Chirag Chotalia, WG’13, Mariya Nikiforova, WG’13, and Satya Tammareddy, WG’13
San Francisco is a place teeming with opportunity for the creative mind of a startup junkie and the analytical gears of a serial investor. For the Wharton MBA student participating in the exclusive San Francisco pilot, the program offers an incredible first look at what could be a promising career on the West Coast. But, what is the city all about? What draws so many entrepreneurs, investors, and families here?
We attempt to answer these questions by “living” in the shoes of Cohort SF (Cohort San Francisco) – from TechCrunch to Crunch Gym; from Off the Grid to the local Starbucks; and from Venture Capital and the Finance of Innovation to Development of Web-based Products – this cohort is getting an intimate educational experience so many East Coast MBAs would love to have.
It’s been an exciting first two weeks – starting off with an exhilarating first day, with all of us bright and early and into campus by 8am. Despite widespread jetlag, we were all in awe of the amazing Wharton West Campus, with a view of the Bay Bridge and sunshine streaming through the windows as we enjoyed breakfast.
On the social front, our cohort has been very active in getting to know each other and San Francisco. We kicked off our first week in traditional Wharton style with PUB, sponsored by the WGA, downstairs at Palomino’s. One overall observation was that there was a lot more wine being consumed than beer…we are in the wine capital of the US after all! This PUB kicked on to another PUB with Wharton Alumni, where we met many of our predecessors who are now working all over the Bay.
The festivities continued all weekend, with a dozen of us heading out to “Off the Grid,” a roaming mobile food extravaganza at Fort Mason, to gorge on delicious street food and enjoy some rock music. We also took the opportunity to hit up the legendary “SF Bootie” at DNA Lounge, to see what all our Wharton friends who were in SF over the summer were talking about. Many small students also took impromptu trips to Napa Valley and capitalized on the proximity to wine country!
Furthermore, we’ve been treated to some amazing guest speakers so far. Peter Farago (WG ’03) of Flurry gave us an animated presentation around the mobile app analytics industry and stressed the importance of mobile in the future. Davis Smith (WG ’11), co-founder of Baby.com.br, made for an extremely inspiring guest speaker before our Venture Capital class (thanks Tom Baldwin for organizing this!) as he recounted the now legendary story of how he started one of Brazil’s hottest and fastest growing startups. It was serendipitous that Professor Wessels was sitting in the seat that Davis was in only a few years earlier when he took the same course.
Several pilot participants are engaged in career related pursuits outside of the classroom—and have found the Wharton pilot program to have already enhanced their pursuits given the curriculum and location. Mike Taormina (WG ’13), co-founder of CommonBond, a provider of student loan alternatives said “participating in the SF pilot was an easy decision, both for me and my start-up. The ability to leverage the resources of the Wharton Venture Initiation Program here in SF as well as connect with the entrepreneur ecosystem in San Francisco is great for students serious about taking their companies to the next level.”
It is not only entrepreneurs but also those engaged in more traditional career pursuits that have found the pilot to be of value. Vishy Venugopalan (WG ’13) is currently working with Bessemer Venture Partners, a leading VC firm. He works most closely with a Boston-based deal partner and is able to help this partner “identify and source potentially interesting opportunities in the Valley.” Additionally Vishy has found the location incredibly conducive to general networking—“in Philadelphia, you could hop on the bus to New York to meet companies, but here there are hundreds of interesting companies in our back yard.” For Jake Samuelson (WG ’13), being located in San Francisco has allowed him to continue to work for his Menlo Park-based start up, Kuato Studios, a company focused on bringing technological innovation to education. “Being in San Francisco allows me to stay close to company executives…as well as to potential customers, ” said Samuelson.
Cheers to a great semester out West!