By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship
“Now everyone wave!” We waved.
“Applaud!” We clapped our hands and whistled.
“It’s time: ring the bell!” As Jean-Mathieu Chabas (WG’13) and Venkat Jonnala (WG’13) leaned forward to press the bell, we went wild.
On Tuesday, July 23 ZenKars, 2013 winners of the Wharton Business Plan Competition (BPC), accompanied and cheered on by Wharton Entrepreneurship, rang the NASDAQ closing bell. This year, we were proud to have Shelley Boyce (WG’95), the WE Advisory Board chair, to welcome ZenKars and help them ring the bell.
The winners of the BPC have been ringing the NASDAQ bell for nine years now, and every year Wharton Entrepreneurship accompanies the team to New York to celebrate these young entrepreneurs and mingle with WE alumni at the Penn Club afterwards.
The event is a high point in the WE calendar, a moment of merriment and, yes, even reflection. While we’re there to clap, holler, and shake hands, we’re also there, more importantly, to offer our moral support to the young entrepreneurs who have won the BPC. These brilliant young people are delighted at the honor—the first year in 2005, Fibrinix team leaders Jonathan Goodspeed, WG’05 and Dhaval Gosalia GEN’01; GR’05; WG’12, told WE Managing Director Emily Cieri that ringing the bell was even better than the $20,000 prize money. The BPC winners are told, by word and by deed, that they are the future of entrepreneurship. The bell-ringing ceremony was broadcast, larger than life, on the NASDAQ tower, blazing over Times Square. This year, it was picked up, live, by Fox News and MSNBC.
While this is a tremendous vote of confidence in their abilities, it can also be a heavy burden of expectation.
Starting a company is a precarious business, with many victorious laps of high-fives, but also many long nights. Some businesses succeed wildly; some fail. I hope that on those long nights, when being an entrepreneur feels like the hardest thing in the world to Jean-Mathieu Chabas or Venkat Jonnala or anyone on the ZenKars team, they remember this ceremony. I hope they remember not only the honor and the burden, but also the cheering. It wasn’t just them up there, alone—Wharton Entrepreneurship was there with them along with a trove of alumni who support our entrepreneurial minded students.
I’m new here at Wharton Entrepreneurship, and I’m just getting to know my colleagues. But already the people I have discovered here are extraordinary: dedicated, intelligent, hardworking, and fun. They worked all year to manage the 2013 Wharton Business Plan Competition, as they do every year. They supported and educated ZenKars and every other team that entered the competition.
On those inevitable long nights, I hope that ZenKars remembers this: they are not alone. They are the future of entrepreneurship. And Wharton Entrepreneurship is here to help.