Private Equity in Emerging Markets: Beyond the BRICs

By Stephen M. Sammut, Wharton MBA 1984; Senior Fellow, Wharton Health Care Management; Lecturer, Management Department

Private equity and venture capital investment opportunities (I will refer to both as “PE”) in the headliner countries of economic growth captured the attention of the investment community as far back as the early 1990s. Although there was a cessation of interest for about seven years surrounding the turn of the millennium, by the early 2000s there was renewed interest and, despite the financial crisis, there has been steady growth of PE in the BRIC countries. The story of PE in emerging markets, however, does not end here. PE activity has blossomed in virtually every region and has reinvigorated entrepreneurship, companies and entire industrial sectors.

To put the level of PE in perspective, let’s review some of the trends as published by the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA) in February 2013.

Funds raised for emerging market private equity peaked in 2008 at US $67 billion. Not surprisingly, it took a dive to $23 billion in 2009 but has steadily climbed to $40 billion in 2012 (the US was $134 billion in the same year; Western Europe, $22 billion). From the capital raised, there has been a steady investment in companies of approximately $25 billion. Capital raised for emerging markets as a percentage of global PE has now reached 20 percent. As a percentage of global investment in companies, emerging markets have garnered 12 percent.  Those are good numbers, but it gets even more interesting when looking at growth by region.

Emerging Asia (not including Japan, Australia and New Zealand) has reached $25 billion. Russia and the CIS have nearly recovered to their 2008 levels at $5 billion, thanks in part to stimulus by the Russian government. Latin America hit a post 2008 peak in 2011 at $8.5 billion, but was about half that for 2012. Brazil has been the beneficiary of much of that investment but now there is concern that the Brazilian PE market might be overheated. We are seeing steady expansion of the MENA region to over $500 million. Sub-Saharan Africa is enjoying a steady flow of approximately $1.5 billion per year over the last few years.

Let’s get back to the point of the non-BRICs. Brazil, Russia, India and China actually had declines in new capital from 2011 to 2012 for an aggregate $15 billion. Remember, above we said that $40 billion went into emerging markets last year, including the BRICs. Where did the rest of it go? Countries like Columbia, Chile, Peru and Mexico have seen remarkable growth. Several African countries, such as South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, indeed, the whole of SSA, have witnessed a growth in the number of fund managers and capital under management. Turkey has emerged as a destination, as have Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and, now Indonesia. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, deserves a lot of credit in paving the way for PE activity in these former “frontier” markets by providing capital to fund managers long before other financial institutions saw the potential.

These new players in PE still have work to do in improving the PE ecosystem. Management capacity building is high on the list, as are appropriate laws and regulations, tax treatment, and acceptance of contractual provisions. Interestingly, the governments have recognized the role of PE in their industries and are motivated to make the needed changes. Other issues to consider include entrepreneurship and managerial capacity building, the evolution of the legal environment and other elements of the ecosystem. My aim is to increase awareness and insight into how this asset class will spur continued global economic growth.


StephenSammutBio: Steve has a career that is both commercial and academic. Outside of Wharton, Steve is Venture Partner, Burrill & Company, a merchant bank and venture capital fund focused on the life sciences and health care. His role there is organization of overseas venture capital funds, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa. During his 20 years at Wharton, he has created eight courses throughout the University that he has taught to nearly 8000 students. Steve’s primary areas of research coincide with his venture activity: health care and biotech capacity building in the emerging markets; private equity and venture capital approaches to economic development; and, the role of the private sector in addressing needs in global health. He can be reached at

Discovery Driven Planning: An Evergreen in Entrepreneurial Management

By Megan Kauffman, BA’11; Administrative Coordinator, Wharton Entrepreneurship

Developed by Wharton professor Ian MacMillan and Columbia professor Rita McGrath, discovery-driven planning has become an essential tool in exploring and developing the viability of a new business venture. Professor MacMillan began this research in the early 1990’s by studying venture capitalists and was surprised by the differences between actual and planned performance of VC investments.  Through his research he realized VCs reduce the expense of a poor venture by only providing ventures a small about of money up front.  If the investee is not being successful VC firms can withdraw quickly with limited loss. When working in uncharted markets, the key is to reduce the assumption to knowledge ratio over time and ahead of substantial investment.  He saw how the process VCs use of making increasing incremental investments over time as confidence in a venture increases could be helpful to entrepreneurs and he systematized the process in what is now known worldwide as discovery-driven planning.  The relevancy of the tool Professor MacMillan developed over 20 years ago was a discussion topic at the most recent Wharton Reunion Weekend.  

Venture planning in new markets with discovery-driven planning is a five step process. The first step is to declare what the financial outcomes must be to make pursuit of a venture worthwhile, using what Professor MacMillan calls the reverse income statement. Specifying what the required profits and profitability must be allows you to calculate what the minimum revenues and maximum allowable costs must be. Step two is to then lay out the entire customer experience by mapping out a consumption chain, from awareness of the product to purchase to use to receipt of services to disposal of the used up product. Then you use this consumption chain to lay out all the physical operations called for to deliver this chain, called an operations specification, specifying  all the activities needed to produce, sell, service, and deliver a given product or service. This provides more detail as to what costs will be, should the venture be pursued and it also helps uncover the underlying assumptions that have been made in building the plan.

The keystone in discovery-driven planning is to identify and document these assumptions, and design check points where assumptions can be tested ahead of serious investment.  In a checkpoint/assumption table, decisions are made on how these assumptions can be tested using the least amount of money, so the cost of failing is as low as possible. Detailed plans are not needed in the beginning, because they are highly dependent upon assumptions that may be inaccurate. When approaching venture development using discovery-driven planning, it is important to update business plans as each checkpoint is reached and assumptions give way to greater knowledge.  Keep the plan simple in the beginning – the more detailed an initial plan, the less likely a team is to replan despite fallacies present.  As Professor MacMillan highlighted, as an entrepreneur and investor, “You want to be roughly right, not precisely wrong.”

Today discovery-driven planning is used by budding entrepreneurs to think through the validity of venture concepts in undefined markets, but the process can be used by anyone looking to make a decision when uncertainties abound. Assumptions will be made, but the key is to decrease their ratio to knowledge over time. Creating a framework using discovery-driven planning as outlined by Professor Ian MacMillan helps ensure decision makers stay on an ever improving track from the ideation phase to execution.

Remanufacturing the American Dream

By Bobby Grajewski, Wharton MBA 2013; Director of Business Strategy, Heritage Handcrafted

Heritage Handcrafted, a North Carolina based start-up is transforming whiskey, scotch, and wine barrels into unique, timeless furniture while also creating jobs and reenergizing the industry.

Whiskey Barrel Chair 

After five years in private equity investing and operations, I came to Wharton eager to further hone my business skillset and supplement the knowledge I gained “on the job” with a rigorous academic course load. By studying courses ranging from finance and investing to marketing and entrepreneurship, I gained the confidence needed to successfully develop a business idea and see it through to implementation.

In Professor David Hsu’s Entrepreneurship course, I learned that 99 percent of good business ideas fail because of this latter point. Through case studies and outside speakers, this course taught me that many great “idea people” lack the experience, structure, and wherewithal to build the strategy, business plan, and team needed to get a venture off the ground. For this reason, “great” ideas may eventually stall, lose their momentum, and are surpassed by others whose owners know how to get to the metaphorical “first base.”

In the final semester of my MBA program, I was eager to put classroom knowledge into practice by working on an entrepreneurial venture, instead of searching for the typical finance and consulting opportunities. In this search, I reconnected with my childhood best friend, James Broyhill. As the great-grandson of the founder of Broyhill Furniture, James truly has “saw dust in his veins” and has been tinkering with woodworking his entire life.  Like his great-grandfather who in 1926, in the small town of Lenoir, North Carolina, founded a small chair manufacturing company that grew into the Broyhill furniture empire, James forged Heritage Handcrafted in his own small workshop out of a personal challenge to create something aesthetically pleasing from something of true character.  Using aged whiskey, wine, and scotch barrels as his medium, James initially designed furniture and mementos that were timeless and unique to be shared with friends and family.

Whiskey Barrel Lamp

Immediately impressed by James’ design skills and diverse product line, I saw how the character of Heritage Handcrafted pieces reflect the depth of this medium. Whiskey barrels are traditionally constructed of American white oak and the interiors are charred to create the distinct, rich taste of the liquid aged within its staves. In my eyes, the uniqueness of these products and James’ familial history poised a great opportunity to grow Heritage Handcrafted from a weekend project meant for personal consumption to a national powerhouse much like his great-grandfather had done nearly a century before.

To accomplish this lofty goal, it was clear that Heritage Handcrafted needed to increase its mass production capabilities, enlarge its furniture line, and engage in national marketing and advertising. Improving these verticals would be no small task, but combining James’ design expertise with my business acumen gained at Wharton, we felt it was possible.

Serving as Director of Business Strategy, I have used the skills gained in classes such as Competitive Strategy, Marketing & Strategy, and Entrepreneurship to shape the brand and operations of Heritage Handcrafted. To increase production, James and I incorporated a patented wood stave straightening process and increased our manufacturing team which reduced our production times by over 90 percent. This has allowed us to create handcrafted products with efficiency in order to serve a national scale. Using the knowledge I learned in my Competitive Strategy course, I mapped out the entire competitive landscape of the handcrafted furniture industry and determined the brand aspects that most differentiated Heritage Handcrafted from competitors. With this knowledge, I increased our product line to tap into these competitive advantages and devised an advertising strategy to highlight these key differentiators.  Finally combining the skills I gained in my aforementioned Entrepreneurship and Marketing classes, I laid out an appropriate six and twelve month production and marketing road map outlining the steps we needed to take in each category to achieve our goals. 

Whiskey Barrel Box

These efforts have not gone unrewarded. Heritage Handcrafted has seen a month-to-month order increase of 400 percent in its first six months of operation and the company projects to attain a six-figure revenue mark by the end of its first fiscal year. On the marketing and advertising front, Heritage Handcrafted has been recently featured in both regional and national publications including QC Exclusive, Thrillist, UrbanDaddy, Winston-Salem Journal, and Town & Country Magazine. These efforts have enabled Heritage Handcrafted, despite its young age, to grow in to a brand leader in the handcrafted segment.

For James and I, the most rewarding aspect of being involved in Heritage Handcrafted has been the ability to create jobs in our home state of North Carolina. Growing up in the American furniture capital, we saw how numerous competitors outsourced their manufacturing efforts and sent jobs overseas leaving many of our family friends struggling to make ends. Now as adults, James and I can proudly state that all of Heritage Handcrafted products are made in the USA and we are employing numerous people throughout the Tar Heel state.

At the end of the day, Heritage Handcrafted is about heritage. It is the heritage of James honoring his family tradition,  the heritage of furniture making in North Carolina, and the heritage of owning a piece of history. For our customer, Heritage Handcrafted is furniture that one can pass down from generation to generation. Heritage Handcrafted is truly American nostalgia. Without Wharton, I would have never had the skills, knowledge, and confidence to get this venture off the ground.


R Grajewski and J BroyhillBio: Bobby Grajewski is a Wharton MBA 2013 graduate who is concurrently pursuing an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to graduate school, Bobby spent five years in venture capital and private equity both in the middle market (J.H. Whitney Capital Partners & Kamylon Capital) and at larger LBO firms (Permira Advisers) investing in companies across numerous industries. In addition to co-founding Heritage Handcrafted, Bobby has held operation and consulting roles turning around companies acquired out of bankruptcy and at technology start-ups (Wellman Plastics Recycling, Bain & Co., & AppAssure Software).

The Five Reasons Why Business School Was Right For Me

By David Klein, Wharton Alumnus; Co-Founder, CommonBond

“If I want to start a company, do I really need to go to business school?” is a question I get a lot.

Frankly, I think it’s a misguided question. If you want to start a business (as I did, heading into business school), then the real question is, “What do I have to do to maximize my chances of being a successful entrepreneur?” For some, that answer will mean going to business school, and for others, it won’t. 

For me, going to business school was the right move. There are several reasons why, and I’d like to share five with you now.
1. Adam Grant. Wharton professor Adam Grant is something of a burgeoning national treasure with the runaway success of his recent book Give and Take (#2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list in April, second only to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In). But before he began shaping the national conversation on how we think about success, he was Wharton’s highest rated professor who remembered every one of his students’ names while citing research seamlessly into conversation (all of which he still does). It is this Adam Grant on whom I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to lean when heading into an important negotiation or needing to reflect thoughtfully about any resistance the company is facing. The funny thing is I never took a class with Adam Grant while at Wharton. In fact our paths never really crossed while there. Because I went to Wharton, and students there told us we had to meet, Adam and I ultimately connected and have been able to engage in meaningful dialogue ever since.

2. Neil Blumenthal, Wharton MBA 2010. Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal, came back to Wharton in August of 2011 to speak to a hungry, wide-eyed group of students during pre-term. Telling his story strengthened and further inspired my desire to build a company with a strong social mission. He was gracious enough to accept an invitation to coffee, and we began an ongoing dialogue. A year later this turned into hosting my company’s very first offsite at the Warby Parker headquarters in New York. I could think of no better a setting to inspire my team. It was just two years prior that Warby Parker came out of the Wharton Venture Initiation Program (VIP) from which we had started. Inspiring footsteps to follow.

3. Wharton San Francisco. I didn’t participate in the Semester in San Francisco that is available to second year MBAs, but my co-founder, Michael Taormina, did. It was there that a chance encounter with a former colleague led us to connect with the former head of a major U.S. investment bank, who would go on to become one of our company’s most valued advisors. Mike was also able to work with some of Wharton’s best professors – Karl Ulrich, Len Lodish, and David Wessels – in the service of our growing start-up.

4. Founders’ Club. Some of the smartest and grittiest people on campus were active members of Founders’ Club. I first learned about the club at Wharton’s Welcome Weekend in April 2011 from Davis Smith, (Wharton MBA 2011) Co-Founder/CEO of, one of the most respected start-ups in Brazil. Hearing his entrepreneurial story and the power of plugging into an entrepreneurial community inspired me to join the club he founded. It was in the Founders’ Club’s weekly workshop-style get-togethers that I solidified my entrepreneurial knowledge base and mental frame in evaluating good businesses from bad. I also consider myself incredibly fortunate to call many of my fellow Founders’ Club entrepreneurs both good friends and continual inspirations, such as Samir Malik (Wharton MBA 2013), Co-Founder & CEO of 1DocWay, Austin Neudecker (Wharton MBA 2012), Y-Combinator grad and entrepreneurial energizer bunny, and Derek Kleinow (Wharton MBA 2013), Founder of Tiger GPS and current investment committee member in First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund.

5. Wharton Social Venture Fund (WSVF). I didn’t have enough auction points to get a David Wessels VC course while in school, but I was part of WSVF – an organization that not only taught me how to think like a venture investor, but gave me access to Wessels’ ingenious teaching (ingenious in his ability to turn complex topics into easily understandable pieces). It was also through WSVF that I learned about and was encouraged to attend a weekend-long Training the Street training on LBO modeling. Between Wessels’ involvement in WSVF and the LBO training, I probably learned more about advanced structured finance than I did in any of my courses.  A year later, my company closed its first alumni-backed student loan fund.
What’s the point?

The point is: business school is an insanely fertile environment.

Will you have a different experience than I did? Absolutely. Will you find your versions of Adam Grant, Wharton San Francisco, and Founders’ Club just the same? Let’s put it this way: if you approach business school with the right amount of purpose and focus and grit, then my money says there is no doubt that you will.

That’s the beauty of business school.


Common Bond co-founders Michael Taormina (left), David Klein and Jessup Shean
Common Bond co-founders Michael Taormina (left), David Klein and Jessup Shean

Bio: David Klein is Co-Founder & CEO of CommonBond, an alumni-backed student lending platform that lowers the cost of loans for student borrowers while improving financial returns for alumni investors. David founded the company while at Wharton, along with his two co-founders, Michael Taormina (Wharton Class of 2013) and Jessup Shean (JD/Wharton Class of 2012). The company is an alumni member of Wharton’s start-up incubator, the Venture Initiation Program.

Innovation: Driven By The Individual, Supported By The Organization

by Jeffrey Babin, Associate Director, Engineering Entrepreneurship, Wharton MBA 1991

There is a lot of attention today on innovation and entrepreneurship as people, companies, and even universities try to capitalize on innovation. This is especially true in a challenging economic environment with reductions in funding sources. We’re all looking to do more with less (the hallmark of the entrepreneur). After almost thirty years of practicing, consulting, and teaching innovation and entrepreneurship, one truth remains: Innovation is driven by the individual, and supported by organizations.

As Henry Chesbrough ( discussed in Open Innovation (, the university is playing an increasingly important role in innovation. Universities  are moving from conducting basic science and research to assuming responsibility for the commercialization and translation of that research. Corporations are increasingly looking to universities as potential research collaborators and sources of technology. Universities may help expand and enhance corporations’ portfolios in the short term, and lead to new products and increased returns in the long term. More and more, universities and burgeoning entrepreneurs must bear the responsibility (and cost) of bringing technologies out of the lab and toward the market place.

Over the last two decades, the University of Pennsylvania has introduced a robust offering of courses supporting many aspects of entrepreneurship throughout its diverse schools, degrees, and curricula. Penn, and especially Wharton Entrepreneurship, provide extensive resources well beyond the classroom to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship among students and alumni (and sometimes faculty and staff). Through a variety of clubs, competitions, extracurricular programs, mentoring and networking opportunities, Penn offers many of the resources an entrepreneur might need. However, the ambition and motivation necessary to build a startup and navigate it to success still lies with the individual. Students that succeed in starting ventures seem to have one thing in common: They begin with a concept about which they are passionate and to which they are committed, and they leverage all available resources to get it done.

It is much the same in high-tech ventures and corporate innovation. High-tech ventures are based on a series of innovation activities, typically driven by the founders and supported by the ecosystems of resources on which they draw. Many large corporations spur innovation with R&D, idea generation competitions, innovation initiatives, and activities designed to encourage employees to identify, propose, and capitalize on opportunities. Successful innovation initiatives within a corporation combine creative, ambitious, and motivated people with dedicated resources, and bring them together in a supportive culture that recognizes and rewards innovative behavior and accepts some failure in the process.

When consulting with corporations to implement innovation systems, I proactively identify and engage the people that are able to make innovation happen. I label them the Ministers of Magic, and they have several common traits. They are able to cross departmental and hierarchical boundaries, find and secure resources, engage others to pursue their vision, and ultimately capitalize on an opportunity. Similar to the most entrepreneurial students, they deliver results through their actions and drive to accomplish their objectives.

There is great news for today’s innovators and entrepreneurs inside industry or academia– these organizations are increasingly committing tremendous resources to support innovation. However, the challenge remains the same: The innovator/entrepreneur must provide the motivation and drive to pursue the opportunity.


Jeffrey BabinBio: Jeffrey Babin (@jbabin, @profbabin) is a practitioner, educator, and consultant in innovation from the dorm room to the board room. He serves as a senior lecturer and associate director in Engineering Entrepreneurship (@EngEntrep) at the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and is the senior project advisor and Australia, India & Israel country manager for the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum, both at the University of Pennsylvania. Jeffrey also is a managing director and founder of Antiphony Partners, LLC, a strategic consulting firm that specializes in helping companies create sustainable value through innovation.

The Practice Classroom

By Maxine Winston, Wharton Undergrad 2014

This fall, I took a course at Wharton called Management 251: Consulting with Growth Companies with Professor Eric Siegel. The class sounded like a perfect fit for me as a Junior interested in pursuing a career in consulting and entrepreneurship; the three-month long course focuses on a consulting project for a company looking to grow that students take on in conjunction with the Wharton Small Business Development Center. We had a lecture once a week in which we discussed real and theoretical consulting cases, funding options, client relations and case preparation. Outside of class, we worked on our projects, which ranged heavily in terms of client goals and industry.

My client was the founder of a mobile application with slow growth in a fiercely competitive, quickly moving market. As a consulting group, my team and I were asked to create a marketing strategy for our client’s mobile application. We spent most of our free time over the first few weeks on the project in GSRs (group study rooms) drawing models on the whiteboard and researching competitors. At some point in the process, we realized that we couldn’t simply come up with a marketing strategy like the ones we had seen in Intro to Marketing lectures or project revenue streams like we had in our Corporate Finance problem sets.

In order to help our client, we had to apply the knowledge that we had obtained from our courses to create a clear and cohesive strategy specific to our client’s needs because our project was ultimately to help him to achieve his goals. The more time we spent talking with our client (and as we better understood his product, his background and his goals), the more we realized that there was no generic formula for a small business to achieve success.

Additionally, the more we talked with him, the more we realized that our project was a lot bigger than picking up additional skills or earning another grade on our transcripts. Our work could contribute to the success or failure of our client’s new business. What was important wasn’t our deliverable per se; it was our ability to aid in the company’s growth and future success. In order to do that, we had to take a step back and really look at which aspects of our work would add the most value to our client’s company and would allow him to achieve both his short-term and long-term goals. From there, we could utilize the core skills we had learned in our classes to provide concrete recommendations for our client.

Through my experience in the course, I learned an incredible amount about how to apply my classroom knowledge in a professional setting. While my group and I had anticipated that we would be doing a lot of work similar to what we had done in our classes, our experience taught us how to integrate that knowledge cross-subject and with real-world situations. Additionally, I learned a lot about my own strengths through the course and reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a career in consulting.


maxine winstonBio: Maxine Winston (Wharton 2014) is from Boston, MA and is studying Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Hispanic Studies at Penn. She is the president of Big Brothers Big Sisters at Penn and serves as a tour guide, a sister in Sigma Kappa sorority and a Wharton Ambassador. She is passionate about philanthropy and enjoys cooking.

Why Are Family Businesses So Important to Study?

By Eva Wang, Wharton MBA 2013

On the first day of class in Management Strategies and Practices of Family-Controlled Companies, our lecturer, William Alexander, kicked-off the discussion by asking, “Why are family businesses so important to study?” A student astutely responded that approximately one-third of all companies in the S&P 500 index are family-controlled. Beyond the S&P, family businesses make up more than 90% of all companies worldwide, and many of them are actively outperforming their non-family-controlled competitors. Clearly, something is to be learned from these family businesses, some of which have been passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years!

The pervasiveness of family businesses is widely evident in the classroom—our class has a diverse mix of students from Wharton and Penn Law School, with a sizeable representation of international students. Each student has a unique story and a family business of their own—from a winery spanning three generations in California to a car parts manufacturer in Asia to my own family business in the wholesale fasteners industry on the East Coast. With these diverse backgrounds, our class discussions are rich with personal and distinct references. Occasionally, a student will present his/her own family business and a familial issue with their company, and the class will use course concepts to conjure solutions.

What is so beneficial about the class is that course concepts are relevant not only to family businesses but for all companies. For example, we studied the concept of “stewardship,” a culture prevalent among successful family businesses. Stewardship is an ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources. Such a culture is all-encompassing—it represents all the values and competitive advantages of a family business.  For example, trust is a distinct competitive advantage among family businesses – families devote less time to formalizing contracts regarding employment, responsibilities, loans, etc. with their own family members as opposed to outsiders. Developing this trust requires good communication, empowerment among family members, mentorship and planning, which all represent other key dynamics of a high-performing family business.

Such concepts are particularly important for entrepreneurs, those who are at the very inception of creating a business and who are responsible for creating the values and foundation for the company. Entrepreneurs are naturally subject to an “agent-leader” mindset, with all power concentrated in the hands of the founder, which contrasts with what a steward leader represents. After all, it was the entrepreneur’s brilliant idea, work ethic and knowledge that led to the creation of the company. It may be hard for an entrepreneur to relinquish his/her power and control and to recognize that others can also work to the benefit of the company. However, with the proper self-awareness, training and preparation, and through avenues such as taking William Alexander’s course, any entrepreneur and future company leader can recognize that the foundation of success for any business is to act, function and work like one big family.


EvaWang_headshotBio: Eva Wang is currently a second year MBA student at Wharton. In addition to her focus on academics, she is the leader of the Wharton Roadrunners & Triathletes club and spends her free time running, exercising and recruiting. Even with this busy schedule, she still manages to find time to help her parents with the family business located in Fairless Hills, PA.

The Science of Business Creation

By Sacha Djorkaeff, Wharton Undergraduate 2015, and Tyler Wry, Assistant Professor

I teach MGMT 230; the introductory course in the Wharton Entrepreneurship curriculum.  In order to give students a flavor of startup life, the first half of the class comprises a set of challenges that I call ‘The Entprentice’: Teams are formed and quickly given the task of starting an actual, revenue-generating, micro-business.  The ventures provide a ‘live-lab’ where teams compete with each other as they apply concepts such as hypothesis testing, product innovation, and buzz marketing.  I was very proud that through these challenges, the class generated almost $1000 for charity!

As the Entprentice comes to a close, I ask each student to blog about the experience.  Among the best was Sacha Djorkaeff’s reflection about the joys and challenges of working with a team of strangers to implement concepts in the entrepreneurship curriculum while the clock is ticking.  At my request, Sacha agreed to share excerpts from his post:


I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship; however, I was never formally introduced to the ‘science’ of entrepreneurship until I took Professor Wry’s class. I was a strong believer that this category of business could not be taught, and that only experience, constructive failures and personal adeptness could forge a successful entrepreneur. It only took me one class to realize that entrepreneurship can be effectively based on theoretical instruments that are applicable at almost every level; more remarkably in idea generation, product testing, marketing and resource management. I had this preconceived notion that a venture was a smaller version of a corporation, which is probably one of the reasons why I made the mistakes I did in my previous ventures.

This exercise taught me how to delve in a project with a group of extremely diverse people and build a successful venture with very little money, a limited amount of time and a notably heterogenous team. In a way, I consider this the worst scenario possible for starting a venture, but the best possible way of learning how to start a business.

Going beyond what I learned about business, this exercise revealed numerous facets of my personality, strengths and weakness in the context of entrepreneurship. I noticed that I often fit the stereotypical description of an entrepreneur; for example, I easily identified myself with Professor’s Wry discussion around hypothesis testing. It is true that I believe, like every entrepreneur, that my idea is the best and is undoubtedly going to be a success. This often blinds me to crucial aspects of venture building such as product testing, research and perpetual self-critique.

On the other hand, the beauty of this course was that I was able to instantaneously apply the key class concepts to my own ventures. For example, for my company CAMEIO, we were expecting to launch our official website in February; but we delayed it to gather additional in-depth research of the market and test a raw product before investing significant resources in an idea that might conceal jeopardizing flaws. This class also taught me how to channel my creativity, and generate realistic and high-potential ideas simply by looking in the right place and filtering hypotheses in an adequate way.

The Entprentice exercise has provided an all-encompassing entrepreneurial experience. I have learned about group dynamics and where I stand within a team of entrepreneurs. The challenges that we faced and the concepts we were asked to implement have been eye-opening and directly applicable to my own ventures.  Most importantly, the Entprentice has taught me more about entrepreneurial techniques (and myself as an entrepreneur) than any other experiences I had in the past.


Tyler WryBio: How do organizations at the cutting edge of innovation emerge and gain a foothold in the market? Professor Tyler Wry studies the processes through which industries emerge around innovative ideas, why this varies in different regions, and what firms can do to succeed in these tumultuous environs. Tyler’s most recent work examined the emergence of startup firms in nanotechnology and how they bridged the worlds of science and product development to thrive in a competitive marketplace. Other studies have examined global patterns in the founding of microfinance organizations and the outcomes associated with balancing social and economic considerations in different ways. Work in progress is extending these insights in order to help understand how individual entrepreneurs bridge these solitudes to create new approaches for addressing long-standing social issues.

Tyler’s work has appeared (or is scheduled to appear) in outlets such as the Academy of Management Annals, the Journal of Business Venturing, the Journal of Business Ethics, and Organization Science. Early stage work has also been recognized with best paper awards at the Academy of Management, the Academy of International Business, and the European Group for Organization Studies. In his spare time, Tyler is an exhausted dad who likes to play the occasional game of squash.

Sacha DjorkaeffBio: Wharton sophomore Sacha Djorkaeff was born in France and moved to the US at the age of twelve. He attended the French Lycée of New York, where he started his first company, Cameio, specialized in selling graduation rings to academic institutions. Sacha is currently working on a venture called Socialeaf, which is dedicated in offering innovative social media marketing solutions to governmental contractors in developing countries.

“Building Future Markets:” A Wharton Entrepreneurship Course Taught in Cape Town, South Africa

By Clare Leinweber, Senior Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

Cape Town MacWharton’s Global Modular Course on Building Future Markets was taught for the third year in a row by Professor Ian MacMillan over Penn’s spring break in Cape Town, South Africa.  The entrepreneurship course is focused on how to enter, and in many cases actually create, markets in countries that are poised for growth.  One of thirteen Global Modular Courses offered by Wharton in 2012-2013, Building Future Markets enrolled Wharton students from the traditional full-time MBA program and the Wharton MBA Program for Executives (from both the Philadelphia and San Francisco campuses). These Wharton students were joined by twelve MBAs from The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). Mixing these diverse students greatly enhanced the learning experience.

Khayaletsha Township

The course included both faculty lectures and briefings by executives who have brought their firms into emerging markets such as India, China, South America, and Africa. 

During the course students learned how to:

  • Identify, evaluate and create future market opportunities.
  • Embrace uncertainty and manage risk in the creation of a market.
  • Plan and execute under uncertainty
  • Analyze and anticipate the sociopolitical challenges of new market creation.

Cape Town Harbor

The guest speakers in this year’s course were memorable. Among them were Richard Lord, Founder of Rothesay, who discussed his early entrepreneurial experience in the telecom industry; Hein Koegelenberg, CEO of La Motte wine estate and Leopard’s Leap Wines, who discussed bringing South African wines to the Chinese market; and Photy Tzelios, Director of Supply Chain Management for Shoprite, who discussed the company’s challenges in opening up African markets for the grocery store chain.

Across these diverse industries and countries, the advice to students was remarkably consistent: Understand the cultural nuances of the country you are entering; develop trustworthy local partnerships; be patient and listen; understand the regulations and work systematically within them; and use utmost caution in countries where bribes are common.

The students are currently completing their group projects–developing a “future market creation plan” for launching a venture in an emerging market. These mixed project teams will surely develop an eclectic and interesting range of new ideas.

Cape Town Lunch