The Penn Way To Network

By Kalon Tsang C’14/W’14, Pagevamp Business Development and Marketing Intern, on behalf of the Pagevamp team

How do you transform a college hackathon idea into a venture-backed startup with clients in over 80 countries? In addition to hard work and determination, we ascribe our success to the power of networks: from the immediate support of our family and friends, and across the valuable resources of the greater Penn community.  We have found it far more natural and effective to “network” by creating and nurturing meaningful relationships, rather than collecting business cards at conferences.

The Pagevamp team. Left to right: Atulya Pandey C'13, Julien Loutre (Pagevamp's first hire), Jonathan Pedoeem (Summer Intern), Vincent Sanchez-Gomez C'13, and Fred Wang W'13.
The Pagevamp team. Left to right: Atulya Pandey, C ’13, Julien Loutre (our first hire), Jonathan Pedoeem (Summer Intern), Vincent Sanchez-Gomez, C’13, and Fred Wang W’13.

The short history of our company, Pagevamp, is filled with examples of how building personal relationships ultimately paid off.  Here are 4 resources we have found particularly helpful at Penn:

Freshman Hallmates:  Like many at Penn, we, Fred Want W’13, Vincent Sanchez-Gomez C’13, and Atulya Pandey C’13, quickly saw our freshman hall, English House 5 (EH5) as a second home.  We became best friends thanks to our budding passion for entrepreneurship, and spent many late nights brainstorming ideas with our EH5 family.  Three years later, we built “Pagevamp” at PennApps 2012 and decided to go all-in with our startup. Needing funding and guidance, we approached the father of a close EH5 friend, a VP of an international corporation, whom we had talked to before about our startup ideas. Over drinks, we described our vision for Pagevamp. Days later, he reached out, telling us he believed in us and wanted to help. He would become our initial angel investor.

Hacker Events and Community:  As we loved to build things, we participated in hacker events like PennApps and joined the informal hacker community at Penn. Through interactions with fellow hackers, we connected with influencers, gained exposure to others’ ideas, and built credibility for ourselves.  After deciding to launch Pagevamp, we sought advice from the community about how to get funding.  A friend we made at PennApps told us about Dorm Room Fund (DRF) and suggested we pitch to them. DRF not only funded us, but also helped us get our first major media coverage in TechCrunch.

Student Clubs: The clubs that we were part of at Penn also served as an invaluable resource.  We shared our idea for Pagevamp with our clubmates, and they connected us with people that they knew in other clubs and organizations. With these intimate person-to-person introductions, we were able to tap into Penn’s diverse community of student groups, and use it as our initial client base, enabling us to test different website designs and to learn essential skills like project management and customer service.

Alumni Network: Finally, we realized that the alumni network at Penn is extremely powerful. Through one of our club friends, we met—and impressed—Ray Cheng (W’09 E’09), a Penn graduate and venture capitalist in New York. He became a crucial mentor and resource for us, making introductions and helping us raise our first round of VC funding. After moving to New York, we have connected with other alumni in the startup community who have offered feedback and companionship.

From our experiences, we’ve learned that the best connections are not made with the aim of immediate gain, but with the goal of building lasting relationships, because these are the ones that pay dividends in the long run.  To other Penn students thinking of following in our footsteps, we encourage you to see Penn and its community as a resource and an opportunity to test your ideas, receive feedback, and begin to build the relationships that matter.

Kalong Tsang2Bio: Kalon Tsang C’14/W’14 is currently a business development and marketing intern at Pagevamp.  Kalon was roommates with two of Pagevamp’s founders while at Penn and has seen the company grow from an idea in a dorm room to a young venture-backed startup. Outside of work, Kalon is interested in current affairs and politics and is passionate about his favorite soccer team, Liverpool Football Club.