Seven students launched Penn Undergraduate Founders and Funders Association, the school's first student group focused on supporting women in entrepreneurship and venture capital.
After witnessing the discrepancy between the number of male and female entrepreneurs at Penn, Wharton junior and PUFFA President Eliza Thaler reached out to six of her friends this summer to co-found a club that supports any female-identifying individual who wants to explore interests within entrepreneurship and venture capital. The club currently has 300 group body members and hopes to continue to expand its reach.
Thaler said only 13% of Penn founders are women and raise just 6% of venture capital, according to Wharton Alumnae Founders & Funders Association. Venture capital is a type of financing that investors provide to startup companies that they believe have long-term potential growth.
“I really wanted to create a close-knit community of women who are passionate about technology and want to fix this statistic," she said.
PUFFA was founded in collaboration with WAFFA, a nonprofit organization that supports Wharton female founders, who have started their own company, and investors. Thaler said members of WAFFA exclusively share internship and fellowship opportunities with PUFFA board members, which then gets passed on to general body members through the listserv.
“We have dozens of new startup internship opportunities every week that we’re giving to our members,” Thaler said. “Most of the internships you’ll see on our listserv are 100% unique to our listserv.”
The club is open to Penn students of all majors and from all schools, Thaler said.
“Everything we do, down to the language we use in our marketing posts, is as inclusive as possible and encourages people from all backgrounds to get involved,” she said. “It was really important for me to find people who I knew would have diverse perspectives.”
College and Wharton sophomore and PUFFA Vice President Aubrey Schafer added that because founding a startup requires diverse skill sets such as marketing, investing, and engineering, the club aims to build a community for female entrepreneurs to network and explore these wide range of fields within entrepreneurship.
“Our mission is about diversity in thought and experience and interest,“ Schafer said.
When Thaler first thought of creating a new organization for women in entrepreneurship, she said she reached out to Schafer, a fellow Wharton Council member. She said their experience in Wharton Council, the umbrella organization that oversees over 40 Wharton clubs, gave them the confidence and knowledge to form their own club and plan events.
While Wharton Women, a recognized club under Wharton Council, is another pre-professional club empowering women in business, it differs from PUFFA in that it supports women across many different industries of business, Thaler said. PUFFA is solely focused on increasing representation of women in entrepreneurship and venture capital.
“We hope to collaborate with Wharton Women in the future,” Schafer said. “Together I think we’re a lot more powerful than if there were just one organization on campus.”