How a Taste of Tahini Fueled the Business Plan for Soom Foods CEO Shelby Zitelman, W’07

By Colleen Mullarkey

Living just across the bridge in the Graduate Hospital area, Shelby wanted to reconnect with Penn and share some of the knowledge that she and her sisters have learned from building their business. She found the perfect opportunity through participating in Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneur in Residence Program.

Shelby Zitelman, Wharton entrepreneur Read more How a Taste of Tahini Fueled the Business Plan for Soom Foods CEO Shelby Zitelman, W’07

The Wharton Network At Its Best

By Clare Leinweber, Managing Director of Wharton Entrepreneurship

In early January 2005, Josh Kopelman W’93, Founder of and First Round, was spending the day as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Wharton Entrepreneurship, meeting one-on-one with Penn student entrepreneurs for 30 minutes each.

Josh Kopelman W’93 with his Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Achievement Award.

Read more The Wharton Network At Its Best

Robert Haft Entrepreneur in Residence Fall Series Kicks Off for 2014-15

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

On September 30, the Robert Haft Entrepreneur in Residence Fall Series (EIR) kicks off for 2014-15, bringing entrepreneurs with expertise in healthcare, robotics, gaming, fitness, sports, investing, and more to the fourth floor of Vance Hall. All Penn students are welcome to participate; check out the schedule, then register online.

Entrepreneurs in Residence Jeff Raider WG'10, co-founder and co-CEO of Harry's, and Jason Semine L'10/WG'10, director of retail.
Entrepreneurs in Residence Jeff Raider WG’10, co-founder and co-CEO of Harry’s, and Jason Semine L’10/WG’10, director of retail.

Read more Robert Haft Entrepreneur in Residence Fall Series Kicks Off for 2014-15

7 Leadership Lessons from Brett Hurt, founder of Bazaarvoice

By Brett Hurt WG’99, founder of Bazaarvoice, and Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director at Wharton Entrepreneurship

On a recent early spring evening, Wharton Entrepreneurship hosted its annual Philadelphia Alumni Dinner, with Brett Hurt as the speaker. Brett is best known as the co-founder, former CEO, and current Vice Chairman of Bazaarvoice, the technology platform that powers most of the customer reviews that you see online; each month, more than 400 million people view and share reviews of around 20 million products in the Bazaarvoice network.

Brett Hurt Alumni Dinner 2014 4 smaller

Brett had what he calls a “transformational experience” at Wharton. This is where he “came out of his shell.” This is where he became an entrepreneur. And because of that, nearly every year he comes back to Wharton to give back, he’s served as an Entrepreneur in Residence, spoken in classes, engaged with students, and, more recently, backed a few Wharton graduates with he and his wife’s family office, Hurt Family Investments.

Brett also gave the entrepreneurial audience some concrete advice: seven lessons that he has learned as the co-founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice. We’re very happy to share his formula for success with you, in his own words:

7 Leadership Lessons from Brett Hurt:

1)      Change the world for the better.

“Changing the world one authentic conversation at a time”—that’s the mission statement at Bazaarvoice. When I started the company in 2005, there were only about three retailers in America that had customer reviews. Bazaarvoice literally translates to “voice of the marketplace,” and that’s what we wanted to provide, to give customers the best information about items they wanted to buy and companies the best data to help them increase sales, build customer loyalty and increase profits. In doing so, I think Bazaarvoice has changed the world for the better, and all of us who work there have been motivated by this larger purpose.

2)      As a leader, set the standard.

I believe that who I hire, who I choose to promote, and who I fire says everything about who I am as a leader. At Bazaarvoice, we did regular surveys on how leaders at every level (self included) were living the company’s core values, because I wanted to know how we were really doing at this. If you’re promoting brilliant jerks, if, as CEO, you’re not taking care of your people, it says a lot.

3)      Maintain objectivity.

This is a really difficult one for us hard-charging types. It is very easy, as an entrepreneur, to make everything in life about your business, and not be there for important family moments, not take vacations. I understand your passion and your dream and that it drives you. But if your nose is so close to the grindstone that it’s all you think about, and all you do is the business, you will lose objectivity. I’m very proud of the fact that my entire time as CEO of Bazaarvoice, I took five to six weeks of vacation per year. That was my way of maintaining objectivity. And every time I came back, I came back fresh, with lots of insight.

4)      Be capital efficient and set constraints.

At the beginning of Bazaarvoice, we set a gross margin target of 70%.  This was a hard constraint in the business informed by what publicly-traded SaaS businesses at scale looked like.  It forced us to make tradeoffs between developing new features and automating what we did manually – and to prove that the market would indeed support a worthy gross margin.  Today, as a public company, Bazaarvoice is around a 70% gross margin.  This didn’t happen by accident.  And we grew to a $100-million revenue run rate and went public only using around $12 million of investor capital.  We were a mostly customer-funded business, getting as much paid up-front as possible from our clients, which also made us more focused (because if they pay for the solution you know they are serious about it).

5)      Have a personality.

When you’re marketing something that is new to the world, a personality helps you stand out in the crowd. For example, our client summits were unique. We would have things like a mechanical bull, armadillo races, miniature donkeys transporting beer—this was at a remote spot outside of Austin, so we were maintaining the Austin culture—all fun and funny types of things that built our personality. People had the time of their life—and the clients loved it.

6)      Create a spirit of oneness.

There’s no role at a company that is greater or smaller. We’re just all spokes on a wheel. I truly believe this—I don’t see my role as CEO as any greater than that of any other employee. My role is just a role, and we all need to play them to the best of our abilities. Bazaarvoice was rated the number one place to work as a small company, then as a medium company, and then won that distinction again as a large company. It was the sense of all working together as “spokes on a wheel” that really made this happen.

7)      Nourish the soul of the company.

To me, there’s nothing more beautiful that you can do in a career than creating a new company and breathing a soul into it. As an entrepreneur, you have the chance to determine the shape and culture of a company, and more than that: its soul. Think of your company as a person, and ask yourself: what kind of person do I want this company to be?  For us, this led to the founding of the Bazaarvoice Foundation, our hiring process, the way we onboarded people (through our Scavenger Hunt), and many other techniques of nourishing the person, the company.

Brett Hurt Alumni Dinner 2014 3 croppedBio: Brett Hurt co-founded Bazaarvoice and served as CEO and President for seven and a half years. He continues to actively support Bazaarvoice as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, and is also a seed-stage investor at Hurt Family Investments. Brett holds an MBA in High-Tech Entrepreneurship from Wharton. His blog is at and focuses mostly on entrepreneurship.

My return to The Wharton School as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence

By Brett Hurt, Wharton MBA 1999; Vice Chairman and Co-founder, Bazaarvoice

I had the pleasure of visiting The Wharton School recently as a returning Entrepreneur-in-Residence. I found myself more encouraged than ever about the student body and their desire to be entrepreneurs. When I earned my MBA at Wharton, from 1997-1999, I was a bit of an outlier as an entrepreneur in a class of almost all aspiring consultants and bankers. In my class, there were a few entrepreneurs, such as John Lusk and Kyle Harrison, the co-founders of MouseDriver (I recommend reading their book on the experience), and Gregg Spiridellis, the co-founder and CEO of JibJab. John is at it again with Rivet & Sway and Gregg is still running JibJab, an unusually long tenure for any Wharton graduate in my class. But, at Wharton, I was even more strange than John, Kyle, and Gregg. And that is because I was founding and running businesses while I was still in school.

I strongly believe that if you are ambitious – if you want to change the world – then you should swing for the fences when you are a young entrepreneur. You have little to lose, and once you become encumbered with children, a mortgage, and a higher-cost (i.e., not a student budget) lifestyle, you can become stuck and never have the time to realize your grandest ambitions. So I kept my consulting business going, but I also swung for the fences with three other businesses.

I kept all four businesses going – Hurt Technology Consulting, MBAZone, BodyMatrix, and Coremetrics – until I was about to graduate. I frequently worked through the night, fortunately having the ability to capture a little sleep as most of my classes started late. In retrospect, this may have been insane. But I was driven by the passion to be an entrepreneur, and I have no regrets about that. I wrote about finding your passion in this post and about how to hire those that are passionate in joining your cause in this post – you need to validate their passion. Once I determined that Coremetrics was the business I had been looking for – a huge market opportunity and one that stoked my interests (which in hindsight is now obvious to me in my retail and programming background, as I wrote about in my post on the future of retail) – I sold the other three businesses as fast as possible and went after Coremetrics with all I had. Coremetrics wasn’t an easy journey with the dot-com boom and collapse, and that journey – and the learnings from it – are well documented in this Austin American-Statesman article.

At The Wharton School today, it is a very different story. There are many entrepreneurs today that are like I was in 1997-1999. Maybe this is because of the high unemployment rate. Maybe this is because of the financial crisis, where banking both shed jobs and lost some of its luster as it almost tanked the world economy. Maybe this is because of how much entrepreneurial knowhow has been developed among the Wharton alumni and faculty since I graduated. Since graduating, I’ve been back around eight times to serve as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and I know many others have been too. Or maybe it is because of how well First Round Capital has prospered and especially Josh Kopelman, the co-founder of First Round Capital and a fellow Wharton graduate who recently relocated First Round’s headquarters to the Penn Campus and started the Dorm Room Fund (which I just agreed to be a mentor of after Josh asked me). I believe it is a combination of all of these, and more. Entrepreneurship is seen as “cooler” than it was before – maybe that is because the new building that houses most Wharton classes, the $140 million Huntsman Hall, was largely donated by and named after a long-time entrepreneur, Jon M. Huntsman. At The Wharton School today, you can find everything from the Penn Founders’ Club, where all Penn students are welcome as long as they are fervently working on a real business while they are in school, to Tyler Wry’s class MGMT 806 (Formation & Implementation of Entrepreneurial Ventures), where students are working on real business plans and a careful selection process is applied for those that want to get into the class. Whatever it is, it is energizing. I spoke to Tyler’s class, the Founders’ Club, and served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for two days. I met with both undergrads and MBAs. I was more impressed than I’ve been on any previous EIR visit. One of the students I met is both a brilliant programmer and artist. He’s already sold $65,000 of his own art – while he is still in school. He’s 19-years old.

The finale for my visit was so-called the “Power Dinner”. To my surprise, 250 students applied for the 12 spots to have dinner with me. I remember when entrepreneurs like Farhad Mohit, the founder of Bizrate and Shopzilla, visited our class. I was one of only 12 students that went to see Farhad speak. It was a brilliant and raw talk. He had been eating ramen noodle for a year but had finally just raised his Series A round. But there was little demand to see an entrepreneur like him speak during my time at Wharton. And now 250 applications for 12 spots? It made me excited for the future. Entrepreneurs create the jobs and the economic ripples. Almost all big companies, which some of you reading this work for, started with humble beginnings – with the passion of one or a small group of entrepreneurs that were determined to change the world. Pranav Kashyap was kind enough to write about the “Power Dinner” for The Wharton Journal, and you can read his takeaways from the advice I gave there.

I think Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Wharton would be very proud of the renewed focus on entrepreneurship at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania today (Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton, of course, founded The Wharton School). Both of them made their biggest contributions in life as a result of being entrepreneurs. I’m certainly very proud as a graduate myself. Entrepreneurs are the job creators, and being around so many young and promising ones makes me bullish about the future.

Huntsman Hall proudly stands below:

Huntsman Hall

adapted from the March 19th post on Brett Hurt’s Blog Lucky 7.


Hurt_headshot_SquareBio: Brett joined Austin Ventures in 2012 as a Venture Partner and focuses on early-stage software investing. Brett founded Bazaarvoice (NASDAQ: BV) and served as CEO and President for seven and a half years, leading the company from bootstrapped concept to almost 2,000 clients worldwide and through its successful IPO. Brett continues to actively support Bazaarvoice as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. Prior to Bazaarvoice, Brett founded Coremetrics. Brett holds an MBA in High-Tech Entrepreneurship from The Wharton School and a BBA in Management Information Systems from the University of Texas at Austin. Brett established the Bazaarvoice Foundation and is very active in the philanthropic arena.

Entrepreneur in Residence Program – Connecting Penn students with successful entrepreneurs since 2001

By Jill Anick, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

Since its inception in the Fall of 2001, Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneur-In-Residence program (EIR) has given more than 1700 Penn students the unique opportunity to meet one-on-one with a successful entrepreneur. More than 170 entrepreneurs have now visited campus. This one-of-a-kind mentoring program is a fabulous complement to classroom learning, a great benefit and resource for students, and a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect with the Penn community.

Once a week during the academic year, a highly accomplished entrepreneur visits campus to meet one-on-one with students. The visiting entrepreneurs come from diverse fields and are chosen based on their success starting and managing thriving enterprises.

This spring we are happy to welcome seven accomplished entrepreneurs to campus as EIRs :

Hurt_headshot_SquareBrett Hurt (WG’99), Venture Partner, Austin Ventures and Founder of Bazaarvoice

Brett joined Austin Ventures in 2012 as a Venture Partner and focuses on early-stage software investing. Before Austin Ventures, he founded Bazaarvoice (NASDAQ: BV) and served as CEO and President for seven and a half years, leading the company from bootstrapped concept to having almost 2,000 clients worldwide and on through its successful IPO.


Sherman_Headshot_SquareHoward Sherman, Founder of Inventure Holdings

Howard Sherman is a Founder, advisor to, and/or investor in a diverse collection of companies, from consumer products, to technologies of interest to the U.S. government, to medical device companies, to internet enterprises. He is also the co-founder of Hope Village for Children, a children’s home that is developing best practices as a model for changing foster care in the 21st century.


Herzog_Headshot_SquareRobert Herzog (WG’95), Founder & CEO of ZogSports

ZogSports, a sports leagues for “grown-ups”, makes it easier for young professionals to see their friends, meet more fun people and play team sports. In 2012, ZogSports made the INC 5000 list for fastest growing companies in the US for the second consecutive year.



Headshots_Square_StackedChristy Liu (C’04) & Evan Schneyer (W’04), Co-founders of Wanderfly (acquired by TripAdvisor)

Wanderfly, a VC-backed internet travel startup, was named one of Time Inc’s Top 10 Startups, and one of Entrepreneur’s 100 Brilliant Companies and was nominated for aWebby. Christy led all marketing initiatives, resulting in millions of users in hundreds of countries, and she closed countless business development partnerships. Evan is a self-described builder who has started two companies and has brought multiple new products from idea to market. Christy is now the Marketing Director at TripAdvisor and Evan is working at TripAdvisor  as the Director of Product Management.



Grass_Headshot_SquareJeff Grass (WG’99), CEO & President of buySAFE

buySAFE  is a $30 million VC-backed ecommerce trust company that provides Guaranteed Shopping programs for online merchants and buyers. He is also the Executive Chairman of CrimePush, a revolutionary mobile safety app which makes users safer through better information and two-way emergency communications and empowers law enforcement professionals.


Thammineni_photo_SquarePrasad Thammineni (WG’07), CEO & Co-Founder of OfficeDrop

Prasad Thammineni is a serial entrepreneur. He has founded five companies and holds more than 20 years of product management, technology, operations, sales and marketing experience. Prior to OfficeDrop, Prasad founded jPeople, and


Students can register to meet with the EIRs through our website: We hope you enjoy the Spring Semester lineup!