Conferences. Parties. Classes. Ski trips. You name it, and Wharton has a myriad of choices to select from. Being the maximizing MBA students that we are, we don’t see missing out on anything as an option, so we buy all the tickets and books and packages. You get all excited, until you receive an invitation to interview in NYC or an email notifying that you are now officially off the trek waitlist. Great news, but now you are stuck with something you can’t use, and you commence a flurry of Facebook posts trying to recoup your sunk costs.
This is where PennList comes in to save the day. Think of it as Craigslist for Penn students, but in a much safer environment without any shady individuals. Students can post items to sell and browse listings from their peers. The platform currently has over 800 users and has received funding from GAPSA to maintain the services going forward. For co-founders Ilya Bezdelev (WG ‘15), John Li (WG ‘15) and Jeff Zhou (WG ‘15), this was a rewarding success that reaffirmed their commitment to entrepreneurship. Although they do not plan on monetizing PennList, the project was a great learning experience that will be sure to help them in the future.
Along with the abundant resources that Wharton offers for aspiring entrepreneurs, the school also creates the perfect setting for like-minded individuals to find one another, an important piece of the puzzle, since creating the right team is half the battle. While all three PennList co-founders have computer science backgrounds, the team exhibited very complementary skillsets that encompassed back-end, user and mobile development – a prime example of finding the right partners with the relevant experiences.
For those with business ideas, the Founders Club is a great forum to actively discuss your start-up with peers. There are also various business plan competitions where students can realize their concepts and prepare go-to-market strategies. When asked about the biggest hurdles that entrepreneurs might face, Ilya and John pointed to the lack of technical resources available to MBA students who do not have the often-necessary programming background. Their advice is to find talent where possible, build the business to the best of one’s capabilities and test the product first. Proceed with the proof of concept and get feedback from potential customers before getting stuck trying to build the most technically perfect platform.
Although there already exists a good selection of entrepreneurship classes, the team believes that students can benefit greatly by having more courses dedicated to teaching real-life tactical skills and implementation strategies. For example – how do you actually sell? How do you find customers? How do you build the critical mass network essential for profitability? And for the social network ventures, how do you monetize the platform without bombarding users with ads?
Being at a large school with endless opportunities also means that there are many ways to get lost and be distracted. Ilya and John stressed the importance of focus and prioritization. Entrepreneurship sounds fun and sexy on the surface but the work is often uncertain and can be frustrating. Outside options might be especially tantalizing during heavy recruiting season when everyone else is interviewing. But if creating a start-up is important to you, then have the firmness of mind and bravery of heart to stick to it!
The group is hosting a Winter Cleaning on Wednesday, January 22 in the Bodek Lounge at Houston Hall from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM for students to hang out and exchange goods. And the next time you need to get rid of that Finance textbook or buy a list minute ticket to the party, be sure to check out PennList at www.pennlist.co.