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.

Godspeed Clare…

By Emily Cieri

If you are one of the hundreds and hundreds of students that Clare Leinweber touched during her ten year tenure at Wharton Entrepreneurship, you too will feel a bittersweet pang at learning she’s left the nest. The good news is that she’s not gone far—and in her new position, she’ll have an even bigger impact with our alumni.  Clare is now Director of Alumni Relations at Wharton External Affairs, and we are so happy for her.  But before we let her go I wanted to try to sum up the impact that Clare has had in her decade at Wharton Entrepreneurship.

Clare NY
Clare in Times Square for the NASDAQ bell ringing

Throughout her tenure at Wharton Entrepreneurship, Clare’s steadfast and laser focus on supporting student entrepreneurs has never wavered.  She always put our students first, making connections for them, providing exceptional learning opportunities, and performing countless introductions to alumni.  At this point most of the alumni she was introducing to our current students knew her when they were students.

Since 2006 Clare has incubated and grown the Venture Initiation Program. When she assumed responsibility for VIP it supported just eight ventures annually. Over the past eight years she has grown the program to now supporting almost 100 ventures, with dedicated advisors, a strong educational workshop series and networking events that introduce students to a tremendous network of powerful professionals. Probably the most meaningful addition has been the development of the VIP community itself, that is now strong with current and alumni members. Clare developed a complementary VIP at Wharton ǀ San Francisco that supports both the Executive MBA students and students from Philadelphia for the Semester in San Francisco.  Since 2006 she has worked with over 500 student ventures!

Clare also developed the Wharton Venture Award that provides $10,000 grants to students who forgo traditional internships to build their own business.  I feel this program has had a dramatic impact at Wharton by legitimizing the entrepreneurial career path.  The Wharton Venture Award both acknowledges the importance of building businesses and provides students with recognition and validation for their tremendous work.

I could go on and on about the impact Clare has had on the Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Dinner, or this very blog, which she was instrumental in starting, but I’ll stop here. For our alumni reading this post I’m sure you have your own stories of how Clare touched your heart and changed the course of your entrepreneurial journey.

Godspeed Clare – We look forward to our new relationship with you as you continue on your journey.

12 Ventures Give It Their All at the Spring Startup Pitches at Wharton | San Francisco

By Irina Yuen, Senior Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

Ubora.in

Wharton Entrepreneurship recently hosted its second Spring Startup Pitch at Wharton | San Francisco. Twelve early-stage startup teams, consisting of current Wharton | San Francisco students and Bay Area Wharton/Penn alumni (within three years of graduation), each had the opportunity to pitch their ventures before two judging panels comprised of established venture capitalists, angel investors and entrepreneurs, many of whom were Wharton alumni. Venture teams received coaching and practical feedback essential to each venture’s development.

It’s always exciting when we see students participate across our programs and this was no exception with two of the pitching teams selected as semi-finalists in the Wharton Business Plan Competition. Input from the Spring Startup Pitch judges helped these two teams fine tune their presentations for the BPC semi-finalist pitches which took place the next day. Gavin Whiteley (WG’14), founder of Showlingo, shared that he “was pleasantly blown away by the caliber and interest of the judges, and glad to see that by fate or luck I was paired with the judges most relevant to my business idea.” The day concluded with an evening networking reception for the teams, judges, and members of the Wharton entrepreneurial community where teams delivered lively elevator pitches. One of the venture teams, Bandar Foods, co-founded by Dan Garblik (WG’11) and Lalit Kalani (WG’11), provided tastings of their Spicy Mango and (otherwise sold-out) Mint Cilantro chili sauces to the crowd.

Kim + Chaudhry

whiteley

audience

Heartfelt thanks to our Spring Startup Pitch judges, who are helping to build a tight and collaborative Wharton Entrepreneurship community:

  • Joseph Ansanelli (W’92), Partner, Greylock
  • Andrew Chung (WG’06), Partner, Khosla Ventures
  • Jeff Fluhr (ENG’96 W’96), Co-Founder and CEO, Spreecast; Co-founder and former CEO, StubHub
  • Jay Jamison (WG’98), Venture Partner, BlueRun Ventures
  • Gareth Keane (WG’10), Investment Manager, Qualcomm Ventures
  • Eurie Kim (WG’09), Principal, Forerunner Ventures
  • Noah Shanok (WG’04), Founder and CEO, Stitcher
  • Ashmeet Sidana (WG’03), General Partner, Foundation Capital
  • Jon Soberg (WG’09), Managing Director, Blumberg Capital
  • A.T. (Andrew Trader) (W’91 WG’99), Venture Partner, Maveron
  • Ravi Viswanathan, PhD (ENG’90 WG’98), General Partner, New Enterprise Associates (NEA)
  • Andrea Zurek, Founding Partner, XG Ventures

Entrepreneur: To Be or Not to Be, That Is the Question

By Adriano Blanaru (Wharton MBA 2010)

Last Thursday (Feb 7th) I went to the Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference in San Francisco. The lineup of speakers and panelists was impressive and the discussions were incredibly honest, which is always a good thing.

After being in the entrepreneurial space for a few years, the topics discussed weren’t exactly new for me. The panel “How do you know you are ready to take the plunge?”, however, struck a chord with something I’ve been thinking quite a lot about lately: knowing whether or not you should take the plunge. The panelists included:

  • Alexander Suh, Managing Director, California Technology Ventures
  • Andrew Busey (Wharton MBA 2005), Entrepreneur and Angel Investor
  • Mauria Finley, CEO and Founder, Citrus Lane
  • Sam Allen (Wharton MBA 2006), Co-founder and Exec Chairman, Scancafe
  • Moderator: Katie Knepley, Principal, SVB Capital Funds

It is clear that being an entrepreneur is cool these days, and most people in the space are extremely proud to show their “Co-founder at _______” titles, perhaps as much as Goldman Sachs or McKinsey employees showed their pride not that long ago. Seeing what’s going on, however, gives me the feeling that a huge number of these new entrepreneurs are not built for it, and are doing it for the wrong reasons. Maybe they want to be entrepreneurs because they watched The Network or heard stories about people who made a ton of cash from a seemingly simple app, or maybe it is because their former bosses were difficult, or other reasons around the concepts of freedom and riches. If you are in it for the money, try the lottery. If you are in it for the freedom, try becoming a hippie.

Now, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be extremely honest with yourself about your reasons, because chances are neither money nor freedom will be achieved. Only a very solid reason or a very strong vision will keep you going when things get ugly and you are tempted to go back running to the corporate world, where you know the rent will be paid and health insurance is guaranteed. The problem is that we only talk about the success stories, and that clouds the judgment of those trying to decide if they should jump into the trenches.

Instead of promoting entrepreneurship to anyone considering it, I think we should promote a careful assessment of whether or not this is the right path. I will propose a rather extreme ‘framework’ for it: You should try your best NOT to be an entrepreneur. Avoid it. If you are tired of your job, try to think of something you’ll like better and go for it. If you see an opportunity or a problem that needs a solution, try not to think about it too much. You’ll have a good life. But if you think the system is broken, or if you can’t think about anything else other than that product you think you should create, and if you see yourself researching your business in your spare time even when Breaking Bad is on, then I’m sorry to inform you but you seem to be an entrepreneur. By all means act on it – and act fast, start right now!

Otherwise, drop the wishful thinking and don’t put yourself through unnecessary hardship.

 

Adriano Blanaru HeadshotBio: Adriano is an entrepreneur and tech professional who has co-founded and run two startups over the last 5 years. Currently, he leads product development at Vuact in San Francisco and acts as an advisor for a number of early stage startups. Before taking the leap, he was in finance for almost 10 years, both in Brazil (his home country) and the U.S.

Keeping Kids off the Street

By Emily Cieri, Managing Director

Michael Baum

After 25 years of entrepreneurship, this is Michael Baum’s WG’89 new passion.  Believe me it’s not what you’re thinking, here’s what he said on Oct. 18 at Wharton|San Francisco: “My job is to keep kids off the Street, and I mean, Wall Street.”  This was just one of many compelling insights he shared at the Second Wharton Entrepreneurial Alumni Dinner.

For the second time this year, Wharton|San Francisco was abuzz with Wharton and Penn entrepreneurial alumni who were super excited to be part of the rapidly growing entrepreneurial alumni community in the Bay Area.  Entrepreneurs came to the dinner looking to connect, learn what others are doing, and do business.  We’re proud that Wharton Entrepreneurship continues to play a major role in connecting the alumni network, and the Wharton Entrepreneurial Alumni Dinner is the center piece of our activities.  Read about the first dinner here.  This night, Michael Baum took center stage, serving as the keynote talking about Chasing BIG Ideas.  Like a number of great Wharton entrepreneurs, Michael started his first company with classmates, turning down a lucrative consulting offer at graduation to run Reality, an on-line software venture that started him on his way to becoming a “start-up junkie.”  Over Michael’s 25 year career, his work has made a tremendous economic impact:

  • 6 start-ups leading to 5 acquisitions & 1 IPO

That’s an impressive record for someone who I still consider to be mid-career. So what does he think about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship?

Here is Michael’s idea of the defining characteristics of entrepreneurs:

  • A desire to change the status quo
  • Audacious
  • Delusional
Wharton | SF entrepreneurial alumni dinner

Do you agree?  Does it bring to mind other professions?  His Venn diagram of the overlap between these three traits included politicians, dictators and VCs (though they tend to be more neurotic).  But according to him, for entrepreneurs it’s really the drive to change the status quo – Entrepreneurs are never satisfied –they’re not interested in reaching a fixed destination.

Splunk–which collects, indexes and harnesses all the fast moving machine data generated by your applications, servers and devices – physical, virtual and in the cloud–was the game changer for Michael.   It was an 8-year experience, the biggest IPO in 2012, and has shaped Michael’s thinking about entrepreneurship. Here’s what he did differently with this start-up and what he learned—I find some of lessons may sound a bit eccentric, but I think the IPO proves his point!

  1. Tackle a really BIG problem
  2. Build a very difficult product, but make it simple
  3. Invert the business model – he did this by selling enterprise software to the end user
  4. Ignore the competition
  5. Start-up is a family – you spend more time with these people than your family, so treat them this way
  6. Never pivot
  7. Build a kick-ass team

Stop and think about these and how they apply to what you are doing now and how you can do things differently.  Maybe just focus on one thing, but certainly there is something everyone can learn from these ideas.

Once again, in his words, “My job is to keep kids off the Street, and I mean, Wall Street”: That’s a mission Wharton Entrepreneurship is clearly behind.

Mixing it up at Wharton|San Francisco

By Irina Yuen, Senior Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship, Wharton|San Francisco

In late September, we broke new ground by hosting a mixer to bring together Wharton MBA students – “What’s new about this?” – I’m sure you are asking, since MBA students are ALL about networking ALL the time. This event was held at Wharton|San Francisco and brought together our students from the Executive MBA program with MBA students from the inaugural Semester in San Francisco (SSF) cohort.  Their coursework and faculty are the same, but they take classes at completely different times and therefore typically their paths never cross… until now.

Beginning in early September, a group of 55 students from the full-time MBA program in Philadelphia came to San Francisco in a pilot program for the fall semester that offers a full slate of classes.  Most of these students are entrepreneurially minded: Some are building their own business, others spent their summer working at start-ups in the Valley, several are actively engaged in Wharton Entrepreneurship’s co-curricular programming.

In the spirit of creating one entrepreneurial community across all classes, Wharton Entrepreneurship hosted a mixer to bring together the VIP community and broader community of Wharton | San Francisco and SSF students.  This turned a single into a double, but once we added in the Wharton Entrepreneurship alumni network in the region, it became a grand slam!

The night kicked off with a smaller group, in support of Venture Initiation Program networking, where each VIP team had the opportunity to formally speak about their ventures, discuss recent milestones, and ask for help from the advisors and select friends.

Once that concluded, the doors were opened to all WEMBA and SSF students.  The evening was a smashing success with 200 attending. The entrepreneurial bond that brought them together and will keep them together.

New frontiers for Wharton Entrepreneurship: VIP expands to Wharton SF

by Emily Cieri, Managing Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

For the past six years I have been part of the VIP selection committee. We hear pitches from students across Penn’s campus and students at our Wharton San Francisco campus who have a venture they’ve been developing and are in the early stages of launching.

Over the years there are a few interesting things we’ve noticed. One is that Penn and Wharton entrepreneurs are really a microcosm for the rest of the world. We see many similar trends on campus to the broader economy and we see similar shifts in venture themes. This cycle, it was modifications to the Kickstarter concept, where few years ago it was it was building ventures focused on social networks.

This year marked our first joint submission process across our two campuses. The Philadelphia pool included Wharton MBA and undergraduate students as well as students from Engineering, the School of Arts & Sciences, and the Law School.  The SF applicant pool included current Executive MBA students, Exec MBAs who graduated this past May (in San Francisco, we allow Exec students to apply up to one year post graduation) and MBA students participating in the Semester in San Francisco.

Here’s how the pitch process works: Students submit a written application that includes a business overview and 2- minute video which is reviewed by the selection committee. Those selected give a 2 minutes live pitch followed by 2 minutes of Q&A from the committee. We keep the timing tight so roughly every 5 minutes a new group of student presenters come to the front of the room. As you could imagine, this is a lot of fun and quite interesting – in a typical cycle we hear from 30-40 applicants.

This fall, after the dust settled, we accepted 9 new ventures, including two Wharton Venture Award winners from the summer (they receive automatic acceptance into VIP).  In San Francisco, 6 new ventures were accepted.  The new ventures are listed below.  You’ll find a complete VIP list on our site here.  Congrats to all who participated in the process this semester.  We recognize the hard work that goes into each of the steps including the application, video and a live pitch–which may be the first pitch for many students.

Wharton Venture Initiation Program Philadelphia
Fall Semester 2012 New Members
Entrepreneurs Venture
Jon Dussel (WG’13) & Stephen Lau (WG’13) Cloudable.me: We are your social filter for the internet; we help you find, collect and share the stuff you and your friends actually care about.https://cloudable.me/
Deepa Gandhi (WG’13) Dagne Dover: Personalized Luxury. Effortless Organization. Chic Competence.  The only handbag that has evolved as much as you have.http://www.dagnedover.com/
Daniel Fine (W’15) Glass-U: Custom sunglasses for students, fans, and more. Fully Folding. Completely Affordable. Totally You. Glass-U.http://www.glass-u.com/
Zachary Dennett (WG’13) & Eduardo Mestre (WG’13) Knowtorious: Knowtorious is a head-to-head trivia app. Brands sponsor questions, so the app also serves as an innovative ad platform.Knowtoriousapp.com
Dorie Golkin (WG’13) & Emelyn Northway (WG’13) Of Mercer: Of Mercer is an online women’s fashion brand that designs stylish, feminine work wear for modern women: the new power suit.
Betty Hsu (WG’14) & Ivan Chang ProfessorWord: Get definitions with a click. Find SAT vocab on any page. We make it easy to learn new words while you surf the web!http://www.professorword.com/
Robert Snowberger (WG’14) Project NMSET: Nano molecular solid-state electrodynamic thrusters: poised to revolutionize the aviation industry through innovations in lift and thrust.http://www.projectnmset.com/
Kalefe Wright (WG’13) SprFlwr: SprFlwr is a natural beverage company bringing the great taste and healthy properties of sorrel hibiscus to America.
Ashish Parikh (WG’13) Whamix: Whamix is an authoring tool and platform for publishers to create and distribute interactive content for tablets.http://www.whamix.com/

 

Wharton | San Francisco Venture Initiation Program
Fall Semester 2012 New Members 
Entrepreneurs Venture
Vishy Venugopalan (WG’13, SiSF) & Akshay Bhushan (WG’13, SiSF)  Caffeine Analytics: Enables online merchants to supercharge their customer acquisition and retention activities.
http://caffeineanalytics.com
Sanju Pancholi (WG’12, WEMBA 36) CarCopia: Ecommerce platform that takes consumers direct to wholesale auctions, eliminating friction in the buying process.
www.carcopia.com
Vijay Ramani (WG’13, WEMBA 37) SocialMoola: A benchmark for measuring social capital generated from meeting friends in the real world.
Parry Bedi (WG’12, WEMBA 36) & Sami Kaipa (WG’12, WEMBA 36) SocialGlimpz: The world’s first social platform dedicated to showing companies how their consumers live.
www.socialglimpz.com
Guilherme Filho (WG’13, SiSF)  Perceptool: The most complete tool for companies to manage and understand their presence in the digital ecosystem.
Satya Tammareddy (WG’13,  SiSF) & Ami Naik
(WG’13, SiSF)
Travspire: An online platform for international travelers to access and book unique and offbeat experiences in India.
http://travspire.com

Note:
SiSF – Semester in San Francisco
WEMBA – Wharton Executive MBA

 

Wharton Descends on TechCrunch Disrupt

By Thomas Baldwin, Wharton MBA Class of 2013

Wharton students at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference

The trend of viewing entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to more traditional career paths such as banking and consulting continues to gain momentum at Wharton. In one sign of how times have changed since the days when a CV drop at McKinsey and Goldman was default behavior for MBAs, this September marked the start of the Semester in San Francisco (SSF) program, a new initiative designed to cater to Wharton MBAs focused on entrepreneurship, startups, and venture capital. Wharton’s increasingly entrepreneurial profile was also in evidence at Disrupt SF, the highly anticipated annual tech / startup conference organized by TechCrunch. This year’s conference, which over 25 Whartonites from the MBA class of 2013 attended (more than any other business school), featured a who’s who of luminaries from the technology, startup and venture capital arenas. Among the more high profile speakers were Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, Jessica Alba of The Honest Company, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.

Wharton descended on Disrupt in a big way. In addition to the 25 SSF participants who attended, several alumni entrepreneurs made their presence felt as well. Jacob Rosenbloom (G’11/WG’11), co-founder of Emprego Ligado, a Sao Paulo-based, 500 Startups-backed company focused on disrupting the Brazilian labor market, was an exhibitor at the Brazil Pavilion. Emprego Ligado, which was recently “TechCrunched”, leveraged the conference to generate awareness around its innovative model for enabling employers to recruit blue-collar candidates via mobile phones. Davis Smith (G’11/WG’11) was also present at the conference, and took time out of his schedule to visit Wharton West and discuss how he raised over $22M in capital from top-tier VCs less than 2 years after launching Baby.com.br.

While several hot topics were in discussion at the conference, three themes resonated particularly powerfully during the 4-day event: (1) The rise of Mobile as the next frontier for investment and innovation within the tech world; (2) the emergence of Latin America as a fertile breeding ground for some of the world’s hottest new startups; and (3) education as a space ripe for tech-enabled disruption.

Excitement around each of these themes was driven by different factors. With respect to Mobile, given the rapid rate of global smartphone penetration to date, and the widespread belief that nearly every human will have a smartphone in hand within the next 15 to 20 years, it’s no surprise that Mobile was on everyone’s mind. The high level of excitement around Latin American startups was driven by the presence of country-specific startup pavilions for four Latin American nations – more than for any other region of the world. Pablo Pedrejon (WG’13) echoed this sentiment, stating that he was “excited by the significant expansion of startup culture in Latin America on display during the conference.” As for education, Ariel Quinones (WG’13) captured the sense of excitement around this theme when he stated that “the panel on education was outstanding. Panelist Sal Khan (founder of Khan Academy) captured the imagination of many in the audience when he mentioned that we were “at the top of the first inning” when it comes to using technology to empower educators.”

Wharton’s presence at TechCrunch Disrupt SF – which most SSF attendees found to be an excellent introduction to Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation – serves as a reminder of the continuing shift in emphasis towards careers in entrepreneurship. Supported by Wharton Entrepreneurship’s ongoing effort to make Wharton a place where budding entrepreneurs can grow and thrive, this trend is set to continue.

Bio:

Thomas Baldwin is a MBA /MA Candidate @Wharton. Entrepreneurship Editor for the Wharton Journal. Fluent in Spanish & Portuguese. Passions: Brazil, Entrepreneurship, Startups. Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomas_baldwin

This article originally appeared in The Wharton Journal.

Wharton | San Francisco Student Venture Summertime Progress

 By Irina Yuen

San Francisco Venture Initiation Program members have made significant progress during the summer term.  This week we highlight two ventures: CarHound and BuckSprout.

CarHound is a marketplace solution for new car buying founded by Andrew Liu (WG’12). CarHound helps make car buying painless for consumers by conducting an online reverse auction with local dealers. Customers visit CarHound.com and tell CarHound what they want, and within 48 hours CarHound finds a competitive and guaranteed out-the-door price from a local dealer. Customers simply make an appointment to go pick up their car, or with some dealers can even have the car delivered to their house!

CarHound recently relaunched their newly branded site in July 2012 and continues to grow.  They have a data partnership with Edmunds, a marketing partnership with Archstone Apartments, and advisors from JD Power and Edmunds.  They recently won first place at a pitch competition at VC Taskforce and received the highest number of votes in Professor Karl Ulrich’s Innovation Tournament.  In addition, CarHound was recently awarded Wharton’s Snider Seed Award.

Andrew Liu (WG’12)

CarHound is Andrew’s second startup and he left his most recent post in 2011 to pursue this venture full-time.  “I enjoy seeing an idea that went from concept in my mind to reality and talking to customers who are happy with and willing to pay for the service,” says Andrew.  “I enjoy constantly learning, changing, and improving… I enjoy working with a team of really smart people knowing that there are no limitations; trying to solve problems,” Andrew shares.  Andrew believes that Wharton has provided him with a great opportunity to pursue an entrepreneurial venture.  “Though it is stressful to balance everything, you will never get an opportunity to get so many talented and smart individuals helping you and pushing you along (classmates, professors, and staff).  It is a great testing ground for startups.  Not only that, you are in an ecosystem of learning and that is the right mindset you need to succeed at a startup.”  We wish Andrew and CarHound continued growth and success!

BuckSprout is an early stage startup cofounded by Amilcar Chavarria (WG’13) and Daniel Chen (WG’13), two Wharton MBA classmates. Amilcar and Daniel both quit their jobs in February 2012 to get their company off the ground. BuckSprout is an early stage startup focused on helping people save and invest wisely. BuckSprount believes its approach is unique in that it leverages cutting edge concepts from captology (the study of computers as persuasive technologies) and portfolio management combined.  BuckSprout endeavors to help Americans take control of their money matters online in a fun and hands-free manner – one buck at a time – and help people to save and invest wisely.

Left to right: Daniel Chen (WG’13) & Amilcar Chavarria (WG’13)

To date, BuckSprout has focused on building a team with strong finance and engineering skills. They first focused on getting their technical co-founders (alumni of CalTech, IIT, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Netflix, and various startups), and then focused on recruiting advisors to help with addressing weaknesses and expediting their learning.  “By attending VIP events and being part of the Wharton community, we’ve been able to meet great people in the valley. They, in turn, have also opened many doors.” says Amilcar.  He adds, “We’ve been able to leverage school projects for the benefit of the startup. For example, we conducted a semester-long conjoint study on our first minimum viable product (MVP). Similarly, other marketing and strategy courses have proven helpful in determining a target segment and product differentiation strategy.”

When asked what he enjoyed most about working on BuckSprout, Amilcar stated that the learning experience and emotional roller coaster have been equally rewarding.  “The highs are higher than in a corporate job. The problem lies in the lows also being lower (by orders of magnitude) than in a corporate job as well.  The key source of enjoyment is overcoming the obstacles and moving ahead every time. It feels like a game in a way where all odds are against you and only a few survive,” says Amilcar.

Some Free Advice to the Founder Seeking Protection Against Getting Fired

By Doug Collom, Vice Dean, Wharton | San Francisco

Doug Collom

There is a question that most founders ask when organizing their startup companies in preparation for fundraising with the angel and venture capital community.   “Should I protect myself against getting fired from my position with the company?  Maybe a severance payment clause or a clause accelerating the vesting of my stock if the VC’s fire me without cause?”  After all (so the argument goes), it is the founder who is inviting the VCs to the party—it is the founder’s company, and it is the founder who spent years working in a garage on weekends and late nights putting together the magic that will guarantee the success of the startup.

Right at the outset, it should be noted that protective provisions like this favoring founders in venture-backed companies are definitely an exception to the general industry convention.  In most startups—and I would conjecture on the order of more than 90%–there are no such protections.

Although this state of play in the startup arena might cause some anxiety for founders, here are a few factors that will shed some light on the subject:

  • Investors usually seek to establish a level-playing field in negotiating the general terms for an investment.  Agreeing to protective provisions favoring a founder in the event things don’t work out, in the VC’s view, violates this goal.  There is no guaranty to the investors that their investment will be successful, and there should be no guaranty to a founder in terms of severance or accelerated stock if the company’s board of directors determines that it needs to terminate the founder’s employment.
  •  Almost every VC will tell you that the caliber and experience of the management team are in the top mix of factors they evaluate in making a decision to invest in the company; and in some cases, this capability is the top factor and the only one they won’t compromise on.   This means that if a VC or group of VCs represented on the board determines that a founder has to be let go, in their view, it is usually the result of a failed company.  Not just a company that needs to “pivot” in response to the needs of the market or the customer or the dictates of the technology—but a company that regardless of the tweaks has no reasonable hope of success with that founder continuing in a management position.   Replacing a founder is one of the few levers that investors can pull to breathe new life into a company, and they do it as a last resort.
  •  The founder’s goal of raising money starts, of course, with pitching a viable plan—a great management team, a market with a huge sucking sound, a disruptive or compelling technology or approach, an effective market strategy, and a near term prospect of hitting key benchmarks.   But as any entrepreneur knows who has raised money from the VC community, establishing chemistry with the VC firm and particularly the partner who will be championing the startup to the firm’s partnership is equally important.  For the founder to suddenly condition the relationship on the inclusion of protective terms if things don’t work out is a tough sell.  It sours the chemistry and it tilts the playing field in favor of the founder—it’s probably like asking for a prenuptial agreement right in the middle of a courtship.  That is not to say the question isn’t raised, but the founder shouldn’t be surprised if the investor doesn’t respond well.

At the end of the day, everything is leverage.  For the founder who is fortunate enough to have several  VCs courting the company with term sheets and promises of fame and glory, asking for protective provisions in the event things don’t go smoothly might turn out in the founder’s favor.  But it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the investor declines the request.