On Nov. 1, the attendees gathered at Tangen Hall with the aims of discussing entrepreneurship, exchanging business ideas, and expanding connections. 65 companies, founded by students ranging from undergraduates to MBAs, received advice from VC representatives in the form of one-on-one pitching sessions. According to event organizers, each student company delivered five-minute elevator pitches, speaking with two to three VC firms.
2022 Wharton graduate Pattryze Garate, an analyst for Red & Blue Ventures and an event organizer of the event, said that bringing the founders and investors together under one roof is a significant opportunity.
“The point is to introduce founders to the Penn entrepreneurial ecosystem and the resources they have available here in the Philadelphia community,” Garate said. “We wanted to provide a warm introduction, which sometimes can be challenging when you're just starting out and just cold emailing people.”
Garate emphasized the importance of establishing relationships with VCs early on.
“[Students] need to know the resources we have available that help with their growth,” she said.
Red & Blue Ventures is a seed-stage VC fund — which focuses on companies in their initial stage of development — that targets Penn companies. 1978 Wharton graduate Michael Aronson and 2002 Wharton graduate Brett Topche, the managing directors of the company, said that many successful startups have come out from Penn’s various schools, citing examples like Yodle and Shinkei Systems.
Andrew Diep-Tran, Wharton sophomore and co-founder of the biotech startup ToxiSense participated in the event and cited support from Penn’s student entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“Venture Lab’s Startup Challenge is one of the biggest and most important resources that we've had,” Diep-Tran said.
Diep-Tran’s biotech startup received the top prize at the startup challenge, winning $85,000 in funding in addition to mentorship and referrals to other investors.
“[Student entrepreneurship at Penn] is starting to boom — it's not quite there yet — but I'm glad Venture Lab has been able to play a very critical part in helping us kind of achieve our mission there,” Diep-Tran said.
According to Wharton graduate Trang Pham, the executive director of Venture Lab, the goal of Penn’s student entrepreneurship ecosystem is not just to teach the nitty-gritty of starting and running a company, also but to educate students on strategic thinking.
“It matters whether or not they are a founder, investor, just releasing a new product for a company,” Pham said.
Pham said that she was glad to see the opening of Tangen Hall in 2020, which provides comprehensive support for student entrepreneurs.
“We want student start-ups not to get a plane ticket to Silicon Valley to knock on VCs' doors, because we are already here in Pennsylvania,” Pham said. “It’s hard for students from a family of non-investors to connect with people in the VC industry. By having the alumni VC here, they are accessible to help them make connections.”