Why I [heart] the Wharton Innovation Fund

By Ashwin Baweja, ENG’15/GEN’15/W’15 Founder of HashFav

There are an abundance of firsthand accounts that document the uncertainty that mires the entrepreneurial experience, but written words alone cannot fully capture the doubts that entrepreneurs face when building a startup. Luckily, the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund is a pillar of support for early entrepreneurs and helped me and my startup when we needed it most.

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When my cofounder and I started building HashFav, our original vision was to offer users a simpler method to bookmark Tweets. Twitter is home to the world’s most important primary sources: the newsmakers of our time. What happens on Twitter echoes across the rest of the web and throughout the broader world with lightning speed. Even though Twitter has served the world’s most important voices for nearly a decade, there still does not exist an easy way to save Tweets. Given that people are spending an ever-growing portion of their lives consuming social media (2 hours per day on average, and growing quickly), the ability to bookmark content becomes ever more crucial. Curating content is vital to deriving meaning from it and supplying it with context, and thereby helps us better process information. This is in marked contrast to the otherwise shallow experience of merely drinking from the social media firehose.

Many Twitter users have had to improvise and currently use the “like” button (previously the “favorite button) to bookmark Tweets. The problem with this is two-fold. First, users quickly accumulate “likes”, making the process of rediscovering their favorite content a chore – they may have to scroll through hundreds or even thousands of Tweets. Secondly, a “like” is a loaded concept. For example, there is a lot of content, such as stories about the refugee crisis, that I would like to revisit later but don’t necessarily want to “like”. However, most people continue using the “like” button in spite of its shortcomings because no better alternative exists. That is not to say others haven’t tried developing solutions. In fact, a myriad of bookmarking solutions have been developed, but they are all too cumbersome to cross into mainstream usage.

My cofounder and I realized that even with the proliferation of bookmarking services, not a single one of them could match the immediacy of the “like” button. What if we could build a solution that empowered users to bookmark content into collections directly from the newsfeed? And with that, I decided to embark on my entrepreneurial journey and build HashFav.

In a technology world obsessed with discussing the future of virtual reality, the democratizing forces of blockchain technology, and self-driving cars, convincing investors that a new bookmarking solution could be the next Google is a tough sell. Fortunately, the Wharton Innovation Fund provides invaluable support for entrepreneurs at the most vulnerable stage of the startup process. WIF places great trust in Wharton’s budding entrepreneurs. Without that support, my journey would have been much tougher to start. I strongly encourage all Penn students (yes, WIF is open to all Penn students, not just Wharton students) with an innovative idea to apply.

portrait6Bio: Ashwin graduated from Penn in 2015 with a BSE from Wharton, a BAS from SEAS, and an MSE from SEAS. He is currently working on his startup HashFav, which aims to be the curation layer of the web. You can reach him on Twitter @ashwinb10, or via email at ashwinb10[at]gmail[dot]com.