Last Friday, students at the Weiss Tech House held an event to relaunch the Innovation Fund, reaffirming the organization's commitment to helping student entrepreneurs create successful companies.
The event featured talks from entrepreneurs and a venture capitalist and was followed by a networking session during which students could ask questions about starting companies and getting funding. The relaunch comes at the heels of a variety of organizational changes within Weiss Tech House made to better help students develop their ideas and further cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship on campus.
Founded in 2003, the Weiss Tech House Innovation Fund is a mini venture capital fund that helps develop student-founded startup companies. Students outline their product and business models to the committee that runs the fund, and if their visions are compelling, they can receive between $500 and $2,000 to grow their ideas.
Wharton graduate student Naif Alhujilan came to the relaunch event to learn more about how he could take advantage of the Innovation Fund to further his business ideas.
“I have friends who have benefitted from the tech fund, and I am hoping to use the fund's resources to develop my own entrepreneurial ideas,” he said.
The fund has facilitated the development of a diverse range of companies. In the past five years, the fund has helped companies started by students from many of Penn’s undergraduate and graduate schools, and one-third of these companies include female entrepreneurs. The fund does not take any ownership in these companies, meaning that students retain full control over their ideas.
However, the fund previously dealt with frequent leadership changes and organizational issues that limited its ability to help its clients. That's why, last semester, leaders of the fund restructured their investment team and reached out to the companies they had helped start in order to learn where they could improve.
“Last semester, we decided to look back at all of the companies we’ve funded in the last five years and gather insights into what we could do better,” College senior and Innovation Fund Co-Chair Jason Shein said.
The organization also recently launched a blog to share articles about technology and business.
“When I first joined the Innovation Fund, I found that one of the most valuable experiences were the conversations the team had together,” Wharton and Engineering junior Samantha Burns said. “We wanted to share what we were learning with the students seeking guidance”