Lean Startup Advice from Steven Blank

By Munish Dayal WG’15

As an avid follower of Steve Blank’s lean startup methodology, I was thrilled to learn that he was going to do a fireside chat on customer discovery and validation, hosted by Professor Len Lodish, at the Wharton Entrepreneurship Annual Summer Reception at WhartonǀSan Francisco. I’ve read up on Blank’s methodologies in my own time and been exposed to them in Professor Ethan Mollick’s Entrepreneurship class, and I’m trying to incorporate his framework in developing my own venture. I’m currently in my second year of Wharton’s EMBA program and a member of Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program (VIP), Wharton’s incubator program for students pursuing entrepreneurial ventures.

Steve Blank chatting with Wharton Professor Len Lodish.
Steve Blank chatting with Wharton Professor Len Lodish.

Read more Lean Startup Advice from Steven Blank

What Cooperative Robots Can Do For Us: Dick Zhang at TEDxPenn

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

TEDxPenn logo

Last fall, TEDxPenn: Creating the Sound took attendees, me among them, into a fascinating world of sound and technology. Among the speakers was Penn alumnus Dick Zhang, co-founder of Identified Technologies—a member of the Venture Initiation Program, finalist and winner of the Committee Award for Best Use of Technology in the 2014 Wharton Business Plan Competition, and winner of the 2012 Y-Prize. I blogged about my experience at TEDxPenn here; now you can see Dick’s talk yourself: Read more What Cooperative Robots Can Do For Us: Dick Zhang at TEDxPenn

Advice to Graduating Entrepreneurs

By Thanh Pham C’14, founder of fashion startup Jean & Isola

For many of us student entrepreneurs, graduation marks an exciting time—the finish line of academia and the beginning of a full-time career in entrepreneurship. Without the time limitations of academic commitments and physical limitations of university, postgraduate life offers the freedom to fully and freely invest our time.

Wharton graduating student2Read more Advice to Graduating Entrepreneurs

Identified Technologies and DigiPuppets Win $7500 Each

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

Woods Award Collage w label

Every year, Wharton Entrepreneurship gives several awards to students who demonstrate clear entrepreneurial prowess. There’s the Wharton Venture Award, which gives several students $10,000 each to work on their ventures for the summer rather than going the more traditional internship route, and the Loveman Award, a cash prize of $1,000 , which goes to the undergraduate specializing in Entrepreneurship with the highest cumulative GPA. But only one award requires the recipients to have first won something else before they even qualify for consideration: The Emil K. Woods Award.

Read more Identified Technologies and DigiPuppets Win $7500 Each

Cash Management for Startups

By Mike Taormina, Wharton MBA alumnus and Co-founder of CommonBond

Editor’s note: This article came out of an exchange on the Venture Initiation Program listserv, where current and former members of the program go to ask the community for help in solving their entrepreneurial problems. We thought Mike’s advice to a fellow VIP alumnus was so terrific that we asked him to turn it into a blog post.

Commonbond logo

There is a wealth of advice out there for startups trying to raise money—and for good reason. Without that first round or seed funding, many great ideas would never become anything more than an idea.

We also live in a highly innovative fundraising environment today, and the attention paid to helping entrepreneurs navigate their options and access capital is critical. As a founder, it’s incredibly exciting to be starting a business at a time when doing so—while I wouldn’t say is “easy”—has never been more possible for so many people.

So, let’s assume for a moment that you’ve successfully raised capital for your business (congratulations, by the way). The question then becomes: “What is the best strategy for managing this newfound cash?

Given the diversity of products and the multitude of providers, this could quickly become a time-consuming, complex process. When CommonBond raised its first round of funding in November 2012, we confronted the same question on how to best manage our cash, and it was incumbent upon us to find the optimal answer.

Here’s how we approached it:

First, the considerations.

1.     Capital preservation is critical.

Angels and VCs invest in entrepreneurs to take risks in operating their businesses, not to take risks in making financial investments. Compounding the issue (no pun intended), any upside in today’s yield environment is so meager that it simply doesn’t compensate for any risk-taking, given the amount of cash early-stage companies have to manage. For example, let’s assume your $1mm account has an average balance throughout the year of $500,000. If we further assumed a yield of 0.10% (which would actually be quite high for a low-risk money market fund at today’s yields), we’re talking $500 for the year. That’s it.

If you instead decide to expose your cash to more risk in the hopes of a higher return, one of two outcomes are likely:

If the investment works out, yes, you’ll have more cash, but probably not a meaningful amount; or,

Your investment does not work out, and you lose principal—a cardinal sin that can quickly lose both your investor and your credibility with respect to subsequent fundraising rounds.

Given the relatively small capital base of a startup, there is simply too small an incentive and too great an investor confidence risk to take much investment risk with your cash management.

2.     Liquidity. Uncertainty abounds in startup land. You may need to liquidate an investment to free up cash, so make sure that doing so doesn’t lead to an uneconomical investment. Bank CDs, for example, typically provide a higher yield than T-Bills or money market funds, but only if you lock up the cash for a period of time. The penalty for exiting a CD early (and the negative yield it can create) may be reason enough for a startup to stay clear of CDs as instruments for short-term cash management.

3.     Cost management. Watch out for banks with minimum balance fees or those that charge a relatively high commission for a simple T-bill trade—a cost which can also lead to a negative yield on the transaction.

4.     Counterparty risk. If you invest in a money market account, make sure you’re comfortable with the counterparty risk—the likelihood that your financial institution of choice will run into bad times that results in either a lock-up or loss of your assets with the institution.

What to do next: 

  • Bank account. If you open a checking or savings account, you have the $250,000 FDIC protection, so this is a great place to start from a capital preservation standpoint.
  • Bank CDs. You could then invest in bank CDs. If you go this route, keep in mind consideration #2 above (“Liquidity”). You don’t want to end up locked up in a CD and having to pay a penalty to get out, negating any deposit income (again, for minimal yield upside).
  • Brokerage account. If you have a brokerage account, you could invest in T-bills, money market funds, or sweep accounts. With T-bill purchases, just make sure the fees being charged don’t lead to a negative yielding investment. So long as the yield covers the fees, this is a great way to preserve capital, since FDIC insurance only covers up to $250,000 for checking accounts. With money market funds, make sure the fund’s investment mandate and holdings align with your low-risk, capital preservation strategy.

In the case of CommonBond, we decided on a combined approach: we set up a checking account and a brokerage account, both at the same bank so that wire fees or transfer time were never part of the calculus. The brokerage account invests in short-dated T-Bills and/or in a bank deposit sweep account, and the checking account is funded to ensure the company has sufficient cash for one to two months of operations—an amount that will likely not exceed the FDIC insurance threshold for the typical early stage startup.

Doing some very basic but important cash management will allow you to focus on running your business. And pushing the business forward should, and will, generate infinitely more value than any cash management strategy could ever deliver.

Mike TaorminaBio: Michael Taormina is CFO & Co-Founder of CommonBond, a student lending platform that provides a better student loan experience through lower rates, exceptional customer service, and a commitment to community. CommonBond is also the first company to bring the One-for-One model to education and finance: for every degree fully funded on the company’s platform, CommonBond funds the education of a student in need abroad for a full year. Mike is a former VP at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and a CFA Charterholder.

Worth a Taste Test

By Matthew Brodsky

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Wharton Magazine blog.

It’s no bologna to say that second-year MBAs Nicole Marie Capp and Justin Matthew Sapolsky, W’08, are in the midst of a dream: starting their own food business.

Capp comes from a food family that operates high-end delis in Brooklyn, N.Y. Sapolsky, an investor before returning to Wharton, wrote his Wharton MBA entrance essay about getting into the food business.

“Being at Wharton definitely put the gas on that,” he told me, related how he has been able to realize his dream and passion while at School: With the food startup Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches.

Matt and Marie's
Second-year Wharton MBAs Justin Matthew Sapolsky, W’08, and Nicole Marie Capp earned Twitter praise after they catered an event this past fall for Wharton entrepreneurs.

As the story goes, the pair met as vice presidents of the Wharton Entrepreneurship Club in November 2012. By January 2013, they were launching Matt & Marie’s as a catering operation. They worked during the summer out of the Wharton MBA space at 2401 Walnut St. (open as free office space to MBA entrepreneurs) and tapped into Wharton Entrepreneurship resources as part of the Venture Initiation Program (VIP). Through fall 2013, they had catered as many as 25 events around campus. For cooking, they were sharing kitchen space at Enterprise Center at West Philly, a health-grade commercial kitchen that allows operations to rent by the hour.

I initially reached out to Matt & Marie’s during research for a food truck article (still ongoing), and couldn’t resist learning more about delicious sandwiches even after Sapolsky told me they decided against a food truck because they’ve tested their concept already through catering.

Their plan instead, reported Sapolsky, is to have a lease signed on a Center City brick-and-mortar location by the time this article is posted. And by the end of the school year, Capp and Sapolsky may be ready to open the storefront. In the meantime, Sapolsky will do an independent study with OPIM (Operations and Information Management) Professor Eric K. Clemons, who has served as an advisor to Matt & Marie’s. That way, Sapolsky and Capp will also get academic credit as they tend to their kitchen, literally.

The dream is all boot-strapped at the moment, but also scalable. And that gets to why Sapolsky and Capp may have chosen the food business (besides being passionate foodies). Sapolsky noted how Matt & Marie’s menu is simple, much like many of the other restaurants that have exploded on the scene in recent years—the likes of Chipotle, Five Guys Burger and Fries, and Potbelly. Though they chose to open Matt & Marie’s first store in Philadelphia, a town with a lot of authentic Italian eateries, a lot of places don’t, Sapolsky was quick to note.

Fascinating, too, was Sapolsky’s perspective on the startup scene in general. There is a veritable buffet of Internet and tech startups on campus, and beyond.

“There’s room for people to still focus on brick and mortar,” he said.

Particularly, if they also focus on bread, meats and toppings.

It sounds like they are. Sapolsky’s favorite item on the Matt & Marie’s menu is the Roman Cavalry.

“Our chef designed all the sandwiches to balance the five flavor profiles: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. This one does it really well. It has cured coppa, fennel salami, genoa, aged provolone cheese, house-made sweet pickled peppers and a spicy peperoncini aioli on our seeded Italian bread.”

Expect a taste testing of this startup as soon as possible …

Update: Matt & Marie’s has now signed a lease on a location in Center City, and they expect to open in late Spring 2014. Want to go to the soft opening event? Sign up here. 

Why Is It So Hard To Start A Business in India?

By Anirudh Suri WG’12, founder and CEO of Findable.in

I’ve been in the startup trenches in India for the last three years. I’m currently the CEO of Findable.in, a location-based product search platform based in India, and I’m also the Founding Partner of India Internet Group, an early stage venture capital fund based in Mumbai, Delhi and New York. I think this is the best time ever to be an entrepreneur in India. However, it’s also an incredibly difficult journey.

In this post, I explain what makes starting a business in India so hard. But don’t be discouraged! My next post will explain why this is actually such a great time to be an entrepreneur in India.

An Incredibly Difficult Journey…

  1. Poor labor market. It’s tough to hire great people in India to work at startups. This is changing, but many smart folks don’t want to join your startup for a low salary, especially since people worry that equity or options won’t pay off in the long run. As a result, the top layer in Indian startups is world-class, but then you see a big dip in the middle and lower levels. While some of the startup founders in India are as motivated and talented as their counterparts in the U.S., motivating employees is much harder in India than it is in the U.S. This hurts the startup’s productivity levels as well as its ability to innovate and scale.
  2. Red tape. India has an incredible way of bogging you down with procedural, compliance and other such issues. As a CEO, I am spending way more time dealing with accounting, legal, and corporate compliance-related issues than I expected. At least twice a week, I have to sit down with our Chartered Accountant or our lawyers or the Company Secretary to ensure that we have met the TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) requirements, completed our compliance with the RoC (Registrar of Companies), etc. Combine that with the time spent motivating un-motivated employees, and some weeks, you have no idea where your week went!
  3. Lack of quality mentors. The quantity and quality of mentors in India (with the possible exception of Bangalore) is not quite up to the level of what you would find in Silicon Valley or other startup hubs such as New York, Philly or Boston.  Not entire surprising, since tech entrepreneurship is still in its infancy in India. The oldest successful tech startup founders are probably 10 years old in the industry, but really the bulk of the companies have been founded since 2008. The founders of these companies will likely become, in a few years, the kind of investors and mentors that Silicon Valley boasts of. Already, some successful entrepreneurs – the likes of Naveen Tiwari (InMobi), Kunal Bahl (Snapdeal, WG’06), Amar Goel (Komli), K. Ganesh (Tutorvista), Sanjeev Bikchandani (Infoedge, Naukri.com) – are starting to become active investors and mentors. India could use a lot more such mentors and investors.
  4. Slow consumer traction. The Indian internet consumer is also just learning how to consume the internet, or mobile apps for that matter. This means that customer traction is often very slow, and requires a lot of customer education. For example, OLX and Quikr – two prominent classified sites in India – as well as eBay have had to spend a lot of time, effort and money in educating the Indian consumer on how to sell old products online. Similarly, for my first startup, EkSMS.com, it took us a long time to educate restaurants and bars on using the SMS or web platforms for their marketing. The Indian consumer hasn’t quite displayed the same kind of early adopter characteristics as users in California might have.
  5. Problems getting paid. Moreover, the Indian consumer (or the Indian small business) is not very willing to shell out cash quite yet, so recurring credit card subscription businesses (the likes of Netflix, etc.) as well as others that require consumers or small businesses to pay are very hard to build here. With EkSMS.com and Findable.in, we have often had to run after our customers to get longstanding bills cleared. This also requires Indian startups to be even more frugal in their initial stages than their Silicon Valley counterparts.

These challenges are very real, and any entrepreneur interested in starting a company in India should be aware of them. However, I can’t say enough times that this is truly the best time to be an entrepreneur in India. Stay tuned for my next post, when I explain exactly why.

Anirudh SuriBio: Anirudh Suri WG’12, is currently the CEO of Findable.in, a location-based product search platform based in India. He is also the Founding Partner of India Internet Group, an early stage venture capital fund based in Mumbai, Delhi and New York. Previously, Anirudh worked at McKinsey& Company, Goldman Sachs, and as a policy advisor to fellow Wharton alumnus and the Hon’ble Minister of State for Communications and Technology in the Government of India, Mr. Sachin Pilot. At Wharton, Anirudh was a member of the Venture Initiation Program and the Entrepreneurship Club; organized the BizTech Conference and the Wharton India Economic Forum; and also partied a lot in Center City Philadelphia.

Take Some Risks To Change The World

By Davis Smith, Wharton MBA’11, Arts & Sciences MA’11, co-founder of Baby.com.br and Dinda.com.br

In June 2013, I met with a group of Lauder students on a rooftop in Rio de Janeiro with a stunning view of Botafogo Bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain. After encouraging the students to look beyond traditional job opportunities and take risks that would allow them to “change the world,” one of the students asked me if I felt I had changed the world with my businesses that sold pool tables and baby products. The question was sincere, but it stung. Unbeknownst to him, I had been asking myself the same question in the previous months and had already decided I was going to make a change, but this student’s question increased my sense of urgency to take my own advice.

While I was at business school at Wharton, my cousin and I closed a $4.3 million round with a PowerPoint and a killer domain, nothing more. Brazil was hot, and we knew it. It wasn’t by coincidence that we chose Brazil or the baby market. We spent our first year in school coming up with 60 business ideas, which was facilitated by my involvement in the Venture Initiation Program. During the summer, I was fortunate enough to receive a Wharton Venture Award, which allowed us to rigorously research, vet and test our plans. By the end of the summer, we had narrowed the 60 to 1 and knew that we had a game-changing idea.

Just two years earlier, my friends, family and neighbors thought I was crazy. My cousin and I had started PoolTables.com out of undergrad, and had grown it into the largest retailer of pool tables in the US. When we told people we were going back to school, nobody understood. Life was good, but we believed MBAs would give us the knowledge and networks needed to build something truly meaningful. We sold our business, essentially burning the ships. It had seemed reckless, but now appeared brilliant.

Within eighteen months of the Baby.com.br launch, we had raised $40 million and built a business that had become a household name in Brazil, especially among young families. Our team consisted of one of Brazil’s biggest celebrities and many of the most seasoned e-commerce professionals in the country.

For all the company’s successes, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. We were battling fierce competitors, Brazil was incredibly difficult to navigate, margins were slim and our business was extremely capital intensive. Despite these challenges, we found ways to push the business forward. We launched Dinda.com.br and continued to see our businesses grow beyond what we’d ever hoped. It was every entrepreneur’s dream-come-true. However, after three years of working on the business, I unexpectedly began feeling it might be time for a change.

Once again, the comments of old began: You’re crazy to leave your company now! Just as before, people didn’t (don’t) understand the timing. I admit that stepping away was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made. My decision to leave was based on two major factors that I couldn’t work around:

First, I was unhappy with our founding dynamics. My cousin and I had worked together for years, building some amazing businesses. There are partnerships that work well; in fact, ours had worked for a decade, but running a business as Co-CEOs was taxing. Ultimately, as many founding relationships do, our friendship began to sour. Trying to salvage our relationship became more important to me than power, control or money. I felt strongly that it was time for us to part ways as business partners.

Second, I wanted to make a bigger difference with my work. My reason for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place was to have a positive impact on the less fortunate. My co-founder, family and friends knew this. It has always been my life’s passion, largely driven by the fifteen years I’ve lived in the developing world (nearly half my life). Around this time, that desire to do good began to burn deeper than ever before.

Just four months after meeting with those Wharton students in Rio de Janeiro, I left my day-to-day role at Baby.com.br/Dinda.com.br and moved back to the US to begin my next adventure. Cotopaxi will be launching in Spring 2014.

1. Davis headshot - smilingBio: Davis Smith is a serial entrepreneur, a graduate of the Wharton School and Lauder Institute’s Class of 2011. He is the founder and CEO of Cotopaxi.

2013-14 Wharton Business Plan Competition Semi-finalists!

BPC 15Yr - BPC Homepage - FINALBy Manasa Tanuku WG’15, Co-Chair for the Wharton Business Plan Competition

We are thrilled to announce this year’s semi-finalists for the Wharton Business Plan Competition 2013-2014. With a record number of 181 approved submissions, we have been incredibly impressed by both the quantity and quality of business overviews received.

As Co-Chairs, Johannes Quodt (WG’15) and I, along with the rest of the WBPC committee, have worked hard to promote the competition throughout the Penn student community, beyond the Wharton full time MBA program. It’s great to see, then, that just under 40% of our 25 semi-finalists are from outside this program. Within this sub-sect alone, we have teams representing many schools at Penn including: the Law School, the Nursing School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, that represents undergraduates, executive students and doctorates candidates and representation from the Wharton San Francisco campus. For a historically MBA- centric competition, we are excited to see increased engagement from the rest of the Penn student community. This composition can only mean great things for the competition and for our teams.

This year also saw an increase in the number of information technology plans, a shift from the heavy focus on healthcare businesses we’ve typically seen. If our business ideas at the WBPC are any indication of where you will start to see a steady growth in entrepreneurial ventures outside the Penn community, these are some telling data points.

We’re very excited to announce that nearly a quarter of our semi-finalists self-selected as Social Impact Businesses. As we inaugurate the Social Impact Prize at the competition this year, this is a great beginning for what we hope will become a core and differentiating component of the WBPC.

The semi-finalist teams will now be preparing their business plans and pitches to the judges, with the help of WBPC provided mentors, events, and Wharton Entrepreneurship resources. After a closed judging session on March 21st, eight of these 25 teams will move forward to the public venture finals, which will take place on May 1st. We look forward to seeing you all there as we select our final winners.

In the meantime, please join us in congratulating the semi-finalist teams below. Good luck to all!

Abaris – Team Leader: Matthew Carey WG’15

Abaris is an Orbitz for Annuities. We are creating the first of its kind online marketplace enabling consumers to easily compare quotes on insurers’ guaranteed lifetime income offerings.

AdmitSee – Team Leader: Stephanie Shyu L’14

AdmitSee is a social media platform for current college and grad students to share their application details and advice with prospective students. By providing low-cost access to application tips and examples, AdmitSee aims to level the higher education playing field.

AirCare* – Team Leader: Stephanie Hwang NU’14

AirCare is a communications platform that allows any clinician the ability to remotely monitor any patient, any  time, any where. Our technology integrates mobile, tablet, and web software as well as automated phone calls and text messages to send customized questionnaires to patients, improving the quality of care they receive.

AppHappy – Team Leader: Steven Mong WG’14 (WEMBA – East)

AppHappy serves to expand the provision of mental health care by developing a mobile app providing stress management through gamified cognitive behavioral therapy.

Black Box Denim* – Team Leader: Adina Luo W’16

Custom jeans at designer quality. Perfect cut, wash, and fit. Delivered to your doorstep.

bookn’tell – Team Leader: Yonatan Sela WG’14

Bookn’tell is the first referrals engine for local service providers. We enable users to find local service businesses through credible friend referrals, book appointments online and save money when referring other friends.

Cloudbook – Team Leader: Matan Agam WG’14

Cloudbook is a new education technology company that modernizes exam taking, grading, security, and big data learning analytics by using a tablet-based assessment system that is easy and affordable to administer to students for on-site exams.  Cloudbook helps instructors, students, and administrators spot trends early, recommend solutions, and experience lifelong improvements.

Dana Cita – Team Leader: Susli Lie WG’14

Dana Cita, which means “Aspiration Fund” in Indonesian, aims to empower Indonesian youths to create a better future for themselves by bridging the education financing and employment gaps. Dana Cita does so by providing loans for aspiring students to attend vocational schools and universities while also connecting them to promising future careers through a job matching platform and our network of partner institutions.

FlopSports – Team Leader: Zachary Garber WG’15

FlopSports is taking the idea of fantasy sports and flipping it on its head. Specifically, FlopSports users can win cash prizes by correctly predicting which players will underperform during their games.

GovPredict – Team Leader: Steven Johnston WG’14

GovPredict is an accurate, real-time predictive analytics tool for forecasting the probability that a congressional bill will pass and that a given congressman will vote for passage. These insights are based on algorithmic machine-learning that analyzes bill characteristics, congressional voting records, district demographics, and other meaningful variables.

IDENTIFIED Technologies Corporation* – Team Leader: Andy Wu PhD’16

IDENTIFIED Technologies delivers a system of flying robots to collect data, for today’s data-driven industrial businesses, in settings where it is too dangerous or physically impossible to currently place sensors.

KLAR – Team Leader: Raffi Holzer GEN’14

KLAR manufactures a coating for dental mirrors that once applied keeps them clean throughout dental procedures.

LentesCol* – Team Leader: Diego Marino WG’14

LentesCol is disrupting the contact lenses retail business in Latin America, offering a new way of purchase that is easier, cheaper and more convenient.

Matt and Marie’s* – Team Leader: Justin Sapolsky WG’14

Matt & Marie’s is a modern Italian sandwich store, bringing great food and hospitality elements of fine dining to an efficient fast service setting.

OwnYourCity.com – Team Leader: Joseph Carroll WG’14

OwnYourCity.com is a platform that allows individuals to buy a slice of previously unattainable individual real estate assets through the new concept of real estate crowdfunding. OwnYourCity will be to real estate what Vanguard.com is to index and mutual funds – a platform that provides retail investors with an investment vehicle to gain direct exposure to a very specific asset in an easy and cost efficient manner so that they can diversify their investment portfolio.

PhaseOptics – Team Leader: Frank Brodie MD’14/WG’14

PhaseOptics offers revolutionary imaging technology that allows for the early detection and prevention of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.

Prayas Analytics* – Team Leader: Yash Kothari W’15

Prayas Analytics is a retail analytics solution that uses existing security footage to empower retailers with data to better understand customer behavior and discover store efficiencies.

ProfessorWord* – Team Leader: Betty Hsu WG’14

ProfessorWord helps students learn vocabulary in context as they read online. Check out our free tool at www.professorword.com

Roominate – Team Leader: Sally Huang WG’15 (WEMBA-West)

Roominnate seeks to transform the residential real estate marketing and home improvement industry by dramatically changing the way people visualize how they decorate their homes.

Semmantica – Team Leader: Yago Montenegro WG’15

Semmantica is the online advertisement management and sales analytics software for Spanish and Latin American e-commerce businesses.

Senvol* – Team Leader: Zach Simkin C’06/WG’14

Senvol works with manufacturers and analyzes their industrial parts.  Using its proprietary algorithm, Senvol determines which of these parts can be more cost-effectively manufactured using 3D printing versus the status quo.

Slidejoy – Team Leader: Sanghoon Kwak WG’14

Slidejoy is an intelligent Android app that pays users to view beautifully designed ads every time they unlock their phones. Over time, the app learns the preferences of a user based off of previous behaviors during different times of day and at different locations and curates a more profitable and relevant user experience.

Take Command Health* – Team Leader: Jack Hooper WG’14

Take Command Health is a do-it-yourself website that empowers individuals and businesses to be savvy healthcare consumers, starting with health insurance.  We are the “Turbotax” and “Mint.com” for high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSA).  Our tools provide data-driven, personalized advice to help our members 1) select a plan 2) track their expenses, and 3) identify savings opportunities.

Urban Attic – Team Leader: Erik Stiller WG’15

Urban Attic provides door-to-door storage services for individuals and businesses. We pick up goods from customers’ homes and offices, store them in secure warehouses, and redeliver specific items on request, a process that can be managed end-to-end through our website and mobile app.

VeryApt – Team Leader: Ashrit Kamireddi WG’14

VeryApt is TripAdvisor meets Pandora for apartments.  VeryApt helps users find an apartment they will love, quickly and easily by combining user-generated reviews with big data analytics to deliver intelligent, personalized apartment recommendations.

* Current or former members of the Venture Initiation Program.

manasa solo blogpostBio: Manasa Tanuku is a first year MBA at the Wharton School of Business where she is one of this year’s Co-Chair for the Wharton Business Plan Competition. Prior to Wharton, Manasa spent several years as an Investment Banking M&A Analyst in New York, before moving to Kenya and India to work with the Acumen Fund, a global social impact investor focused on low income communities. Following Acumen, she returned to the US to work for two organizations – a social enterprise called Indego Africa focused on generating sustainable livelihoods and education for female Rwandan genocide survivors, and a commercial e-commerce enterprise. Manasa holds a Bachelors of Science from New York University’s Stern School of Business.