Our First Wharton San Francisco Dinner

By Emily Cieri

Raffi Amit with Rhona and Rick Thompson

For the past five years, WEP has held the Wharton Entrepreneurial Alumni Dinner in Philadelphia on the eve of the student-run Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference.  Attendance has grown over time and it is a nice opportunity for alumni to connect before participating in the conference the following day.  Since the first Philadelphia dinner, we’ve envisioned hosting dinners on both coasts. Finally in 2012, the timing was perfect with WEP’s growing activity in Wharton|San Francisco.  This past January, we realized our dream by hosting the First Annual Wharton Entrepreneurial Alumni Dinner in San Francisco.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect. Would construction be completed on time?  This was the first major event held at Wharton|San Francisco’s new home at the Hills Brothers Building.  Would alumni respond?  By early January, things fell into place – the building was open and we were over-subscribed with a wait list.

The evening was electric – attendees came from across town and across the country.  Alumni that we regularly see at the Philadelphia dinner arranged their travel schedules to attend the San Francisco dinner too.  Wharton alumnus Jack Abraham told his inspiring story of the founding of Milo while an undergraduate student six years ago.  With his exit to eBay in 2010, he’s now director of Local at eBay.

The evening was capped by the awarding of the ‘Wharton Entrepreneur Alumni Achievement Award’ presented to Rick Thompson, WG’96, probably one of the most successful Wharton alumni on the west coast.  It was inspiring to hear Rob Coneybeer, WG’96, one of his classmates, and Russ Fradin, W’97 Rick’s co-founder at Adify, share their stories about Rick.

Rick came to San Francisco upon graduation having launched his first business, FlyCast, in the basement of Vance Hall during his second year at Wharton.  Within three years he exited FlyCast. That was just the beginning for Rick, who over the past 15 years has built and exited countless businesses valued at over $1.5 billion. He currently is involved with more than a dozen ventures.  Although Rick has accomplished much more than most successful entrepreneurs do in a life-time, it’s worth noting this was not a “Life-time Achievement Award” but rather a recognition of what Rick has accomplished, knowing he’s not nearly finished yet.

We’re not waiting another year and will host the 2nd Wharton Entrepreneurial Alumni Dinner at Wharton|San Francisco this fall, bringing together new and old friends and continuing to build the Wharton entrepreneurial community.

Of Interest:

Wharton San|Francisco Pictures on Flicker

TechCrunch, “Milo Exit to eBay 2010” (02/12/2010)

TechCrunch, “Playdom exit to Disney in 2010” (07/27/2010)

Fast Company, “How Jack Abraham Is Reinventing EBay” (06/22/2011)