Two of the largest venture capital firms focused on investing in Penn alumni business ventures held a pitching event on Feb. 22.
The firms, Red & Blue Ventures and Chestnut Street Ventures, held the event for over 54 alumni-founded companies and 15 venture capitalists in New York City. Red & Blue Ventures is managed by Penn alumni and centers on investments in the information technology industry. Chestnut Street Ventures, which is a part of Alumni Ventures, is a venture capital firm that invests in business with a Penn connection.
The event was organized in a speeding-dating format. Each alumni founder or leader at an early-stage company had 10 minutes to pitch their ideas to an investor, receiving advice or securing funding. They were also able to meet their fellow founders in a networking session.
2022 Wharton graduate Pattryze Garate, an analyst for Red & Blue Ventures and an organizer of the event, said that this gathering of founders from the Penn community is unprecedented.
“We had founders flying in from all parts of the world to make it to this event and the energy in the room was amazing," Garate said. "For us at Red & Blue Ventures, it was an incredible experience to reconnect with these founders or even meet them for the first time, and it made me really happy to see how many founders made the most out of this opportunity."
1997 Wharton graduate Michael Vaughan, the former chief operation officer of Venmo, attended the event and described its significance.
"It was a great opportunity to gather with some incredible founders and investors, all linked by the common thread of Penn and eager to support one another," Vaughan said. "We were really impressed by the people we met and ideas we heard in such a short span of time. It is special to be a part of this community."
2021 Wharton graduate Saif Khawaja, the founder of Shinkei Systems which won the 2022 President’s Sustainability Prize, said that he strengthened his ties with the Penn entrepreneurship community through the event.
"The event was fantastic and great to meet more members of the Penn alum entrepreneurship community," Khawaja said. "I'm excited to stay in touch with Red & Blue portfolio companies who I've just met as well as the many funds that Penn has a presence with."
1999 Wharton graduate Jonathan Meltzer, partner at Chestnut Street Ventures, said that the event also served as an opportunity for founders to build long-term mentoring relationships with leading VC firms in NYC, calling it a “non-financial investment into supporting Penn alumni entrepreneurs.”
Meltzer’s vision in the long run is to strengthen the “connective tissue” within the Penn entrepreneurship community and elevate the alumni ecosystem.
“Part of what we're trying to do with our friends at Red and Blue is ultimately to provide that support or connect people within that community, regardless of where they are... So that there’s the same level of support that a Quaker has compared to someone coming out of Harvard or Stanford,” Meltzer said.