By Chadwick Prichard, Wharton 2014, Vice President, Alpha Kappa Psi
On Tuesday, February 5, I hosted back-to-back events with Fred Wilson, Partner at Union Square Ventures, and Josh Kopelman, Partner at First Round Capital, on behalf of the Alpha Kappa Psi Aspire to Excellence Speaker Series. It was demanding, but the opportunity to listen to Fred and Josh–two of the most prominent venture capitalists on the East Coast–speak about their paths after Wharton, and lessons learned along the way, was well worth the effort.
Fred Wilson – On Being A Contrarian
Fred Wilson (WG’87), who has invested in companies such as Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Zynga and who blogs on AVC, spoke about being a contrarian and the importance of going against the current, beginning his speech with a quote from 18th Century investor Baron Rothschild, who said, “Buy when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” He added that when there is panic in the markets, and everyone has lost of fortune, including yourself, “this is the time to stand by your convictions and buy.”
Here are few more takeaways from Fred’s speech:
- It’s good to be a contrarian—not only as an entrepreneur, but for life, in general. You have to stand by your convictions and refuse to go with the flow if your intuition says otherwise. Do what you believe in.
- Product comes first. You don’t have to know how to make money right off the bat. You don’t need a business plan. You shouldn’t even have a business plan in the earlier stages. Build a product that solves a problem, and can scale, and you are well-positioned.
- Your network is important. In school, it is important to spend time with people who aren’t studying the same things as you. It gives you a different and valuable perspective, and will be useful years after school.
Josh Kopelman – The Entrepreneurial Mindset
Later that day, Josh Kopelman (W’93), managing director at the Philadelphia-based First Round Capital, who sold his company Half.com (the world’s largest marketplace for used books, music and movies) to eBay for $350 million in 2000, discussed his path as an entrepreneur, which he began as a seven-year-old with more neighborhood businesses (and business cards) than he could count. Josh explained that influential entrepreneurs do not just want to start businesses—they want to solve problems.
Here are my main takeaways from Josh’s speech:
- Entrepreneurship a mindset, not a profession. The most successful entrepreneurs recognize a problem that needs to be solved, and can’t sleep until they do something about it.
- Irony can be funny, and sometimes you just have to laugh. Josh once flew out to the West Coast to close a deal for $50 million as an entrepreneur, and since he was under 25, Hertz would not let him rent a car. He was responsible enough to handle $50 million, but not a rental car.
- Sometimes it is better to be lucky than smart. Josh sold his company Half.com to eBay for $350 million at the height of the Internet boom in February of 2000. The bubble burst just a few weeks later in March. No one could not have predicted the peak of the boom.
When all is said and done, organizing these two events was not easy, and I had a lot of help from some great people. Evan Rosenbaum, Daniel Weizman, Daniel Fine, Jimmy Kwon and Brandon Gleklen from the Wharton Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club were immeasurably helpful in planning and execution, as were Jill Anick and Emily Cieri from Wharton Entrepreneurship and Peter Winicov from Wharton Communications.
Vernon Hill – Billionaire Founder of Commerce Bank
Remember to RSVP for our next event with Vernon Hill (W’67), Founder of Commerce Bank (bought by TD for $8.5 billion), next Tuesday, February 12, at 4:30PM in G60 on behalf of Alpha Kappa Psi, co-sponsored by the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club, the Wharton Hedge Fund Club, the Wharton Management Club and the Wharton Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club.
Bio: Chadwick Prichard is a junior in Wharton and Vice President of Alpha Kappa Psi. He has interned with Waterman Entertainment (Stuart Little, Alvin and the Chipmunks) and Platform Media Group in Hollywood. He is interested in film production. Follow Chadwick on Twitter.