Latin America’s Growing Fintech Ecosystem

I would like to begin by clarifying that I am, by no means, an expert in this topic. However, after dedicating most of my summer at FinTech Collective to gaining familiarity with it, including a trip to three countries in the region, I have a few observations that I would like to share.

In a region that, despite macroeconomic complications, is currently energized by a surging middle class and a high degree of mobile penetration, fintech has emerged as a powerful tool of deepening financial inclusion and access to basic services. Brazil remains king – both in VC dollars captured and addressable market size. Its entrepreneurial ecosystem is yielding PayPal style “mafias” of accomplished entrepreneurs moving into other ventures after successful exits, and it consistently grabs headlines –as well as SoftBank’s attention – via massive funding rounds (think Creditas or Nubank this summer). Its local funds (including KaszeK or Monashees, among others) are becoming increasingly active in other Latin American countries, addressing funding needs particularly evident in the Series A/B space. Meanwhile, the Central Bank consistently speaks of lowering prices and increasing competition.

Nevertheless, positive signs are also clear in other countries. Mexico’s government is in the process of fully enacting a Fintech Law which, despite arguably raising barriers to entry in certain sub verticals, embraces the power of these new solutions. Its local funds are growing and gaining prestige, with fintech interest palpably increasing among Ignia, Dalus or ALLVP, among others. As the second biggest market behind Brazil, it is the chosen expansion target for most startups in the region, in part due to cultural and linguistic similarities. Simultaneously, the number of fintech startups in Colombia has nearly doubled in the past twelve months. Helped by agile regulatory changes – including the creation of a startup sandbox – improving conditions have granted the Andean country status as the third biggest fintech market in LatAm, ahead of the likes of Argentina or Chile. Nevertheless, for as long as family offices effectively act as the primary source of seed capital, the need for more robust local institutional options grows more pressing.

Sector wise, banking/lending/payments has generated the most noise to date. As the vertical has grown crowded, startups face the lower end of the pyramid frontier, which poses distribution challenges that will be hard to overcome. Insure tech has emerged as a promising space, as the need for such products parallels rising middle class affluence. Reg tech opportunities should also materialize as legislation settles and regulatory burdens require out sourced assistance. Lastly, as high fraud prevalence remains an endemic regional problem, integrated solutions in the digital identity space will be attractive. As corporates prove inflexible, these startups might even prefer API-ready peers to legacy customers, in terms of clientele.

In summary, an abundant supply of talent is finally meeting the necessary conditions to become more realized. After decades of insufficient product offerings from traditional banks and prohibitively high rates, a different light shines on customers in one of the most urbanized regions of the world. Vibrant communities are emerging around fintech ecosystems, drawing inspiration perhaps not only from the United States, but more so from East and Southeast Asia.

First Year Three Pearls of Wisdom

Dear Wharton MBA Class of 2021,

Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS on being admitted into the best business school in the world!  Acknowledge the privilege that comes with being a part of this institution.  As I reflect on my first year at Wharton, I thought I’d share some advice on what to do to make the most out of your first year.

  1. Be selective and strategic about the clubs (both personally and professionally) that you choose to join.  Consider the clubs that you are genuinely interested in, intend to be an active member of, and perhaps desire to take on a leadership role in.  I watched so many classmates get overzealous when signing up for clubs all to never show up to one boxing class the entire year.  Do yourself a favor and save your coins!
  2. Do not be afraid to ask for help.  Seek out all of the resources available to you so that you can perform at your best academically during your time at Wharton.  As someone who has struggled personally with test taking environments in the past, I found that requesting the additional support that I needed via Wharton’s academic advisors, study groups, and tutorial services was essential to getting me through my first year.
  3. Explore new travel destinations.  I had the opportunity to go on three wonderful student led treks last year: the Israel, Japan, and West Africa treks.  One of my most memorable first year experiences was an intimate gathering with the sixth director of Mossad (equivalent of the CIA) who is the grandfather of one of my learning team members.  He and his wife opened up their home for an informal discussion as a learning opportunity for a few of us who were on the trek.

This is simply a snapshot of my first-year journey.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me should you want to further discuss my experience.

Good luck!

Talisha

 

 

 

 

We Want You to Write for the Wharton Journal!

WG’21 Welcome to Wharton!  As the Editor-in-Chief of the school’s newspaper I want to tell you that we need writers, content managers, and marketers. Our goal is to be the voice of the school’s student-body.  Launching a start-up?  We’ll give you some free publicity.  Having a cool event?  We’ll tell people about it.  Have a thoughtful opinion?  We’ll get it out to the school.  We’re here for you!

In order for us to succeed in our mission, we need people who are committed to the journal and will produce content.  The journal was once a weekly newspaper, and my goal is to get it back to that periodicity.  To do that, we need people to write for us, and marketers to get us advertisers (producing the journal is not cheap).  We’re going to have an organizational meeting early in the school year so please stay tuned for an announcement.

In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact us at whartonjournal@gmail.com  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@whartonjournal) and on Facebook (The Wharton Journal).  We also publish online at www.whartonjournal.com

Welcome from the WGA President

Class of 2021,

Welcome to Wharton!

It’s a refrain you’ll hear several times a day, every day, for the next month – and every single person will mean it. We are truly so thrilled you’re here.

I’m excited to welcome you as the 2019-20 WGA President. The Wharton Graduate Association (WGA) exists for you. We are a non-profit organization that oversees all Wharton student clubs and conferences; hosts school-wide events and programming; and advocates for student interests to administration. You’ll see our name on everything from Halloween and Winter Formal to Iron Professor and more. The WGA calendar for this year is on its way to you now!

As much as I’m looking forward to this year’s events (Top Golf, anyone?), what excites me most about the WGA is our mission: to represent the student body, improve our Wharton experience, and build an inclusive MBA community.

This community – the one you are now a part of – is incredible. It’s vibrant, diverse, and energizing. It’s a community that will support you, challenge you, and force you to grow not just as a professional, but also as a human being. This community is exactly why I joined WGA in the first place.

After all, I had no plans to join student government when I arrived here. In my laundry list of activities I wanted to try, WGA was nowhere to be found. But after meeting people and learning about their ideas and passions, I realized that what I really wanted was to channel our student body’s energy into lasting, positive change for the community. Ultimately, that’s what the WGA does.

As you embark on the MBA journey, you’ll encounter a million different choices on how to spend your time. Just remember: there is no one right way to navigate the next two years of your life. You will curate your own unique Wharton experience, and it will be just right for you.

To wrap up, I wanted to leave you with a few pieces of advice from the smartest people I know – my WGA executive team. Here are their learnings from the past year:

“Be patient with yourself. Something at Wharton will be hard for you – for everyone. Give yourself the grace necessary to make this transition.” – Ben Onukwube, EVP of Student Leadership & Engagement

“Your most valuable resource at business school is time – knowing where to allocate it and why. This is the best way to maximize your business school experience.” – Sergio Giralt, Chief Financial Officer 

“Be authentic, put yourself out there, and try new things. You’ll undoubtedly be met with the amazing support of the Wharton community.” – Macie Whatley, EVP of Student Affairs

Thank you for choosing Wharton, thank you for giving us your time and talents, and thank you for leaving your own mark on this community.

We are so excited to meet you. Welcome home.

 

How to Survive Losing a Loved One While You’re At Wharton

This article is meant to serve as a guide for Wharton students who may lose a loved one while pursuing their MBA, and for their friends and classmates

When I started at Wharton last Summer, I was both overwhelmed and excited by the challenges that lay ahead of me.  I was concerned with making the grade academically, landing an internship, and with getting back on the rugby pitch following an ACL tear.  Little did I know that my greatest challenge was one I had no idea that was coming: dealing with the unexpected death of my father.

Like most of my classmates, I had a very busy Fall filled with recruiting and club events.  I planned a trip to Italy over Thanksgiving break to decompress.  Since I was skipping the holiday with my family, I decided to take a trip home to Washington D.C. to visit my parents in early November.  Everything seemed like it was going according to plan when my mom picked me up at the train station.  We were looking forward to a nice family dinner and a weekend together.  When we arrived home, my dad was out of the house, but we thought nothing of it.  I went up to my bedroom and started working on some internship applications.  After about half-an-hour my mom began to worry, so she called his cell phone.  He did not answer.  I figured he had left it in his car, so I did not worry about it.  However, my complacency was shattered a few minutes later when my mom’s phone rang.

The person on the other end informed her that my dad had been involved in an accident and she had to come to the local hospital immediately.  We rushed out together and the 20-minute drive felt like an eternity.  I’ll never forget the drizzle of rain smearing the windshield as we wound our way to the hospital.  When we arrived, we were greeted by a paramedic who informed us that a park ranger had found my dad unconscious on a hiking trail.  “He’s going to be ok, right!?”  I remember shouting.  The paramedic did not answer and told us to wait for the doctor to arrive.

We learned that my dad’s chances of recovery were slim, and that they would do all they could to resuscitate him, but we should not get our hopes up.  At that moment, all my fears about LT’ing MGEC or not getting an offer from my first choice of firms evaporated.  My wife rushed down from Philadelphia to join us, and we spent the rest of the night with him huddled around, praying that he would pull through.  It was to no avail.  He passed from this world early the next morning.

As an only child, I knew it was my responsibility to get my mom through this experience, so I walked her to the car, and drove her home.  Exhausted and numb after a sleepless night, I collapsed into bed entertaining the faint notion that this was just a bad dream.  When I woke up, I realized this was not the case.  Here is how I handled this crisis from that point:

1) I made sure I closed out any outside commitments and let people know what had happened so I could focus on my family.  After cancelling my trip to Italy, I let my professors, academic advisor, and learning team know what was happening and that I would be out of class for a few weeks to help my family through this crisis.  Everyone at Wharton was extremely understanding and bent over backwards to help me out.  This allowed me to focus on my first priority: helping my family through the crisis by executing my dad’s will, taking care of his memorial, and closing out his financial affairs.  In hindsight, I was so busy taking care of these items that my mind was occupied and the fact that I no longer had my dad with me did not even really sink in.

2) Once everything at home had been taken care of, I went back to Wharton.  Since I had missed so much school, my teachers and academic advisor were willing to let me drop a class without penalty and delay some finals.  The school was so helpful and accommodating, I felt instantly at ease knowing my academic career would not be derailed.  My dad was a very stoic man who was proud of all I had accomplished.  He would have been disappointed had I not hardened my resolve and finished out the Semester on time.  I did just that with less than spectacular results.  However, I passed all of my classes and did not end up on academic probation, so I considered that a win.

3) I got help.  I have never sought out counseling in any form, but my wife pushed me hard to talk to a professional.  I am so glad I did.  Penn has grief counseling resources, and I went to the Cohen Clinic for several counseling sessions.  If you ever lose a loved one, I cannot recommend getting professional help enough.  I draw a direct parallel to my ACL surgery and recovery.  After tearing my ACL and getting it repaired surgically, I could have technically started walking again with no help, but I would have had a life-long limp.  However, I went to a physical therapist who had seen numerous people with my injury.  We went through a time-tested recovery regime that restored my full range of motion and function.  The same holds true for mental health.  If you endure a traumatic event, you must seek out professional help if you hope to recover fully.  My counselor and I discussed my feelings of sadness and guilt and rationalized the experience.  She provided me with mental exercises I could perform to help me through this difficult time which proved extremely helpful.  Although it will be some time until I fully recover from the loss of my dad, this counseling has set me on that road.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope no one reading this article loses a loved one while you are at Wharton.  However, if that tragic event should happen.  I hope you take something from my experience that will help you through the experience.

There is no “right way” to grieve and everyone will deal with this experience in his or her own way.  In my case, I felt immediate grief, followed by a numbness that helped me through the first few weeks.  Friends of mine stated that they thought I was “taking it well.” I now recognize that I was in shock.  Then, slowly but surely, deep sadness crept over me.  I felt better on some days than others, and that is something many people who are grieving will experience.

There is no time limit on how long anyone will grieve.  I’m still working my way through it, but I’m doing fine thanks to the love and support of my friends and family.  If someone you know loses a loved one, sending him or her a simple message to let them know you’re thinking of them and are available to talk means more than you will know.  I can’t thank my classmates and Wharton faculty enough for their support.  I’m a resource too, so, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need someone to help you through a tough time.

In closing I would like to leave you with one final thought: Wharton will overwhelm you with opportunities.  However, although school, jobs, and travel may seem like the most important things at times; I learned that they pale in comparison to the relationship you have with your loved ones.  Although you may be tempted to spend every break traveling the globe with your MBA friends or taking classes in exotic locations, I encourage you to take time to spend with your loved ones.  Even a simple call home while you’re walking back from class is a great way to connect.  You’ll have your whole life to travel.  You’ll never regret spending a few weeks a year with those who mean the most to you.

This article is dedicated to the memory of my father, Fred Emmert.  I would not be here at Wharton had it not been for his love and sacrifice.  Until we meet again.

 

 

 

Hacking Health and Wharton

Business school is a great time to set habits consistent with a successful, happy life. The Wharton curriculum certainly takes care of a significant portion of that; however, many aspects of setting these behaviors are yours to pursue or not.

According to Jeff Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, achieving a happy life requires pursuing physical and mental health with the same rigor one applies to the traditional pursuit of professional success.

Sachs, in a recent podcast, said, “We have the paradox that income per person rises in the United States, but happiness does not. And it’s not that that’s because humans are humans. It’s because the U.S. is falling behind other countries, because we are not pursuing dimensions of happiness that are extremely important: our physical health, the mental health in our community… And this is weighing down American well-being.”

Further, we know that long-term happiness, something most of us are (or should be) ultimately after, is predicated in part on the quality and depth of our relationships. “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” That’s according to Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the most comprehensive studies of well-being in history.

Most of us inherently know these concepts to be true but find acting on them to be nearly impossible. How can ambitious people balance course load, professional development, group projects, and the myriad other responsibilities of a 1Y at Wharton while maintaining healthy and balanced lives?

I struggled with a similar question during my first week in my Naval Aviation squadron after joining them on deployment aboard the USS George Washington. My first week as a fully qualified Naval Flight Officer at sea was grueling, disorienting, and, by the end of the week, starting to take a toll. There was so much to do and learn, I felt, that I had no time to eat, sleep, exercise, or think.

Over Midnight Rations (MIDRATS), a mentor revealed a maxim to me that I try my best, often unsuccessfully, to live by. He said, “You need to take care of yourself or you are worthless to us out here. We need you well rested, well fed, and in shape. Those things are priority one for you. Sort that out and the rest will come.”

Taking care of your health does not require an MBA from Wharton, but will not happen by accident; it will require some effort and planning. I’ve outlined the following tips and tricks for implementing some of these things into your life that otherwise might fall out for the competing priorities at school. Take and apply what works for you, disregard what doesn’t.

This list is by no means exhaustive – there are plenty of other techniques and tactics that are just as good, if not better than, what’s included here. Whether you take this advice or come up with your own game plan, I’d just recommend making a plan. With the academic year and recruiting right around the corner, things are about to start moving pretty fast…

Nutrition

Make a plan to be healthy. Consider getting your grocery shopping done and knocking out meal preparation on Sunday. You’ll be psyched by mid-week when you don’t have time to cook, have a problem set due in the morning, and you’re hungry.

If cooking isn’t your thing, consider a meal delivery service like Snapkitchen or Kettlebell kitchen. These services will deliver some or all of your meals for the week to your doorstep. You can choose the specific meals, set some guidelines for what you like, or live dangerously and go with their recommendations. Either way, a service like this will help keep you eating healthy…most of the time.

If you do nothing else, decrease your sugar & processed food intake and drink more water. These simple hacks will improve your mental clarity, decrease inflammation, and help you avoid energy crashes.

With all that said, definitely crush a cheesesteak at Reading Terminal, a late burger at Monk’s, and as many of those Greek Lady gyros as you can get your hands on. They’re good and life is too short. Just try to make those the exception and not the rule.

Vitamins & Supplements

Philadelphia is great and all, but it’s not known for its abundance of sunlight in January so maybe a Vitamin D supplement could be a good call. You don’t need a cabinet full of vitamins, but a few important additions to your daily diet can make a big difference. I’ve found the products below to be super helpful.

As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor and I’d be bummed out if you sued me. The below recommendations come from personal research and should be vetted by a professional before use.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid (Fish Oil) is probably the biggest bang for the buck you’ll find.  Fish oil provides improved cardiovascular health and function, improved lipid profiles (lower triglycerides), improved brain function and mental acuity, and powerful anti-inflammatory properties without harmful side effects like over the counter products.

B-Vitamins increase energy production and are neurotransmitter cofactors so they help improve our mood, and they help us detoxify. Take this supplement in the morning as the B-12 will keep you awake.

Vitamin D is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. It helps reduce inflammation and the risk of colon and breast cancer, while improving mood and upper respiratory health by aiding the fight against infections from viruses and other pathogens. It also allows the brain to release melatonin so we can fall asleep easier.

CBD possesses myriad medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-depressant qualities according to a 2013 review published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. I have been experimenting with CBD for both general wellness and help with sleep for the last year and have seen great results.

The daily formulation I use is a compound of CBD and other ingredients including B-Complex, ginseng, and selected terpenes that are beneficial for general health, inflammation, pain, focus and overall well-being. The other formulation I use is similar, but with ingredients meant to target stress and sleep.

Exercise

I won’t belabor this point – we all know exercise is an important aspect of our physical and mental health. Exercise helps manage stress, sleep, and many other aspects of a healthy life. Most folks know they should do it, but making it happen is easier said than done. The competing priorities at Wharton can make this especially tough. The following techniques have helped me to maintain a decent exercise routine while balancing my priorities at school.

Schedule it! When I sit down to plan my week, I set a goal of a work out ≥ 4x per week. If you count the weekend, this should be doable. The most important piece of building near daily exercise into your routine is to make it non-negotiable. Do what you need to do to achieve that ≥ 4x or whatever your goal number is. If you make it a priority you’ll feel better and be ready for the grind. Even just 30 minutes is better than nothing!

Pay ahead! Loss aversion is a key tenet of behavioral economics. The idea is that we disproportionately weight losses relative to gains; once we have something, the idea of losing it is painful.  You can use this fancy idea to help you get into the gym – pay in advance for your spin, yoga, CrossFit class or whatever it is you choose to do to stay in shape. You’ll find yourself skipping less and making good on your goals.

Sleep

A good night’s sleep is probably the most important aspect of feeling good on a daily basis. Again, most people know this, but fail to act on it. Between the academic, professional, extra-curricular, and social commitments at Wharton, you’ll struggle to make decent sleep a part of your routine. A few all-nighters will happen, but, again, making these the exception to the rule will pay dividends.

If you have trouble sleeping, consider developing a nightly routine including black out blinds, a drop-dead-screens-off time, and a CBD or magnesium supplement. If you need help with this drop me a line and I’ll help you figure this out.

Relationships

The data are clear that good relationships help fortify our bodies and brains against the stressors of everyday life. Additionally, they just make you happier. Which is good.

If you are here with a partner or you have a partner elsewhere, make the time during the week to include them in this experience. Wharton can be an all-encompassing bubble (in the best way) if you let it. Make the time to crack a beer, put down the MGEC problem set, and just enjoy your time at Wharton with your partner.

Make time for dinner with your friends, to call your parents, to connect with your pre-Wharton friends, and to make new friends over a citywide special (if you don’t know – ask). These relationships are important pieces of your long-term happiness, sense of success, and for all you utilitarian’s, likely the source of a job, recommendation, or investment in the future. At least once a week, make the time to go out to lunch or dinner with a friend and get to know them more deeply. You’ll be glad you did.

Bottom Line

To wrap this thing up, I’m passionate about health and wellness because I’ve messed it up a lot! I’ve made all of the mistakes, but done my best to learn as much as I can and to make a commitment to living a healthy and happy life. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.

You are all incredible people. You’ll feel better and be better if you use part of your time at school to set positive patterns you can carry for the rest of your life. I’ve heard things don’t slow down after graduation…

If I can help you sort any of this out – let me know. I enjoy talking about this stuff and would love to help.

Finally, if you see me polishing off a second cheeseburger, out late at Bonner’s, or otherwise not practicing what I preach – leave me alone…I’m taking a mental health break.

 

 

Entrepreneurship, a Tale of the Small Wins

Last October, I co-founded Halo Cars, a smart outdoor ads venture designed to bring the targeting and analytical capabilities of online ads to the outdoor world while helping boost driver incomes. Focusing on Halo full-time taught me that entrepreneurship is a game of patience, humility, and appreciation for the small wins 

Before I came to Wharton, I was warned by a coworker at Google that entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster full of surprises, last-minute pivots, and a healthy dose of improvisations. All true statements, as I learned later, but one important lesson was left out of the list: the small wins are what make the process incredibly rewarding and all so worthwhile.

Halo Cars was born on Penn’s campus one fine October evening at a Founders Club event. A fellow WG20 convinced me to attend the Pitch Night, an event focused on getting students across all Penn schools to come together and pitch their business ideas in a casual setting to hear feedback from other entrepreneurial-minded students. It was at this event that I first met my co-founder, Kenan. Kenan at that time was an undergraduate senior studying management and computer science. He pitched the broad concept of the technology behind utilizing rideshare ecosystems for targeted advertising, and it immediately caught my attention. As it turned out, I had been ideating about a similar concept while at Google. It seemed like the perfect combination of skill sets and interests. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I received a call from Kenan a week later on a Friday night asking me to officially join the team as a co-founder and fly to San Francisco the following morning for an investor meeting. This was my first small win: an invitation to join a team of brilliant undergraduates and head back to my San Francisco breeding grounds to pitch to a panel of venture capitalists.

From there onwards, life took an interesting turn. I decided against on-campus recruiting and focused all my energies on scaling Halo. The team and I ordered the first MVP of our monitor from China and attached it to the roof of an actual Uber driver’s car (Tony was our first-ever courageous Halo driver, and one we’ll always feel indebted to). Over the course of 10 days, we showed our own ads on the monitor attached to Tony’s car and measured the increase in Google searches for Halo by running an AdWords campaign. In just 10 days, over a thousand people searched for Halo on Google, 9 new drivers signed up on our website, and 2 paying advertisers saw our ads in the wild and reached out to start advertising with us. This was my second small win: A successful but scrappy process to help prove the concept that people not only notice the content on our monitors but are also willing to take action in response to the content being served.

My third small win came in the form of on-campus startup competitions. By some miracle, Halo won both the Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Summer Venture Award and the Penn Startup Challenge Launch Award. This influx of cash meant that we could grow our fleet and start onboarding paying clients. Slowly we went from one car to three to five and so on. The Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship award also attracted the attention of investors, some of whom we’re proud to call our pre-seed investors today. Having someone trust me and my wildly ambitious goals enough to put tangible money behind it served as my fourth small win — it was a moment that I still cherish to this day.

As Halo expands into multiple markets over the next few months, we continue to face the growing pains of a typical startup: resource constraints, battling the available time in the day, and regulatory roadblocks. It’s the small wins, however, that make each day worthwhile: a rideshare driver stopping by the office to say thank you for helping boost incomes, a savvy client emailing us in excitement about our targeting technology, or a non-profit expressing gratitude over free advertising inventory. 

 

 

 

 

Talk with Winesona Founder: A Tale of Wine and Data

How to convert a dormant mailing list into active wine club subscribers for a winery? How to match a guest at a restaurant with a great wine from an intimidating list? How to make a private club a preferred destination for all social drinks? Every single wine retailer in the $40B wine US wine industry wants to know. Our alumna, Tiffany Xingyu Wang (WG’17), has the answers and is making her company, Winesona, a sensation in San Francisco.

Tiffany started Winesona when she was a second-year student at Wharton. I got to know Tiffany when she was hosting a wine tasting event at Wharton, engaging us to stay truthful to our own tastes while tasting the wines. The next thing I knew, Winesona was born. Unlike most companies in the industry, which tend to go direct to consumers with a focus on price, Winesona uncovers wine consumers’ unique taste profiles and delivers personalized wine recommendations through existing wine retailers.

Four months after her graduation, I got to sit down with Tiffany at a wine bar in San Francisco and talk about her venture. Starting a business is risky, all the more so for those who do so in a country new to them. Tiffany is one of the inspirational few who has taken on the challenge with bravery and determination.  She told me, “The question was never if my immigration status would determine whether or not I became an entrepreneur. When the idea finds you, you have to go all in.”

Our conversation is a story about Tiffany and Winesona, but also a memo from an inspirational entrepreneur that may make you leap to pursue your own passion.

Tell us about Winesona.

Your taste matters. That’s what we believe. Winesona uncovers wine drinkers’ taste preferences and constructs their “sonaprints” – like a finger print for tastes.

Winesona acts as an intelligence layer for wine retailers to drive their sales. We design blind tasting events for our wine retailer partners to sell as a service and to allow them to collect data. We then deliver their consumers’ taste profiles. Our partners value the customer loyalty and the increased customer lifetime value. Our partners include private clubs, wineries and restaurants, and I intend to partner with retailers like Costco, K&L and Total Wines soon. I would call Winesona’s business “WSaas” – Wine Science as a Service.

What’s the latest update on Winesona and what’s the company’s vision?

Winesona initially was set up to be a B2C e-commerce platform but recently pivoted to the B2B SaaS model. We provide our intelligence engine to our retailer partners and help them sell more wine and make their customers happier.

The interesting part is that when I first started, I used tastings only to learn about consumers. I never thought Winesona would take a B2B route. However, it became obvious to me that the SaaS model and B2B route can be scalable and very efficient for data collection.

The two key reasons we pivoted were: 1) The team is a group of top data scientists passionate about solving this personal taste data problem. 2) We proved market interest and the potential to scale. Every week, I have a target to either growth our data or our revenue by 10 percent.

As to the vision, Winesona is way more than a wine company. We are a personal data company. Personal taste data will be one of the most valuable assets for the next decades, and Winesona is onto it!Airfrance

Why’d you start Winesona?

I grew up in China, a country of mass production. I lived in Paris in my early 20s and stepped into a wonderland where my taste mattered. That contrast has shaken my life deeply and makes me who I am today – I care about how you feel as an individual. Winesona is all about this vision – to create the right, the freedom, and the way to be happy in our own way.

I am both a sommelier and a data scientist. Several close friends who are serial entrepreneurs pushed me to do something related to my personal passions. They taught me about this idea of “founder fit” and this stuck with me, a business where I have a North Star, a combination of values and passion.

The path to happiness is to focus on what one truly likes, when nobody else is looking. And my North Star is to make wine drinking a personal and loving experience for everyone Winesona may reach.

What’s your role at Winesona?

I am the founder. By that, I mean that I’m the chandelier, the structure that holds the brightest lights who are smarter than me and who want to reinvent the wine industry. I feel so fortunate having my founding team of ex-top tech company executives and PhD experts in data and taste, who are now willing to make my dream their own. They are now, above all, friends I trust.

I heard you let go early funding opportunities. Why? And who would you like to be your investors?

It was a team decision. We want to stay revenue-funded till we are set to scale. As we decided to pursue the SaaS model, we can stay lean and optimize the team’s competence without getting diluted early.

I feel fortunate being surrounded by close friends who are veteran investors and serial entrepreneurs. They gave me the courage to not to take money early and the wisdom to consider my early investors as family members – not only smart but also caring about Winesona. This goes a long way.

However, Perkins Coie, a reputable law firm in the Valley, did grant Winesona its deferral program based on Winesona’s potential and accepted Winesona into its “Le[a]d Better Program” for rising star women founders. I am grateful to have Perkins Coie on board.

What would be your advice to the Wharton entrepreneurship community?

Put yourself out there. That doesn’t mean you network endlessly. That means reading and doing what you didn’t fully know about, and embracing the risk of embarrassment in talking with those who outsmart you about the topics you may even never have heard about.

The other equally important thing is to put people before business. Winesona has a no asshole rule and we only want to work with A-players and investors. Turns out that the only path to get all of these is “people before business.” Wharton teaches a lot about skills, but we also know nothing can be solved by skills alone, even not people skills, but only with a genuine concern for helping others do better. If you enable others to excel, they will help you in ways you could never imagine.

Heading out of the wine bar, I came to think of Tiffany as a combination of a science geek and a romantic artist. As she said, founder fit goes a long way. This tale of wine and data has opened its first brilliant chapter and made us yearn to see how the story unfolds.

 

Wharton Top MBA Rugby Team in the USA

The Wharton Rugby Football Club (WRFC) Whartogs finished the 2019 Spring Season with a strong performance at the MBA World Cup in April.  This result was a reflection of the discipline and effort the team put forth throughout the season.  Preparation began in January when a group of coaches from the Crusaders, a professional team from New Zealand, put on a training clinic for the team.  The Hogs incorporated the lessons they learned from these seasoned professionals into their training sessions which began shortly thereafter.

Wharton Rugby at MBA World CupAfter several weeks of practice, thirty players embarked on a trip to South Africa where they would play a match against a team from the University of Cape Town, watch a local rugby match, and learn about the game’s heritage.  The tour proved highly beneficial as the Hogs put their training to work against a tough opponent and gained an appreciation for the sport’s international heritage.

After returning to Philadelphia, the team played several matches against area opposition, including the North Philadelphia Irish, Jersey Shore Sharks, and the Gryphons.  After winning all three matches, the Hogs were ready to test themselves against the top MBA Rugby teams in the world at the 2019 MBA World Cup hosted by Duke.

The team arrived in Danville, VA on Friday, April 12 in the middle of a downpour that would continue throughout the next two-days.  Although the conditions were far from ideal, the Hogs were ready to play in the mud.  The team won its three first round matches on Saturday against Duke, London Business School B-Side, and Dartmouth with little difficulty.  The Hogs then faced off against Columbia in the semi-finals on Sunday.  A hard-fought win set them up for the final match against London Business School (LBS) later that day.  This proved to be a tough, even match as neither team was able to score in the first half.  However, LBS scored twice in the second half to earn a narrow victory.  This result left the Hogs as the top MBA Rugby team in the United States, and the second best in the world for the 2019 season.  The team is looking forward to getting back to practice in the Fall after a well-deserved Summer break.