Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow: The Social Media Startup

Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowships are available to Penn/Wharton Undergraduates and First Year MBAs. They are awarded to students who plan to spend the summer in an entrepreneurial setting and who demonstrate both a commitment to entrepreneurship at Penn and to pursuing an entrepreneurial career. To apply, click here.

By Jasmine Kriston W’15, 2013-14 Dr. William Zucker Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow at Curalate

Last fall I set the goal of finding a start-up to work for Summer 2013. During the summer prior I had experienced working for a large company, AT&T. I ended sophomore year wanting to get a taste of what working in a company of less than 20 people would feel like.

I began my start-up search by making a list of some of the companies and industries I was most interested in. I was particularly fascinated by Pinterest’s success. Pinterest, the third leading social network, recently changed the experience of social networking from primarily text to images. Following Pinterest’s lead, several retail brands have adopted similar visual and interactive user experiences for their websites.

Before reaching out to any of the companies on my list, I created a video using Pinterest as a platform to tell my story:

I finished my video before I attended the Penn career services’ start-up fair. At the fair I spoke with several start-ups. I also met Curalate’s co-founder and CTO, Nick Shiftan. Curalate, a First Round backed company, does analytics for the visual web: platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. At the fair, Nick was wearing a shirt, which said, “I’m huge on Pinterest-with Curalate.” We immediately started talking about our similar interest in Pinterest and other visual social media platforms.

A few weeks later my video was in the hands of Curalate’s marketing team. I received an email from Curalate’s CEO and founder, Apu Gupta WG’05, inviting me to their office.

Before we met, I spent hours researching Curalate and talking with several people in the start-up field who knew members of the Curalate team. I found that Curalate was well known for using their own analytics to create infographics, which displayed tons of interesting data in a fun, visual, and creative way.

I spent the night before my meeting with Curalate’s CEO making an inforgraphic titled “Curalate & Me” which outlined what I wanted to do for the company as a summer intern:

Curalate & Me Infographic

During my interview, Apu said it was refreshing that I had taken the time to outline what I wanted to do at Curalate: Rather than burdening the start-up with having to find a role for me. My interview lasted for hours; I spoke with more three team members to see how I was cultural fit.

I remember leaving the office and feeling really excited to have found a team of nerds who were just as interested in images and Pinterest as I was. A week later I received an offer to be a summer intern for the company and accepted.

I spent the summer working with Curalate as a sales and marketing intern. I watched the company grow from 13 employees to 25. I was also part of their big move from working in First Round Capital’s Philadelphia office to leasing their own space in center city. The Curalate team is one of the most fun and smart groups of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They’ve made it easy for me to decide that I will definitely want to pursue a start-up again this summer and after graduation. I feel privileged to be able to say I was part of the Curalate team for a summer.

JasmineBio: Jasmine is a junior at Wharton studying Finance and Management with two minors in Computer Science and Engineering Entrepreneurship. At Penn she sits on the Executive Board for the Wharton Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Club. Jasmine is also a founding member of the Dorm Room Fund (DRF), backed by First Round Capital. Jasmine oversees post-funding business development resources for DRF’s portfolio companies. She sources and cultivates one-on-one relationships with companies, which partner with Dorm Room Fund to offer resources to their portfolio companies. Jasmine has experience in development from interning as an Applications Developer for AT&T. She also recently interned for Curalate, a Philadelphia data and analytics start-up, as a Sales and Marketing Intern. This summer Jasmine will be joining Andreessen Horowitz, a $2.65 billion venture capital firm in Menlo Park, as an investment team intern.

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Worth a Taste Test

By Matthew Brodsky

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Wharton Magazine blog.

It’s no bologna to say that second-year MBAs Nicole Marie Capp and Justin Matthew Sapolsky, W’08, are in the midst of a dream: starting their own food business.

Capp comes from a food family that operates high-end delis in Brooklyn, N.Y. Sapolsky, an investor before returning to Wharton, wrote his Wharton MBA entrance essay about getting into the food business.

“Being at Wharton definitely put the gas on that,” he told me, related how he has been able to realize his dream and passion while at School: With the food startup Matt & Marie’s Modern Italian Sandwiches.

Matt and Marie's

Second-year Wharton MBAs Justin Matthew Sapolsky, W’08, and Nicole Marie Capp earned Twitter praise after they catered an event this past fall for Wharton entrepreneurs.

As the story goes, the pair met as vice presidents of the Wharton Entrepreneurship Club in November 2012. By January 2013, they were launching Matt & Marie’s as a catering operation. They worked during the summer out of the Wharton MBA space at 2401 Walnut St. (open as free office space to MBA entrepreneurs) and tapped into Wharton Entrepreneurship resources as part of the Venture Initiation Program (VIP). Through fall 2013, they had catered as many as 25 events around campus. For cooking, they were sharing kitchen space at Enterprise Center at West Philly, a health-grade commercial kitchen that allows operations to rent by the hour.

I initially reached out to Matt & Marie’s during research for a food truck article (still ongoing), and couldn’t resist learning more about delicious sandwiches even after Sapolsky told me they decided against a food truck because they’ve tested their concept already through catering.

Their plan instead, reported Sapolsky, is to have a lease signed on a Center City brick-and-mortar location by the time this article is posted. And by the end of the school year, Capp and Sapolsky may be ready to open the storefront. In the meantime, Sapolsky will do an independent study with OPIM (Operations and Information Management) Professor Eric K. Clemons, who has served as an advisor to Matt & Marie’s. That way, Sapolsky and Capp will also get academic credit as they tend to their kitchen, literally.

The dream is all boot-strapped at the moment, but also scalable. And that gets to why Sapolsky and Capp may have chosen the food business (besides being passionate foodies). Sapolsky noted how Matt & Marie’s menu is simple, much like many of the other restaurants that have exploded on the scene in recent years—the likes of Chipotle, Five Guys Burger and Fries, and Potbelly. Though they chose to open Matt & Marie’s first store in Philadelphia, a town with a lot of authentic Italian eateries, a lot of places don’t, Sapolsky was quick to note.

Fascinating, too, was Sapolsky’s perspective on the startup scene in general. There is a veritable buffet of Internet and tech startups on campus, and beyond.

“There’s room for people to still focus on brick and mortar,” he said.

Particularly, if they also focus on bread, meats and toppings.

It sounds like they are. Sapolsky’s favorite item on the Matt & Marie’s menu is the Roman Cavalry.

“Our chef designed all the sandwiches to balance the five flavor profiles: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. This one does it really well. It has cured coppa, fennel salami, genoa, aged provolone cheese, house-made sweet pickled peppers and a spicy peperoncini aioli on our seeded Italian bread.”

Expect a taste testing of this startup as soon as possible …

Update: Matt & Marie’s has now signed a lease on a location in Center City, and they expect to open in late Spring 2014. Want to go to the soft opening event? Sign up here. 

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Wharton Business Plan Competition Series: Matthew Tanzer, Chief Commercial Officer of RightCare Solutions

BPC 15Yr - BPC Homepage - FINALBy Izzy Park WG’15

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Wharton Journal.

This article is a part of a special series on the Wharton Business Plan Competition (WPBC). Today, we talk to Matt Tanzer (W’02, WG’12), Chief Commercial Officer of RightCare Solutions. RightCare Solutions was started by three Wharton founders and took first place in the 2012 WBPC.

Matthew Tanzer

Matthew Tanzer (W’02,WG’12)

Wharton Journal: What was the inspiration behind starting RightCare? 

MT:  Have you ever had a family member or friend get sick, go to the hospital, and then spend the next weeks or months bouncing in and out on a seemingly endless rotation of hospital visits?  I’m no stranger to this situation either, and it was heartbreaking to see my loved ones suffer when they were readmitted mere days or weeks after their original discharge.  Every year millions of Americans become trapped in this vicious cycle, costing the healthcare system billions of dollars.   Hospitals need tools to identify these high-risk patients proactively and technology that connects providers and patients all along the care continuum.  Every patient should get the services they need to have the highest quality outcomes, and RightCare’s built software to deliver on that.

WJ: How did RightCare get its start?

MT:  In 2004, Dr. Kathy Bowles, a researcher and professor in the School of Nursing, was investigating the root causes for why older adults were being readmitted to hospitals at alarming rates.  One of the researchers on her team, Eric Heil (Eng’05, WG’12), was a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  In the seven years apart Kathy turned her research into a cutting-edge predictive modeling tool while Eric built a successful career in venture capital. They reunited at Penn when Eric enrolled in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives.  Recognizing the growing need in the marketplace for software technology that helps clinicians lower readmissions, improve patient outcomes, and reduce health system costs, they formed RightCare Solutions.

WJ: What was the status of RightCare (operationally) when entering into the Wharton Business Plan Competition?

MT: Kathy was awarded roughly $5M of NIH-funding to develop what is now thee core IP of our software. By the time the BPC began, we already had peer-reviewed clinical data underpinning our company.  And with the help of our Wharton classmates, who provided frank and brutal assessments of our plan during the early stages, we had a concise pitch deck. We began to line up meetings with potential investors, and had initiated negotiations with Penn on obtaining an exclusive license to commercialize Kathy’s research.

WJ: What did the team decide to do with the awarded funds?

MT:  We put the awards towards creating our website and related marketing collateral, exhibiting at conferences on healthcare quality, licensing software development tools, and a host of other activities. On top of the cash award, the in-kind legal and accounting services were huge. There’s nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer or accountant, and the competition helped us avoid that early pitfall by pairing us up with two prestigious firms in Duane Morris and KPMG.

WJ: Did you know that you would end up working with Eric Heil (Eng’05, WG’12,) and Mrinal Bhasker (WG’12) right away?

MT:  For me, RightCare started out as nothing more than class credit. Yet, the more I learned about the havoc that readmissions wreaked on patients, their families, and the healthcare system at large, the stronger my convictions became about RightCare. How it was not only a viable business but was a challenge that I simply had to tackle. Once that belief took hold, the thought of working alongside Eric and Mrinal as professional colleagues was just icing on the cake.

WJ: How did the dynamics and responsibilities of the team stay intact when RightCare started to scale and how has it managed to stay intact?

MT:  One of the reasons our team has clicked so well since the beginning is that between the three founding management team members, our skills and experiences are incredibly diverse and complementary. Eric learned as a venture capitalist how to form companies and raise money. Mrinal had built and exited healthcare technology companies in the past, and was most recently the Chief Architect for Maryland’s Health Information Exchange. I had spent the early part of my career focusing on commercial operations and analytics, which have been critical to our company’s early growth. We trust each other, and we hope that foundational value persists as our company scales.

WJ: Tell us about RightCare’s early fundraising experience.

MT:  Just because someone is willing to invest in you doesn’t make them the best investor for you. We spent a lot of time at the outset trying to identify investors who do more than just write checks, ones who could also provide mentorship for our management team and open doors to potential customers. Fortunately, in Compass Partners and Domain Associates, we found two such investors.

WJ: On game day, what would be your most valuable advice for those pitching in the competition?

MT:  Don’t let the thought of winning or losing overshadow the fact that this competition, in and of itself, is an incredible opportunity. You get tangible, concrete feedback on your written business plan from the successful entrepreneurs who serve as judges. Wharton Communications professors help you refine your message. You pitch in a live-fire pressure situation in front of several hundred people. My advice is to savor this moment and get as much out of the process as you possibly can. And if you’re still not convinced, think about Warby Parker, Baby.com.br, and Graphene Frontiers. None won the BPC, yet all are startup phenoms doing amazing things in their respective industries.

WJ: What are some really important trends in healthcare technology right now? 

MT:  Two trends come to mind. First, health data is being collected more routinely and in more detail than ever, enabling big data and analytics techniques to become more widespread, especially on the provider side of healthcare. Second, growth in mobile technology has given rise to a variety of consumer engagement apps, telehealth programs, and remote patient monitoring devices that can connect patients to providers along the continuum of care. What gets us really excited is the potential for developing “Coordination Central” care transitions software that combines those two elements: using evidence-based data to guide the right patients to the right interventions, ultimately helping health systems improve patient care, achieve better outcomes, and lower costs.

WJ: What’s next for RightCare?       

MT:  We’re fortunate to have had two top-tier health system partners right in our backyard in Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, both of whom piloted and adopted our software. Having achieved robust readmission reductions at both organizations, we raised a Series B round to scale our commercialization and product development efforts, and are now in active discussions with providers all over the country. Our vision is to provide a software platform that every hospital in America can use to match patients with resources that will result in the highest quality outcomes. And with the support of Wharton and its community of professors and alumni, we’re on our way.

Izzy Park picBio: Izzy Park WG’15 a Vice President of the Wharton Design Club and a regular contributor to the Wharton Journal. Before Wharton, she was part of Deloitte’s Innovation+Growth team and served in the Office of the CTO, bringing new digital products and services to market.

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5 Reasons Women Make The Best Entrepreneurs

By Emelyn Northway WG’13 and Dorie Golkin WG’13, co-founders of Of Mercer

We are women entrepreneurs. As such, we’re part of a small (but growing!) group. We’re members of the Wharton MBA class of 2013, a class with not only the highest percentage of women (45%) in Wharton history, but also the highest number of students pursuing their own startups (7.4%). Clearly, change is happening, and we’re proud to be part of it. Our startup, Of Mercer, makes affordable, stylish workwear for women. We like to think we’re helping other women succeed in business through great style.

Stereotypes about women, and women entrepreneurs, abound. We often pride ourselves on breaking out of them. But today, we’re going to embrace them, and show you why women may just make the best entrepreneurs:

Stereotype #1: Women Don’t Take Risks

We are risk averse. So how did two people who don’t take risks start a business?  We did enough testing and research to get to a point where the decision to start Of Mercer no longer felt risky. Months before our November launch, we introduced a beta line of dresses to test fit, style, color, etc. Had we produced a full-line based on our initial designs (which at the time we thought were stellar), we would be sitting on a lot of unsold inventory. By taking our time, testing our products, and analyzing our data, we better understood the preferences of our customers.

Stereotype #2: Women Take Things Personally

When a dress that we worked so hard to perfect doesn’t work out for somebody, we take it to heart.  It would be easy to try to keep our egos intact by assuming the problem was with the customer, not the dress. But that’s not going to make our product better, and it’s definitely not good customer service. Instead we accept the feedback because it enables us to constantly improve our product, and better serve our customers.

Stereotype #3: Women Stop To Ask For Directions

You can get where you’re going a whole lot faster if you stop and ask for directions. Before starting Of Mercer, neither of us had experience in fashion or retail (besides being avid consumers).  So we talked to everyone we possibly could, admitting we were novices.  Doing so gave us free reign to ask all the questions that we wanted, without judgment, and as a result, to get up to speed on the industry as fast as possible.  And the sooner you can get those “stupid” questions out of the way, the less likely you are to actually look stupid later on when someone is judging you.

Stereotype #4: Women Love To Talk

As entrepreneurs navigating a new industry, networking is our best friend, and it’s a lot easier when you like to talk.  Being willing to talk to anyone about our business (or about theirs), opens up unexpected business and learning opportunities. Being honest and up front about what we need help with, not only gives others the opportunity to help out (thank you very much, Adam Grant’s Give & Take), but also opens up communication channels to create deeper, more involved relationships.

Stereotype #5: Women Are Obsessed With Relationships

Many women report being more satisfied with their jobs when they have strong relationships with coworkers and feel liked and supported. While this applies to co-workers, it also applies to vendors, developers, and anyone else with whom you work.  We tend to view those relationships as long-term, not just as transactional.  Seeing them as people who don’t just work “for you” because you are paying them, but as part of your team, helps develop trusting working relationships.

***

Okay, so we’re kidding around when we say that women make “the best” entrepreneurs. But while the percentage of Venture Capital funding going to women-led businesses has plenty of room for improvement (it was 13% in 2013), it is growing (up 20% over 2012). With the huge success of a number of recent female-founded startups—think Rent the Runway, Spanx, Birchbox—we expect this number to continue to grow, and for good reason.  According to research cited in this Forbes article, VC firms that invest in women-led businesses performed better than all men-led businesses.  Further, women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35% higher return on investment.

We hope to see more and more women choosing to become entrepreneurs in the near future. And if you need some fabulous yet businesslike clothes for that VC meeting, we encourage you to check out Of Mercer.

Emelyn and Dorie - smallerBio: Dorie Golkin and Emelyn Northway, both WG’13, co-founded Of Mercer, a direct-to-consumer brand of stylish, affordable women’s workwear.  Dorie graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Civil Engineering. Prior to Wharton she was a strategy consultant at Deloitte.

Emelyn graduated from Cornell University with degrees in Economics and Psychology. Prior to Wharton she worked as an analyst at Bank of America and later as an associate at Liberty Partners. They both love residing in New York but miss their go-to restaurants in Philadelphia.

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Best Time Ever To Be An Entrepreneur In India

By Anirudh Suri WG’12, founder and CEO of Findable.in

If you read my last post, “Why Is It So Hard To Start A Business in India?” then you know that there are some big challenges to starting a business, especially a tech business, in India. But as I keep saying, this is actually the best time ever to be an entrepreneur in India.

Here’s why:

  1.  The cool factor. It’s cool to be an entrepreneur in India today; “startups” have become a buzzword on most top college campuses across the country as well as among the top employers in the country. Parents (and even more importantly in the Indian context, potential wives and husbands!) are beginning to consider “startups” as a good way to begin or further a career. Three years ago, when I moved back to India, my father wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of “startups” but today, with all the major newspapers covering new startups every day, he’s excited too! It bodes well for the future of entrepreneurship in India.
  2.  Rapidly evolving ecosystem. The startup ecosystem is really evolving rapidly in India. When I moved back in 2011 to launch India Internet Group, an early stage venture capital fund focused on internet and mobile startups, we were amongst the first early stage funds in India, along with Blume Ventures (run by Karthik Reddy, WG’01) and Kae Capital. Today, I can’t even count the number of early stage funds, accelerators, incubators and other such programs that really help seed startups in India.
  3.  Opportunities for efficiency. India continues to offer many opportunities for successful startups to solve basic problems and make markets more efficient. Often, successful startups have managed to organize unorganized markets in India (e.g., RedBus organized the bus travel tickets market; Ola Cabs has organized the unorganized cab market; JustDial has organized the unorganized services market; MakeMyTrip has organized the air travel and hotel market). Several of these companies have also provided handsome returns to their early investors through either IPOs (Makemytrip, JustDial, Infoedge) or acquisitions (RedBus). Similarly, my own startup, Findable.in, is trying to organize the offline retail market by aggregating and bringing online the retail inventory of offline retailers.
  4.  E-commerce. Besides organizing unorganized markets, other startups (e-commerce companies, for example) are bringing greater efficiencies to the Indian market and facilitating commerce and delivery of services. E-commerce companies such as Flipkart.com and Snapdeal.com have been a boon to the Indian middle class, especially in smaller towns that haven’t seen their offline retail markets evolve in the same way that their purchasing capacity has evolved. The very Indian model of “Cash-on-Delivery” driven e-commerce in India (which Flipkart in India has become synonymous with) has brought great convenience to the consumers, albeit at sometimes a very high cost to the retailer.
  5. Mobile. India already has the second largest number of mobile phone users in the world (second only to China) with over 900 million mobile phones. At the same time, mobile internet users are increasing in India at a pace unmatched in the rest of the world. The number of mobile internet users is going to reach 185 million by June 2014. Customers who have been deprived of quality entertainment for so long (besides cricket and Bollywood, of course) are taking to mobile-based games and entertainment like fish to water. Still others are starting to search and buy everything on the go. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if more global mobile startups come out of India in the next 2-3 years.

Despite all the hurdles to success, this is a great time to be an entrepreneur in India. With huge open opportunities in travel, Software as a Service (SaaS), mobile payments, gaming, entertainment, marketplaces, and just easier and better access to information and products, the potential for impact is immense. By leveraging mobile and internet technology, entrepreneurs in India have the opportunity to transform the way Indians will lead their lives. And that’s why so many Wharton alumni, including myself, are deep in the Internet trenches of India today.

Anirudh SuriBio: Anirudh Suri WG’12, is currently the CEO of Findable.in, a location-based product search platform based in India. He is also the Founding Partner of India Internet Group, an early stage venture capital fund based in Mumbai, Delhi and New York. Previously, Anirudh worked at McKinsey& Company, Goldman Sachs, and as a policy advisor to fellow Wharton alumnus and the Hon’ble Minister of State for Communications and Technology in the Government of India, Mr. Sachin Pilot. At Wharton, Anirudh was a member of the Venture Initiation Program and the Entrepreneurship Club; organized the BizTech Conference and the Wharton India Economic Forum; and also partied a lot in Center City Philadelphia.

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Why Is It So Hard To Start A Business in India?

By Anirudh Suri WG’12, founder and CEO of Findable.in

I’ve been in the startup trenches in India for the last three years. I’m currently the CEO of Findable.in, a location-based product search platform based in India, and I’m also the Founding Partner of India Internet Group, an early stage venture capital fund based in Mumbai, Delhi and New York. I think this is the best time ever to be an entrepreneur in India. However, it’s also an incredibly difficult journey.

In this post, I explain what makes starting a business in India so hard. But don’t be discouraged! My next post will explain why this is actually such a great time to be an entrepreneur in India.

An Incredibly Difficult Journey…

  1. Poor labor market. It’s tough to hire great people in India to work at startups. This is changing, but many smart folks don’t want to join your startup for a low salary, especially since people worry that equity or options won’t pay off in the long run. As a result, the top layer in Indian startups is world-class, but then you see a big dip in the middle and lower levels. While some of the startup founders in India are as motivated and talented as their counterparts in the U.S., motivating employees is much harder in India than it is in the U.S. This hurts the startup’s productivity levels as well as its ability to innovate and scale.
  2. Red tape. India has an incredible way of bogging you down with procedural, compliance and other such issues. As a CEO, I am spending way more time dealing with accounting, legal, and corporate compliance-related issues than I expected. At least twice a week, I have to sit down with our Chartered Accountant or our lawyers or the Company Secretary to ensure that we have met the TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) requirements, completed our compliance with the RoC (Registrar of Companies), etc. Combine that with the time spent motivating un-motivated employees, and some weeks, you have no idea where your week went!
  3. Lack of quality mentors. The quantity and quality of mentors in India (with the possible exception of Bangalore) is not quite up to the level of what you would find in Silicon Valley or other startup hubs such as New York, Philly or Boston.  Not entire surprising, since tech entrepreneurship is still in its infancy in India. The oldest successful tech startup founders are probably 10 years old in the industry, but really the bulk of the companies have been founded since 2008. The founders of these companies will likely become, in a few years, the kind of investors and mentors that Silicon Valley boasts of. Already, some successful entrepreneurs – the likes of Naveen Tiwari (InMobi), Kunal Bahl (Snapdeal, WG’06), Amar Goel (Komli), K. Ganesh (Tutorvista), Sanjeev Bikchandani (Infoedge, Naukri.com) – are starting to become active investors and mentors. India could use a lot more such mentors and investors.
  4. Slow consumer traction. The Indian internet consumer is also just learning how to consume the internet, or mobile apps for that matter. This means that customer traction is often very slow, and requires a lot of customer education. For example, OLX and Quikr – two prominent classified sites in India – as well as eBay have had to spend a lot of time, effort and money in educating the Indian consumer on how to sell old products online. Similarly, for my first startup, EkSMS.com, it took us a long time to educate restaurants and bars on using the SMS or web platforms for their marketing. The Indian consumer hasn’t quite displayed the same kind of early adopter characteristics as users in California might have.
  5. Problems getting paid. Moreover, the Indian consumer (or the Indian small business) is not very willing to shell out cash quite yet, so recurring credit card subscription businesses (the likes of Netflix, etc.) as well as others that require consumers or small businesses to pay are very hard to build here. With EkSMS.com and Findable.in, we have often had to run after our customers to get longstanding bills cleared. This also requires Indian startups to be even more frugal in their initial stages than their Silicon Valley counterparts.

These challenges are very real, and any entrepreneur interested in starting a company in India should be aware of them. However, I can’t say enough times that this is truly the best time to be an entrepreneur in India. Stay tuned for my next post, when I explain exactly why.

Anirudh SuriBio: Anirudh Suri WG’12, is currently the CEO of Findable.in, a location-based product search platform based in India. He is also the Founding Partner of India Internet Group, an early stage venture capital fund based in Mumbai, Delhi and New York. Previously, Anirudh worked at McKinsey& Company, Goldman Sachs, and as a policy advisor to fellow Wharton alumnus and the Hon’ble Minister of State for Communications and Technology in the Government of India, Mr. Sachin Pilot. At Wharton, Anirudh was a member of the Venture Initiation Program and the Entrepreneurship Club; organized the BizTech Conference and the Wharton India Economic Forum; and also partied a lot in Center City Philadelphia.

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Take Some Risks To Change The World

By Davis Smith, Wharton MBA’11, Arts & Sciences MA’11, co-founder of Baby.com.br and Dinda.com.br

In June 2013, I met with a group of Lauder students on a rooftop in Rio de Janeiro with a stunning view of Botafogo Bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain. After encouraging the students to look beyond traditional job opportunities and take risks that would allow them to “change the world,” one of the students asked me if I felt I had changed the world with my businesses that sold pool tables and baby products. The question was sincere, but it stung. Unbeknownst to him, I had been asking myself the same question in the previous months and had already decided I was going to make a change, but this student’s question increased my sense of urgency to take my own advice.

While I was at business school at Wharton, my cousin and I closed a $4.3 million round with a PowerPoint and a killer domain, nothing more. Brazil was hot, and we knew it. It wasn’t by coincidence that we chose Brazil or the baby market. We spent our first year in school coming up with 60 business ideas, which was facilitated by my involvement in the Venture Initiation Program. During the summer, I was fortunate enough to receive a Wharton Venture Award, which allowed us to rigorously research, vet and test our plans. By the end of the summer, we had narrowed the 60 to 1 and knew that we had a game-changing idea.

Just two years earlier, my friends, family and neighbors thought I was crazy. My cousin and I had started PoolTables.com out of undergrad, and had grown it into the largest retailer of pool tables in the US. When we told people we were going back to school, nobody understood. Life was good, but we believed MBAs would give us the knowledge and networks needed to build something truly meaningful. We sold our business, essentially burning the ships. It had seemed reckless, but now appeared brilliant.

Within eighteen months of the Baby.com.br launch, we had raised $40 million and built a business that had become a household name in Brazil, especially among young families. Our team consisted of one of Brazil’s biggest celebrities and many of the most seasoned e-commerce professionals in the country.

For all the company’s successes, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. We were battling fierce competitors, Brazil was incredibly difficult to navigate, margins were slim and our business was extremely capital intensive. Despite these challenges, we found ways to push the business forward. We launched Dinda.com.br and continued to see our businesses grow beyond what we’d ever hoped. It was every entrepreneur’s dream-come-true. However, after three years of working on the business, I unexpectedly began feeling it might be time for a change.

Once again, the comments of old began: You’re crazy to leave your company now! Just as before, people didn’t (don’t) understand the timing. I admit that stepping away was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made. My decision to leave was based on two major factors that I couldn’t work around:

First, I was unhappy with our founding dynamics. My cousin and I had worked together for years, building some amazing businesses. There are partnerships that work well; in fact, ours had worked for a decade, but running a business as Co-CEOs was taxing. Ultimately, as many founding relationships do, our friendship began to sour. Trying to salvage our relationship became more important to me than power, control or money. I felt strongly that it was time for us to part ways as business partners.

Second, I wanted to make a bigger difference with my work. My reason for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place was to have a positive impact on the less fortunate. My co-founder, family and friends knew this. It has always been my life’s passion, largely driven by the fifteen years I’ve lived in the developing world (nearly half my life). Around this time, that desire to do good began to burn deeper than ever before.

Just four months after meeting with those Wharton students in Rio de Janeiro, I left my day-to-day role at Baby.com.br/Dinda.com.br and moved back to the US to begin my next adventure. Cotopaxi will be launching in Spring 2014.

1. Davis headshot - smilingBio: Davis Smith is a serial entrepreneur, a graduate of the Wharton School and Lauder Institute’s Class of 2011. He is the founder and CEO of Cotopaxi.

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2013-14 Wharton Business Plan Competition Semi-finalists!

BPC 15Yr - BPC Homepage - FINALBy Manasa Tanuku WG’15, Co-Chair for the Wharton Business Plan Competition

We are thrilled to announce this year’s semi-finalists for the Wharton Business Plan Competition 2013-2014. With a record number of 181 approved submissions, we have been incredibly impressed by both the quantity and quality of business overviews received.

As Co-Chairs, Johannes Quodt (WG’15) and I, along with the rest of the WBPC committee, have worked hard to promote the competition throughout the Penn student community, beyond the Wharton full time MBA program. It’s great to see, then, that just under 40% of our 25 semi-finalists are from outside this program. Within this sub-sect alone, we have teams representing many schools at Penn including: the Law School, the Nursing School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, that represents undergraduates, executive students and doctorates candidates and representation from the Wharton San Francisco campus. For a historically MBA- centric competition, we are excited to see increased engagement from the rest of the Penn student community. This composition can only mean great things for the competition and for our teams.

This year also saw an increase in the number of information technology plans, a shift from the heavy focus on healthcare businesses we’ve typically seen. If our business ideas at the WBPC are any indication of where you will start to see a steady growth in entrepreneurial ventures outside the Penn community, these are some telling data points.

We’re very excited to announce that nearly a quarter of our semi-finalists self-selected as Social Impact Businesses. As we inaugurate the Social Impact Prize at the competition this year, this is a great beginning for what we hope will become a core and differentiating component of the WBPC.

The semi-finalist teams will now be preparing their business plans and pitches to the judges, with the help of WBPC provided mentors, events, and Wharton Entrepreneurship resources. After a closed judging session on March 21st, eight of these 25 teams will move forward to the public venture finals, which will take place on May 1st. We look forward to seeing you all there as we select our final winners.

In the meantime, please join us in congratulating the semi-finalist teams below. Good luck to all!

Abaris - Team Leader: Matthew Carey WG’15

Abaris is an Orbitz for Annuities. We are creating the first of its kind online marketplace enabling consumers to easily compare quotes on insurers’ guaranteed lifetime income offerings.

AdmitSee - Team Leader: Stephanie Shyu L’14

AdmitSee is a social media platform for current college and grad students to share their application details and advice with prospective students. By providing low-cost access to application tips and examples, AdmitSee aims to level the higher education playing field.

AirCare* - Team Leader: Stephanie Hwang NU’14

AirCare is a communications platform that allows any clinician the ability to remotely monitor any patient, any  time, any where. Our technology integrates mobile, tablet, and web software as well as automated phone calls and text messages to send customized questionnaires to patients, improving the quality of care they receive.

AppHappy - Team Leader: Steven Mong WG’14 (WEMBA – East)

AppHappy serves to expand the provision of mental health care by developing a mobile app providing stress management through gamified cognitive behavioral therapy.

Black Box Denim* - Team Leader: Adina Luo W’16

Custom jeans at designer quality. Perfect cut, wash, and fit. Delivered to your doorstep.

bookn’tell - Team Leader: Yonatan Sela WG’14

Bookn’tell is the first referrals engine for local service providers. We enable users to find local service businesses through credible friend referrals, book appointments online and save money when referring other friends.

Cloudbook - Team Leader: Matan Agam WG’14

Cloudbook is a new education technology company that modernizes exam taking, grading, security, and big data learning analytics by using a tablet-based assessment system that is easy and affordable to administer to students for on-site exams.  Cloudbook helps instructors, students, and administrators spot trends early, recommend solutions, and experience lifelong improvements.

Dana Cita - Team Leader: Susli Lie WG’14

Dana Cita, which means “Aspiration Fund” in Indonesian, aims to empower Indonesian youths to create a better future for themselves by bridging the education financing and employment gaps. Dana Cita does so by providing loans for aspiring students to attend vocational schools and universities while also connecting them to promising future careers through a job matching platform and our network of partner institutions.

FlopSports - Team Leader: Zachary Garber WG’15

FlopSports is taking the idea of fantasy sports and flipping it on its head. Specifically, FlopSports users can win cash prizes by correctly predicting which players will underperform during their games.

GovPredict - Team Leader: Steven Johnston WG’14

GovPredict is an accurate, real-time predictive analytics tool for forecasting the probability that a congressional bill will pass and that a given congressman will vote for passage. These insights are based on algorithmic machine-learning that analyzes bill characteristics, congressional voting records, district demographics, and other meaningful variables.

IDENTIFIED Technologies Corporation* - Team Leader: Andy Wu PhD’16

IDENTIFIED Technologies delivers a system of flying robots to collect data, for today’s data-driven industrial businesses, in settings where it is too dangerous or physically impossible to currently place sensors.

KLAR - Team Leader: Raffi Holzer GEN’14

KLAR manufactures a coating for dental mirrors that once applied keeps them clean throughout dental procedures.

LentesCol* - Team Leader: Diego Marino WG’14

LentesCol is disrupting the contact lenses retail business in Latin America, offering a new way of purchase that is easier, cheaper and more convenient.

Matt and Marie’s* - Team Leader: Justin Sapolsky WG’14

Matt & Marie’s is a modern Italian sandwich store, bringing great food and hospitality elements of fine dining to an efficient fast service setting.

OwnYourCity.com - Team Leader: Joseph Carroll WG’14

OwnYourCity.com is a platform that allows individuals to buy a slice of previously unattainable individual real estate assets through the new concept of real estate crowdfunding. OwnYourCity will be to real estate what Vanguard.com is to index and mutual funds – a platform that provides retail investors with an investment vehicle to gain direct exposure to a very specific asset in an easy and cost efficient manner so that they can diversify their investment portfolio.

PhaseOptics - Team Leader: Frank Brodie MD’14/WG’14

PhaseOptics offers revolutionary imaging technology that allows for the early detection and prevention of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.

Prayas Analytics* - Team Leader: Yash Kothari W’15

Prayas Analytics is a retail analytics solution that uses existing security footage to empower retailers with data to better understand customer behavior and discover store efficiencies.

ProfessorWord* - Team Leader: Betty Hsu WG’14

ProfessorWord helps students learn vocabulary in context as they read online. Check out our free tool at www.professorword.com

Roominate - Team Leader: Sally Huang WG’15 (WEMBA-West)

Roominnate seeks to transform the residential real estate marketing and home improvement industry by dramatically changing the way people visualize how they decorate their homes.

Semmantica - Team Leader: Yago Montenegro WG’15

Semmantica is the online advertisement management and sales analytics software for Spanish and Latin American e-commerce businesses.

Senvol* - Team Leader: Zach Simkin C’06/WG’14

Senvol works with manufacturers and analyzes their industrial parts.  Using its proprietary algorithm, Senvol determines which of these parts can be more cost-effectively manufactured using 3D printing versus the status quo.

Slidejoy - Team Leader: Sanghoon Kwak WG’14

Slidejoy is an intelligent Android app that pays users to view beautifully designed ads every time they unlock their phones. Over time, the app learns the preferences of a user based off of previous behaviors during different times of day and at different locations and curates a more profitable and relevant user experience.

Take Command Health* - Team Leader: Jack Hooper WG’14

Take Command Health is a do-it-yourself website that empowers individuals and businesses to be savvy healthcare consumers, starting with health insurance.  We are the “Turbotax” and “Mint.com” for high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSA).  Our tools provide data-driven, personalized advice to help our members 1) select a plan 2) track their expenses, and 3) identify savings opportunities.

Urban Attic - Team Leader: Erik Stiller WG’15

Urban Attic provides door-to-door storage services for individuals and businesses. We pick up goods from customers’ homes and offices, store them in secure warehouses, and redeliver specific items on request, a process that can be managed end-to-end through our website and mobile app.

VeryApt - Team Leader: Ashrit Kamireddi WG’14

VeryApt is TripAdvisor meets Pandora for apartments.  VeryApt helps users find an apartment they will love, quickly and easily by combining user-generated reviews with big data analytics to deliver intelligent, personalized apartment recommendations.

* Current or former members of the Venture Initiation Program.

manasa solo blogpostBio: Manasa Tanuku is a first year MBA at the Wharton School of Business where she is one of this year’s Co-Chair for the Wharton Business Plan Competition. Prior to Wharton, Manasa spent several years as an Investment Banking M&A Analyst in New York, before moving to Kenya and India to work with the Acumen Fund, a global social impact investor focused on low income communities. Following Acumen, she returned to the US to work for two organizations – a social enterprise called Indego Africa focused on generating sustainable livelihoods and education for female Rwandan genocide survivors, and a commercial e-commerce enterprise. Manasa holds a Bachelors of Science from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

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2nd Annual Wharton Startup Un-Convention

By Tisha Vaidya WG’15

Last year’s inaugural Wharton Startup Un-Convention was a huge success, bringing together students, members of the Philadelphia business community, and entrepreneurs in a highly interactive format.  And we’re excited to announce that the Wharton Startup Un-Convention is back for 2014!  The Wharton Entrepreneurship Club and Wharton Entrepreneurship present “From Idea to Action,” bringing together some of the nation’s most savvy startup leaders to share their wisdom with budding entrepreneurs.  We’ve organized some incredible keynotes and a series of interactive workshops to give students and professionals a chance to learn from experts in a variety of industries to help them progress “From Idea to Action.”

Some of the brightest minds in the entrepreneurial world, including Liz Crawford from Birchbox, Jared Hecht from GroupMe, Davis Smith WG’11/G’11 from baby.com.br (and, coming soon, Cotopaxi), and Iqram Magdon-Ismail ENG’06 from Venmo, will speak to the group about their experiences, struggles, and accomplishments in each of their entrepreneurial pursuits.

Furthermore, the day is filled with interactive workshops that are both specific and intimate in nature, focusing on the various obstacles that every entrepreneur faces.  We want every attendee to get personal attention on his or her specific business idea – benefitting from the expertise of the various workshop leaders we have – in order to help each one move forward from the idea phase and into action.

We hope you can join us on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at The Hub Cira Centre, located at 29th and Arch (adjacent to 30th Street Station). Come at 9:00AM to check in, register for workshops, and enjoy some breakfast.  Each workshop has limited capacity, and seats will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive on time!  The afternoon keynote will conclude at 4:00PM, and we’ll finish out the day with drinks and networking at The Hub until 5:30PM.

Get your early bird ticket!

Tickets are currently available for sale through CampusGroups. RSVP and get yours today!  A limited number of tickets are available, so act fast!

Find out more…

This website is your source for all things Un-Convention.  Here you can check out our incredible lineup of keynotes and workshops, find out where to be for the Un-Convention, and learn more about our esteemed speakers and workshop leaders.  Stay tuned for updates, and follow us on Twitter!

tisha picBio: Tisha Vaidya is a first year MBA candidate at Wharton.  Prior to Wharton, she worked for Vornado Realty Trust, a publicly-traded commercial real estate REIT, focusing on commercial real estate investments in NYC, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.  A fourth-generation jeweler, Tisha launched her own branded jewelry collection called “Pratiksha Jewelry” this past summer. Tisha graduated from Emory University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Real Estate.  At Wharton, Tisha is a member of Cluster Council, Follies, Wharton Charity Fashion Show, and the Entrepreneurship Club.

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Why I Go To the Startup Fair

The 2014 Career Services Startup Fair will be held on Thursday, February 20, 11:00 am-3:00 pm in Houston Hall, 3417 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

By Chenyang (Ray) Lei ENG’16

Last year, I went to the Career Services Startup Fair. I was only a freshman, but I knew that I wanted an internship at a startup that summer. And I got one.

It wasn’t an easy process. As a freshman without any working experience, I received countless rejections. I suspect that many companies didn’t even bother to read my resume. I almost booked flight tickets back home to China (Thanks StudentUniverse.com! It was too expensive.) Heavily disappointed, I decided to take another approach.

From the Career Fair, I was familiar with SaleMove, and I was excited about the work they did, replicating an offline personalized sales experience in an online environment using cutting edge technologies. I called up Daniel Michaeli, the CEO of SaleMove, and I told him about myself: what I was studying and what I was looking for. I did everything I could to show him my passion for entrepreneurship.

Daniel told me later that he was surprised by the amount of confidence shown by a freshman—and he decided to give me a chance. I was assigned a coding project. The only problem? It was due during midterm week. I pulled a couple of all-nighters and finished the project with the help of some friends. After that, I went to New York for an onsite interview. And as you already know, I got the internship.

I was successful in negotiating a stipend for the summer from SaleMove. The problem was the high cost of living in NYC, so I applied for a Wharton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship and was award a Cai Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow (Read my Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow report here!).  I highly recommend that people apply for these fellowships.

My path to getting an internship at a startup wasn’t a straight line. It was hard, and I had to do more than just send out resumes and wait for the phone to ring. But it was worth it. I want to start my own tech venture in the future, and a real startup environment pushed me towards being a better technician and a potential entrepreneur. My experience at the startup did change me a lot. I had an awesome time in New York City, with all the great experiences offered by the Big Apple. I built up my career connections, technical skills, and self-confidence.

I’m going to the Startup Fair again this year, and I encourage you to do the same. You’ll meet people, talk to them, learn about opportunities—and you never know when those connections may come in handy. I’m already interviewing for some engineering summer intern positions on the West Coast, but last year’s experience taught me that the process of getting an internship can be complicated, and I want to see who else is hiring. I may need to cold call one of them.

Ray LeiBio: Ray Lei is a sophomore in the Engineering School. He studies Networked & Social Systems Engineering and researches computer poetry paraphrasing. An associate member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, he is also an active member in his bible study group. He co-runs PennApps Accelerator and Penn Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs. In his spare time, he snowboards and Skypes with his family.

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