The Summer Startup Experience at 2401 Walnut

By Anjali Bhatia WG’15, Founder of Pragma and PlayPickup

This summer, Wharton’s 2401 Walnut Street building opened up to student and alumni entrepreneurs as summer office space for the second year.  A number of current and alumni MBA students converted the individual study rooms into their startup homes by writing long lists of to-dos on the glass doors and windows, decorating (including a pinned-up proof of “first sale” in one office), and hauling in prototypes and inventory.  My company, Pragma, which aims to revolutionize travel apparel with stylish, wrinkle-resistant, and portable clothes, was one of them.

The current 2401 entrepreneurs visiting the newly launched Matt & Marie’s, a food startup that worked out of 2401 last year.
The current 2401 entrepreneurs visiting the newly launched Matt & Marie’s, a food startup that worked out of 2401 last year.

Pragma collage
Top: Michelle Chan with some of the Pragma style-board behind her. Bottom: The Pragma Retail team! From left: Rena Fried WG’15, Anjali Bhatia WG’15, and Michelle Chan.

The startups spanned a wide variety of industries; to name a few, we had retail, finance, wearables, food services, real estate, video games and services startups.  Despite the variety of our startups, our co-working space quickly became a community center, all of us unified by our decision to forfeit a “real job.”  Ultimately, we ended up taking on a few more jobs than we had expected!  Some of these “jobs” are below:

1. Survey Respondent:  Wharton unintentionally prepared us incredibly well for the job of filling out surveys and being part of focus groups! The loyal 2401 community made sure to help out every startup in even the littlest way, which included filling out every survey on name and logo, and participating in focus groups in which we discussed products consumer problems.

The Peas & Carrots team (John Li and Jeff Zhou WG'15) working away!
The Peas & Carrots team (John Li and Jeff Zhou WG’15) working away!

2. Beta Testers/Early Adopters: Once a startup launched, we quickly took on the role of being the very first users.  In rapid fire, we signed up for new apps, hired launching services, and made trips to visit new stores.  One of our biggest trips of the summer was all coordinating a lunch date at the newly opened Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches (a Wharton startup that used 2401 last year!).

3. Heralds:  We also became constant harbingers of related startup news.   We took advantage of the fact that we all follow different blogs, startup digests, and news platforms; the second there was a news article related to other startups, we would quickly send over their way! Rather than just keeping an eye out on our own industry, everyone came together to mine useful information for others.

Goods of Record co-founder, Trey Sisson WG’15, preparing for launch in one of the conference rooms.
Goods of Record co-founder, Trey Sisson WG’15, preparing for launch in one of the conference rooms.

4. Therapists: Each startup faced highs and lows over the summer…competitions were won and lost, co-founders were found and broken up, inventors came and went.  What made each win or loss even better was being able to immediately poke a head around the corner and let another start-up friend know about it.  There was always an excited hug waiting or a shoulder to cry on.

5. Socialites: The 2401 crew also maintained the strong “work hard, play hard” Wharton mentality.  Since our oh-so-kind bosses would let us take the day off at any time, we may have all played hooky together at different points.  We snuck out to watch the World Cup games, made it out on time for Center City SIPS, and even took some days off for beach getaways.

Ultimately, being an entrepreneur at 2401 this summer meant much more than just working on a startup! It meant joining a vibrant community of people who are willing to support others and have fun while also trying to make it big.

My Best Friends Weekend2
My Best Friend’s Weekend planning some incredible bachelorette parties with a phenomenal view of Philadelphia.

Anjali imageBio: Anjali Bhatia founded Pragma Retail in September 2013, after she burned one-too-many items with a hotel iron while traveling as a management consultant.  She is currently entering her second year of her MBA at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  She loves to travel and her favorite vacation trip thus far has been to Bali!