For the ambitious students hoping to launch their own internet companies and become the next Mark Zuckerberg, the advice from Coursekit founder Joseph Cohen was simple: “Have the confidence that you can do it, and it’ll happen.”
Graduates and undergraduates alike packed a Huntsman Hall classroom Thursday night to soak in the advice of two former Penn students. David Tisch, the managing director of TechStars who graduated from the College in 2003, spoke alongside Cohen. Cohen dropped out of the Wharton School last year to pursue an internet startup, Coursekit — a site that hopes to replace Blackboard with a more user-friendly and social system for connecting students with their courses and teachers.
Tisch, who also works as an angel investor, began by polling the audience, asking them what information they wanted to hear. While many asked about TechStars, a funding source for potential startups that receives about 1,800 applications for investments a year, Tisch was able to give a wide range of advice. He touched on multiple aspects of the startup world, from dealing with failure to creating a cohesive team. Tisch put extra emphasis on the importance of being a student as the “greatest advantage ever,” urging startup hopefuls to “build relationships with other cross-disciplines and programs.”
Cohen approached his presentation from his point of view as a 20-year-old founder of a startup that secured $1 million in investments, giving personal advice on how to succeed. While he emphasized hard work, staying motivated and thinking big, he also remained humble. “It’s a mountain,” he said. “If it works, you’re going to get to the top of the mountain. I’m like, 100 feet up.”
The event was organized by Students for Technology and Entrepreneurship, a new group on campus founded by College junior Talia Goldberg and College and Wharton junior Jacob Schulman. Goldberg says that Penn’s campus is “bubbling with entrepreneurship” and the goal of the event was to give a platform to students with business goals to “find a passion and go.”
Engineering freshman Daniel Langer came to the event “hoping to learn valuable information firsthand from people in the start-up industry who’ve had success,” and found the advice on where and what you need to begin the most helpful.
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