One Big Entrepreneurial Family: Bringing Together the MBA and Undergrad Entrepreneurship Communities

By David Ongchoco C’18, Founder of ThirdEye and YouthHack

One year ago I attended a startup mixer organized by the Weiss Tech House. Through that mixer, I got to meet Henrique Setton WG’16, the lone-MBA student who attended the mixer. We immediately hit it off, speaking about our international experiences and our interest in bridging Silicon Valley with our respective countries. Henrique also offered to connect me to a few Filipinos he had met in Silicon Valley through the company he co-founded, Silicon House.

MBA students and undergrads with entrepreneurial ambition get to know each other.
MBA students and undergrads with entrepreneurial ambitions getting to know each other.

After meeting Henrique, I didn’t think much about what would come out of that mixer. But meeting him has actually led to many new relationships and opportunities. Henrique went on to introduce me to Christina Laskowski, who runs the Science & Technology Advisory Council Silicon Valley, which has the goal of collecting Silicon Valley with the Philippines and the rest of the world. I’ve since visited Christina in San Francisco and I’ve gotten connected to the Silicon Valley Filipino network.

Throughout my freshman year, I continued to update Henrique and we would grab lunch and catch-up once in a while. When I was working on ThirdEye, a smart-glass application for the visually impaired, with three other freshmen, Henrique gave us valuable feedback.

Fast-forward to sophomore year and I decided to have lunch with Henrique once again and just catch-up on what we were working on. After telling him that I was trying to build the Philadelphia startup ecosystem through YouthHack Philadelphia, we decided that more MBA students should meet and get connected with undergraduate students. There was just so much to gain and nothing to lose. This is where the Penn MBA-Undergrad Mixer cohosted by YouthHack Philadelphia and the Wharton E-club was born.

With more than 100 students signed up for the inaugural mixer—and around 60 actual attendees—I’m excited to see what comes out of these relationships that were formed at the event.

First-year MBA student Jinyong Lee shared, “Since there are not enough chances to get to meet people out of MBA program, this mixer was critical for us to meet like-minded persons with unique capabilities—what MBA students are looking for. I attended the event with this expectation and it was such a great resource! Most of all, I feel that I am a part of a Penn-wide entrepreneurial society. Though it was a short time, we shared our ideas and got to know each other. Also, now we can get access to participants roster, so I hope to meet new friends who might become my business partners!”

For Joseph Quan, another first-year MBA student, the best part was meeting a lot of talented people who were also working on startups and hoping to pursue them at Penn, and beyond. First-year MBA Ricard Villa also added, “I indeed got in contact with people with diverse backgrounds, but with the same objective of starting their own business. I also got in contact with people who have started their companies already and who can connect me with people who have the skills I need for my ventures.”

On the flipside, undergraduates valued the opportunity to get to learn from MBA students. M&T junior Bastian Qiu shared, “It’s hard to find the opportunity to gather undergraduate and MBA students who have an entrepreneurial mindset. It was a spark between experience and enthusiasm, which always bring different thoughts.”

For Dan Thieberger, just being able to meet people who were interested in entrepreneurship was really exciting. A freshman at Penn who has always been interested in startups, he shared, “I met and connected with many awesome people, undergrads and MBAs, doing great entrepreneurial things. I enjoyed listening to people’s ideas, plans, projects, and goals, and would love to come to another similar event.”

With the great feedback that we got from this initial mixer, we’re planning to turn this into a monthly event to help students continue to learn from each other and potentially work on Penn’s next great startup idea.

David smBio: David Ongchoco is a student entrepreneur and avid storyteller from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania and majoring in what he likes to call LIFE. He is currently working on expanding his for-purpose organization YouthHack. If you have any interesting startup stories, David can be reached via Twitter @DOitChoco. You can also email him at david@youthhack.net.