot on campus.  Though I didn’t know much about Brazil – my four years of work experience in Latin America were limited to Mexico, Colombia and El Salvador – it was immediately apparent that growing and emerging Brazilian companies needed highly skilled talent (and that the country was unable to produce all the talent it needed on its own).  Recently, an ABC News article stressed that Brazil needs to attract at least three million skilled immigrants to stay on track for growth.  When dozens of companies, large and small, expressed their urgent need for talent from abroad back in the summer of 2011, the opportunity was clear to me. 

By starting my business at the beginning of my Wharton time, I was able to take advantage of the low-risk environment and great Wharton resources throughout my two years.  One of my mentors, Davis Smith (Wharton MBA ’11, Arts & Sciences MA’11, and Co-Founder of Baby.com.br), tipped me off about the Venture Initiation Program (VIP), which I applied to during my first semester. I wanted to immediately start taking advantage of the School’s entrepreneurial programming outside of the classroom.  I was fortunate to be admitted to VIP and remained in the program for the five-semester maximum. During that time, I saw Hemishare come to fruition with the support of many people within Wharton Entrepreneurship (WE).  I was even more fortunate to receive WE’s Snider Seed Award (which helped pay for several trips to Brazil during the summer of 2012). WE’s vast media presence helped promote Hemishare’s developments across several media channels, and I took advantage of WE’s many networking opportunities (where I met my lawyer and several key partners). 

Wharton Brazil Startup Dinner 2012While dedicating my entire summer last year to working on Hemishare instead of pursuing a traditional internship, I relied on the strength of the Wharton and Lauder brands and networks in Brazil.  The Wharton alumni network in Brazil is delighted to see so much student interest in the country.  I plugged into the already established Wharton/Lauder entrepreneurial communities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo via Guilherme Freire, Wharton MBA ’13 (livo.com.br), Peter Ostroske (Olook.com.br), Bernardo Arrospide & Benjamin Lewis (4vets.com.br), Davis Smith (baby.com.br), Ben Gleason, Wharton MBA ’07 (Guiabolso.com.br), Miriam Grobman, Wharton MBA ’11, Arts & Sciences MA’11 (working at Vale). Other students were also there for the summer, such as Thomas Baldwin, Wharton MBA ’13, Arts & Sciences MA’13 and Brett Lewis, Wharton MBA ’13, Arts & Sciences MA’13.  See the photo of our Wharton Brazil Startup Dinner in São Paulo from June 2012. 

Possibly the greatest benefit of launching a company while at Wharton is being able to combine classroom application with laser focus when it might otherwise be easy to get lost in the dozens of great opportunities. By effectively incubating Hemishare at Wharton and Lauder during the past two years, I have been able to explore critical aspects of my business through my classes and with professors and peers.  Willing group members have contributed significant work on class projects that specifically benefited Hemishare, such as a 20-page recommendation for Hemishare’s international tax strategy for our final project in ACCT897: Taxes and Business Strategy (thanks Mohit, Kush, Jen and Tony!).  I’ve been able to explore legal aspects of running my business via Bob Borghese’s Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship, refine my recruiting strategies via an Independent Study with Professor Peter Cappelli. I considered the role of social media and viral marketing concepts in Hemishare’s recruit outreach via Professor David Bell’s Digital Marketing and Ecommerce class.  The business plan that I created for Professor Patrick Fitzgerald’s MGMT806 class helped me reach the semi-finals of the Wharton Business Plan Competition

Through the generous support of a Wharton-related mentor in the headhunting industry, I have an office space, recruiting software, and invaluable industry mentorship. I am excited to move to New York City after graduation to continue work on Hemishare.  I’ve got a great team on the ground in Brazil drumming up business and press (check out our articles in Exame PME and The Next Web), as well as some great recruiters and social media gurus helping out in the U.S.  We’re currently working hard to place some of our 600 active recruits in emerging Brazilian companies looking to grow their teams with great global talent. We ask that they already have at least Series A funding and 10+ employees.  We had a great response from our Facebook Brazil Photo Contest in March indicating the breadth of the interest in Brazil is right now. We are now looking for investments to fund the development of an interactive Brazil portal that will be the new face of hemishare.com

Although juggling an MBA, a Lauder Masters, a startup and the Wharton Experience has been a huge challenge, prioritizing Hemishare’s success helped me pick and choose the opportunities that would be most beneficial.  I’m thrilled to have experienced a meaningful two years at Wharton through the lens of my startup. 

 

Lisa LovalloBio: Lisa Lovallo is a Wharton MBA/Lauder International Studies MA student in the Class of 2013, majoring in Entrepreneurial Management and focusing on Brazil/Portuguese. She is the Founder of www.hemishare.com, an international recruiting service that connects young professionals in the US with jobs in Brazil.  Prior to Wharton, Lisa worked in Mexico City at Bain & Company after completing a Fulbright Binational Business Fellowship there in 2007-2008.  She speaks fluent Spanish & Portuguese.

hemishare

One comment on “My Wharton Experience Through the Lens of Launching a Startup

  1. Hi Lisa,
    Amazing story, but most importantly an amazing use of your business school time. It is great to be able to connect your everyday class to your actual start up.

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