By Mike Friedman WG’16
How I used the Wharton Innovation Fund to get my company, dlux, up and running!
Need your first seed funding?
You’re a Penn entrepreneur. You have passion, an idea, a team and… potentially some serious student loans that may be holding you back. You want to develop a prototype, test your concept and get your business off the ground. You’re ready to go and all you need is a bit of funding to bring your dreams to reality.
Where to start?
That’s the situation we were in last summer with dlux. We were launching a lighting company committed to using light to improve our health and sleep. Our software was ready but we needed seed funding to develop and test our first hardware prototypes.
We considered the Business Plan Competition (BPC), excited by the potential for unreal exposure and over $100K+ in prizes. We realized the BPC could be a great opportunity for us but we were six months away from the application cycle and still needed to refine our business model.
We looked into the Venture Initiation Program (VIP) which provides mentorship, access to industry leaders, office space and a community of like-minded peers… but we needed quick funding to develop our first prototypes.
Our First Funding at Wharton:
Enter Alberto Vitale. Wharton alumnus, former CEO of Random House Publishing and benefactor of the Wharton Innovation Fund (WIF) – your first stop for startup cash at Wharton! Alberto believes “business school is a conduit for creativity” so he created the WIF to support a “steady stream of students’ good ideas.”
We applied over the summer, received our check in about month and delivered on our first sale to Drexel University in late July. The WIF allowed us to hire a local industrial designer for the last stages of prototype design and manufacturing.
As a member of the WIF community, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Alberto. He made it crystal clear that he wants the WIF to be students’ “first source of capital” for their new ventures (usually $1500 for first-time applicants) at Wharton. He went on to emphasize that after hitting their goals, successful applicants should re-apply multiple times for additional support.
Entrepreneurship After Graduation:
In the six months since receiving our first award, we’ve refined our prototypes, made our first sales and developed partnerships with local lighting manufacturers and distributors. We’ve hit our goals and, true to promise, I picked up my second (and larger) check from the WIF last week! The good news kept coming as we just found out we’ve made it to final round interviews with the local PSL Accelerator and Techstars Healthcare Accelerator in LA… all because of the support we got through the Innovation Fund! There’re sure to be countless bumps and bruises in the months ahead but we’ll always be thankful for the Innovation Fund’s early belief and support that really got us going.
Bio: Mike Friedman is a 2nd year Wharton MBA Candidate and Co-Founder / CEO of dlux. He is passionate about the intersection of healthcare and technology and launched dlux to help people sleep better at night and perform better during the day—all using light. Prior to Wharton, Mike worked in engineering and consulting roles for GE, Toyota and Deloitte and advised a number of NYC startups in his free time.