There is no denying that The Wharton School is a fantastic place, not only to go to school but to be from as an alumnus. There is also no denying that most certainly that our school has the reputation as “the finance school” and “the quant school.” We pride ourselves on our ability to critically analyze situations and scenarios, run simulations, model future projections, and optimize supply chains.
I admit that I swell up with pride when I look at our class and see that the very people I both socialized with and studied with are headed to world leaders in their respective industries. KKR, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson – they are all led by our alumni, and are fortunate to have future Wharton alumni (you all) headed to their companies to continue their legacy.
With graduation upon us, and about to join the ranks as Wharton Alumni, I have done some self-reflecting. What has Wharton meant to me? What can we do as a collective to make Wharton, and more importantly, our Wharton-classmates more successful? What is the future of Wharton?
During my second year of the business school experience I embarked on the entrepreneurial track, starting the digital health company, NeuroFlow. In the past two semesters, of my own journey starting a company, I have been in awe of our classmates who have started, nurtured and grown companies – well on their way to creating an immense amount of value – all with the Wharton brand firmly attached. This is what I would like to focus on for the remaining part of this article.
When discussing entrepreneurship, however, Wharton seems to be forgotten – at least not top-of-mind. Make no mistake, the school has made a focused effort in developing our entrepreneurial environment and the infrastructure to support our entrepreneurs. We boast “unicorn” startups such as Warby Parker, Venmo, Harry’s, and (who can forget) Tesla and SpaceX. Yet, despite the uptick in support and these game-changing companies, Harvard and Stanford remain the perennial schools for entrepreneurship.
In my estimation, there are three distinct and tangible things we can do, that require minimal effort to ensure Wharton begins to dig in our entrepreneurship trenches.
1. We need, as a school, to recognize and highlight our startups. There are various ways to do this, as an institution, and as alumni, but certainly the first step to do this is to know the startups currently coming out of Wharton.
There are many, to be sure. More than I can list here. I would encourage everyone to venture up to the 4th floor of Vance Hall – home of Wharton Entrepreneurship and where many of the startups work. I suspect that it would be interesting even if you do not want to start a company, but to merely learn what the entrepreneurial environment is like at your school, who is starting companies, and you may even stumble upon an opportunity for you to help a classmate and join an early stage and exciting company.
The likes of Burrow, on-demand modular couches were born here; Harper Wilde, bras done better, were sewn here; Advans, BarnOwl, and of course, Twine, winners of the Perelman grand prize for the Penn Wharton Startup Challenge all became a reality here.
2. Share these companies, their products and any news about them on social media. Startups, as you imagine are on tight budgets, and marketing sometimes is forced to take a back seat. Nothing can quite make up for free marketing through friends and family. The halo-effect can also be quite powerful, start a viral effect, and drive either sales or investor attention.
Not to mention, as a founder, it is incredibly uplifting to see support on social media – especially when a friend of a friend of a friend (someone I do not know) shares a post or your product. You would be surprised with how much this can make a difference when an entrepreneur is navigating the “trough of sorrow.” (Don’t know what the “trough” is…Google it and you will empathize, I promise).
3. Last, do you really want to support? Don’t ask for something free. Buy their product. If its not perfect, give them that honest feedback so they can improve. If they are a business to business product, help make a reference.
In my opinion, doing those three things will help complete the Wharton entrepreneurial ecosystem, and help immensely in coalescing a school that not only produces the future, innovation and great companies, but embraces them, their founders and the trials and tribulations that goes into founding them. I couldn’t be more proud to call myself a Wharton alumni, and in truth, founding NeuroFlow would have been close to impossible without Wharton, and thus, as graduation approaches, I want to emphasize this and ensure we all do our part in making Wharton the “quant and innovative school.”