A lot of my friends asked me why I went to B-School after exiting my last VC backed startup. The decision was simple and a no brainer – Wharton is the best place to launch a startup. I truly believe this. All of the necessary ingredients are right here for an entrepreneur to succeed. Between the networks, the education, the veteran professors, being surrounded by top talent, and having two years to work on a venture – Wharton is the perfect incubator for my next startup Steignet.
Walking the halls of Huntsman, there are so many legends that have disrupted their respective industries, and it is quite inspiring for an entrepreneur. If you ever have a great concept, just remember that you have all of the necessary resources and support right here at Wharton to launch your startup – you just need to believe in yourself and make it happen.
Here are some firsthand experiences from how Wharton helped my venture out.
10. Cross-Pollination With Other Penn Schools
Being at the University of Pennsylvania surrounds you with top talent from around the world that can help your startup take off. If you are not taking advantage of this and only stay in the Wharton bubble, you are doing yourself a disservice. Wharton has very strong relationships with other schools, but you have to make that effort to reach out to them. Such schools include Engineering, Medicine, Law etc. If your company is IP dependent, I highly recommend applying for the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic. It is a program that the Law School sponsors, and is a very selective program. If admitted, they are great with providing free legal IP services to get your venture off the ground.
Finally, if you are a graduate student, don’t limit your initial co-founders or team to just other graduate students – there is a lot of top talent within the undergrad community, and I can tell you firsthand that they have been invaluable with my startup.
9. Wharton Conferences
Wharton is phenomenal at bringing industry titans to all of its conferences. There will be in attendance CEOs, CFOs, prominent founders, and other students that share your enthusiasm for the industry. It is essential for an aspiring entrepreneur to attend these events to look for the mentorship required to get your business off the ground.
Since my startup is in real estate, I attended several Wharton Zell / Lurie conferences. By attending, it has led to a tremendous amount of investment leads, accretive industry information, advisors, and numerous friends in the process. I have found that alumni at these conferences are very willing to make intros to other Wharton colleagues to try to help the entrepreneur out.
Finally, it is always great to mingle with professors outside the classroom, and they are normally always in attendance. You will be amazed how accessible your professors truly are outside the classroom setting. Thus, attending conferences is a must for an aspiring entrepreneur.
Academics are key. While everyone has different priorities when attending Wharton, I made sure to prioritize academics. You are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to be at a top-notch university, and one would be a fool to not take advantage of that.
I was a serial entrepreneur before coming to Wharton, and no matter what your background is, you can definitely learn a lot from being at Wharton. I have been in numerous business settings where my class information has certainly come into play. This could include negotiating with a VC’s proposed term sheet to incorporating cutting edge research into your presentation materials.
7. VIP Program
Wharton and Penn have the VIP-C and VIP-X program. VIP is Penn’s primary startup accelerator program. For new companies you start with VIPC, and then if your company has enough progress, the administrators will select 5 companies per semester to enter into the VIP-X – the most selective accelerator program for the university. Some great perks of VIP include access to prominent mentors and speakers, free AWS credits, non-dilutive capital, free legal services, an overall supportive network, branding, PR, and a wealth of knowledge to help your startup get off the ground.
6. Free Data Subscriptions and Stellar Librarians
There are a ton of resources that you should take advantage of while being a student Wharton. This includes numerous free data subscriptions that would normally costs thousands of dollars a year, and assistance from the librarians at the Lippincott library. I have been in several time-sensitive situations where prospective investors have asked me for information and the librarians have greatly helped me out in finding those requested materials – the librarians are truly the best!
5. Top Speakers
Practically every day at Wharton there are top speakers who come to campus to speak in a particular class or at Wharton-wide events. It is amazing how industry legends and Fortune 500 executives are just an arm’s length away from you. This proximity will never happen this easily in the real world, so make sure take advantage of these opportunities – both from a learning and networking perspective.
4. Your Fellow Classmates
Wharton does a superb job of selecting the world’s top talent. I am always amazed about the incredible experiences and backgrounds from my fellow classmates. Never in your life will there be so much talent per square foot than in Huntsman Hall. Your friends are great for providing feedback and pressure testing your concept, helping to make introductions within their respective networks, being a potential co-founder, or providing overall support. The Wharton student body is what makes Wharton, so make sure to take advantage of it.
3. World-Class Professors
Professors are such important resources. Yet, they might go under the radar for an aspiring entrepreneur in not realizing just how important they can be. Wharton employs professors who are not only top-notch academic researchers who generate the most cutting edge research and trending theory, but also hires numerous current and former executives to teach electives. I have had several classes led by a current executive who manages billions of dollars for an industry. Professors have been incredible with providing feedback for my company, helping to make intros to their former students, or providing general positive support. Professors are the gatekeepers for past, present, and future Wharton students. Taking the right classes and creating lifelong friendships with professors will definitely go a long way.
2. Alumni Networks
Wharton’s networks are unparalleled, and I cannot stress enough how special this lifelong connection is. The Wharton alumni that I have dealt with have all been very generous with their time and are genuinely interested in trying to see you succeed. With the Wharton network you are always just one phone call away from someone that you need to get in contact with. Make sure to take advantage of this awesome network while giving back to the community in whatever way you can.
1. The Wharton Brand Name
There is no better credibility than the Wharton brand name. It opens numerous doors for fundraising, retaining customers, attracting employees, even potentially exiting your company. You should be very proud to be at Wharton as so many top entrepreneurs have been Wharton graduates. Graduating from Wharton is truly an academic and professional accomplishment that no one can ever take away from you and will follow you throughout your entire professional career.
For any additional tips or questions about entrepreneurship, please reach out to A.J. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: March 29, 2018