Current ventures by Wharton alumni range from med tech to not-so-guilty pleasures.
Cookie sandwich concept first baked up in Penn’s Harnwell College House in 2014, founded by Wharton senior Roopa Shankar and College seniors Alina Wong and Rachel Stewart, and now an Entrepreneurs’ Organization Global Student Entrepreneur Awards national finalist. Their spring menu features snickerdoodles with chocolate cookie dough filling, semisweet chocolate drizzle and crushed toffee filling, and that’s just their “classic.” You can also try the “cutie pie,” the “nut job” or the “n003” cookies in stores around the Philly area. Or order online.
Career Day 365
WEMBA student Julian Baldwin believes in the power of mentors and role models to change the career trajectory of people born to underprivileged circumstances. He’s turning thoughts into actions, and is aiming to level the playing field, with his nonprofit, Career Day 365. Partly based on an online platform that allows mentors and students to connect virtually—ensuring scalability for the concept—Baldwin also believes in face-to-face connections. In early January, for instance, he recruited from amongst his Bay Area network—including his classmates at Wharton’s San Francisco campus—to participate in a summit with over 150 local high schoolers. They learned about what opportunities exist as career paths, as well as how to get those opportunities with interview, resume and college/career readiness advice.
Scan Our Skin LLC
Born out of the “Longest Running Startup in the History of Startups,” 3000BC, a holistic treatment center/spa/boutique that markets an exclusive line of therapeutic and clinical skin care launched by Korin Korman WG’92, SOS allows (forces?) people to view their skin damage in a new light. Using facial imaging technology and a global database of skin features, you can now see how your pores, wrinkles, sunspots, acne and more score for your age and gender. Then receive the care and products to salve your skin and your confidence.
Combine artificial intelligence with mobile technology and you might have the sustainable solution to one of the medical world’s top patient problems: getting people to take their darn prescription medicine. Whether their meds are supposed to fight a chronic health condition or are part of sensitive drug trial research, people who fail to take their medicine as prescribed collectively cost the U.S. health care industry $378 billion each year. Quite a problem for savvy entrepreneurs to solve. Now add in the $12.25 million in funding raised by AiCure and co-founder Adam Hanina WG’07, and we may have a cure.
This is one of those classic campus founding stories that Wharton ought to broadcast far and wide. Then-entrepreneurial students Rachel Cohen WG’12 and Andres Modak G’12/WG’12 knew they wanted to launch a startup as classmates, but it wasn’t until they moved to NYC together as a couple after graduation that they saw their opening. The two extremes of home essentials shopping floored them: either ridiculously expensive boutiques or middling quality brand-name retail stores. They began exploring how to fill that market gap, building a direct-to-consumer e-commerce site called Snowe (launched June 2015) and collaborating with European and American suppliers. The company offers luxury-quality homewear at Pottery Barn prices—and does so with the consumer’s peace of mind and convenience as a priorities. They focus on limited items—tableware, bath items and bedding—and offer them in one-stop bundles.
This Philly brewer got started 22 years ago before “craft beer” was coined, and with the froth in the insurgent beer segment today, Yards is booming. COO Trevor Prichett G’06/WG’06 is on the hunt for a new facility, up to 100,000 square feet, which would more than double its current brewery’s size. Last year, it sold 42,000 barrels of beer—including such go-tos as Philadelphia Pale Ale and Brawler, as well as unique brews like its Ales of the Revolution series, whose recipes aim to recreate beers made and imbibed by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Penn’s own founder, Ben Franklin.
Nirvana India Pvt.
Beijing gets all the bad press, but pollution readings in New Delhi can peak just as high. Jai Dhar Gupta W’94 is making a killing in India by selling stylish masks that help pedestrians from getting killed by air pollution. Gupta sees growth in automobile air purifiers and other technology to help his fellow citizens breathe a sigh of relief.
After raising more than $7 million from investors and being recently named to Poets and Quants top 100 MBA startups, interior design service provider Havenly and its co-founders—second-year MBA student Emily Motayed, Lee Mayer and Jessie Dixon—appear to have a blue print for success: flat fees. Customers can sign up for a “small refresh” to one room for $79, or hand over the keys to their whole home for $199 per room. Oh, and it can be done all online. Customers choose from a network of designers, upload photos, work with their pro, and order all the furniture and homegoods through Havenly’s store. Some assembly may be required.
TV channel Animal Planet is producing an all-new series, PENN VET, getting behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a Vet student at Penn. If they want to show some of the true top dogs in the program, they’ll shadow some of the jointdegree students who are earning Wharton MBAs and VMDs. A rare breed indeed. There is actually just one at the moment.
The Global CO2 Initiative
In case you didn’t feel bad enough about your carbon footprint, then read up on the Global CO2 Initiative, the efforts of Bernard J. David C’79/W’79/WG’82 to solve the climate change crisis through a systems approach based on science and market forces. After 15 years of sustainability research, David and his team believe they’ve come up with a way to capture and transform CO2 emissions into valuable products. The goal: harness 10% of the world’s emissions. Before you chuff, note that McKinsey & Company is a partner, and the market for these “valuable products” is estimated to become $800 billion to $1.1 trillion annually by 2030.
BG Oil Field Services
BG Oil Field Services is one of the most prominent midstream pipeline service providers in the Rocky Mountain and Northern Plains regions of the United States. You may be surprised to hear that Wharton has an influence there—in the shape of Wharton MBA for Executives Program grads Thomas Logsdon, John Baltes and Jeremy Korth (all WG’14). With Baltes in the lead, these classmates are running the firm’s North Dakota operations—in the Bakken Formation. After the price of oil cratered, though, they have their jobs cut out for them. Their fact-based, data-driven, private equity-funded approach is what explains how they were able to deliver almost as much profit with less revenue in 2015—and explain how they’re positioning for success when the oil price rebounds.
Hull Tactical US ETF
Xiao Qiao EAS’11/W’11 began his career as a researcher while a student in the vaunted Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology. Now as a Ph.D. candidate at Chicago’s Booth School of Business, he’s teamed up with brand-name trader Blair Hull to solve the long debate on whether market returns are forecastable. Their answer: yes. This year, Qiao and Hull penned a paper on return predictability, showing that there is “substantial predictive power in combining forecasting variables.” He and Hull have teamed to put the theory to practical test with an ETF called Hull Tactical US (HTUS). Launched in June 2014, the ETF has seen a 1 percent gain while the markets are down near double-digits—though of course Qiao cautions it’s very early days. The ETF’s approach is high returns with low volatility. Qiao’s overall approach is how real-world big data can have big implications for finance.
Penn and Wharton alumni in the NYC and Philly areas are harnessing their valuable consulting skills for the greater good through PennPAC. Through the organization, non-profits that can’t afford traditional consulting services can receive Ivy League pro bono support. Teams of Penn and Wharton alumni, across all majors, careers and fields of study, team up on projects. Grads run the show too, including founder Jackie Einstein Astrof C’93 and vice chairs Anne Turner WG’94 and Jeannette Chang W0’8. As always with Wharton projects, the numbers bear out the success. Since it launched in 2010, 300+ volunteers have logged over 10,000 hours of service worth more than $2 million. Anecdotes pour in from clients, too, about 50 percent increases in fundraising, or 31 percent higher revenues, or growth into a new community—all thanks to alumni’s assistance.
This startup online “experience network” offers users confidential advice on life’s decisions—including education, career management, politics, lifestyle and family, the military, and entrepreneurship. Users seeking answers are called “explorers,” while the experts are “gurus.” The gurus in turn earn rewards for their advice. Founded by Kevin Walker WEMBA’26 with CTO Prashant Dasai WEMBA’34, the site launched in March at the SXSW conference.
Pratiksha Fine Jewelry
Parag Vaidya W’04 and his sister, Tisha WG’15, have a family history in the jewelry industry. Their parents have been in the diamond and gem trading business since they emigrated to the U.S., and they employed the siblings along the way. With Tisha fresh with an MBA, the pair decided to make a go of it with a direct-to-consumer e-commerce approach to a world glimmering with disruption potential. They hope to solve the frustrations of consumers with finding elegant, artisanal, yet more affordable jewelry.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Wharton Magazine.