What Did the Wharton Venture Award Mean To You?

By Nadine Kavanaugh

Every year, Wharton Entrepreneurship awards up to $50,000 through the Wharton Venture Award (WVA).  Penn students in their final internship year may apply for the $10,000 grant  to assist them over the summer as they  focus exclusively on developing their own entrepreneurial ventures rather than seeking a traditional internship.

The award is given to multiple students each summer, with a total of 28 awards granted from 2007-2012. These awardees have met with an astonishing level of success:

  • 60% of the ventures supported by the WVA are either still a going concern (35%) or the entrepreneurs have exited (25%).
  • Over 90% of the students who received the WVA are active entrepreneurs.

This year, for the first time, any full-time Penn student in their final internship year at Penn can apply for the Wharton Venture Award, and we hope you do.

The due date for applications for the summer of 2014 is Monday, January 27 at noon. Apply here.

In advance of this year’s application deadline, we went back to previous winners to ask them what the WVA had meant to them and their ventures. Here are some of the answers we received from grateful winners:

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“Winning the WVA was a humbling experience. Throughout the process, the advisors and judges were all very accomplished entrepreneurs, so to get their feedback and endorsement certainly meant more to us than the cash itself. It was certainly energizing as well to receive that level of support from the board and judges. Practically, the award gave us legs for the summer and allowed us to work full time on 1DocWay and invest in the development and sales costs that were needed to land our first few clients. It was certainly seed money we were able to put to good use.”

Samir Malik C’08/W’08/WG’14, founder of 1DocWay, 2012 WVA winner

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“The Wharton Venture Award provided both practical and intangible support in the summer following my first year of business school.  I had just landed my first customer and the advising support very much helped me to manage those early stages.  What’s more, I was able to travel to the west coast for a period of time to meet with potential customers.  The WVA’s financial resources made this possible– not only did I have more time to work on the business, but I had the extra cash to make important, in-person connections.”

Sarah Russell WG’11, founder of Rx-Text, 2010 WVA winner

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“My venture was media-related with a target market of China.  The award allowed my team and me to go to China and produce short films and test market these videos on the Chinese equivalent of Youtube.  The practical benefit was the economic means to survive that summer while other classmates were in their paid internships, and to be able to spend some of the proceeds on building our Company. The WVA was instrumental in nurturing my entrepreneurial ambitions.  It allowed me the freedom and resources to try things and fail.  It also put an emphasis on progress and learning.  After all, you had Wharton stakeholders to update.  I don’t think it is an accident that I am currently founder of another startup company since graduating.  The WVA experience gave me the confidence and validation to know that I could thrive in this kind of life.”

Vikram Joshi WG’08, founder of Red Ladder Media and Proxim Diagnostics, 2008 WVA winner

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“One of my mentors, Farhad Mohit, was one of the first investors in my company, Twice (liketwice.com). His advice throughout the summer and afterward has been invaluable, and he has helped us navigate everything from product development to hiring to fundraising. I’m extremely grateful I had the opportunity to work on an entrepreneurial venture that summer rather than taking a traditional internship.”

Noah Ready Campbell W’10, founder of Twice, 2009 WVA winner

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“We were amazed by how many doors opened up for us after winning the award. Thanks to the funding provided by the WVA, we were able to dedicate our summer to product development ranging from sourcing the right materials, testing out samples, and vetting the right New York based manufacturer—all in addition to basic startup costs on a student budget.  This time spent on developing the Dagne Dover brand and product over the summer of 2012 was invaluable as it laid the foundation for the business that we have built since then.”

Deepa Gandhi WG’13, co-founder of Dagne Dover, 2012 WGA winner