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2000 College graduate and 2005 Wharton MBA graduate Caroline Strzalka recently appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch Overplay, a gaming app she co-founded (Photo from Wharton Alumnae Founders & Funders Association). 

2000 College graduate and 2005 Wharton MBA graduate Caroline Strzalka recently appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch a gaming app she co-founded. 

Strzalka appeared alongside co-founder Dan Projansky on Shark Tank, a show that allows contestants pitch their company idea in hopes of gaining an investment. Strzalka and Projansky landed a $500,000 deal from billionaire Mark Cuban in exchange for 4% equity of their app Overplay, which allows users to create their own interactive games based on short video clips.

After the episode aired on March 15, Strzalka spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian about creating the app and how the skills she gained at Penn contributed to her entrepreneurial efforts.

As an undergraduate student at Penn, Strzalka studied economics and international relations. During that time, she also worked as an undergraduate writing advisor at Kelly Writers House, was a founding member of Civic House, and was inducted into the Sphinx Senior Society. 

After graduating, Strzalka worked on Wall Street in equity capital markets, where she was in charge of taking companies public. She said that it was during this time that she began to consider starting her own company.

“I was like God, if these guys could take their company public, maybe one day I could,” Strzalka said. 

Strzalka returned to Penn to pursue an MBA at Wharton before taking a position at Sesame Workshop — the nonprofit organization behind the children’s television show "Sesame Street." Strzalka worked in digital media business development and met her Overplay co-founder Projansky, who was working in video editing at the time. Unlike many app creators, Strzalka and Projansky do not come from a programming background.

“My co-founder was a film guy,” Strzalka said. “We came from video, and because of that we thought about gaming in a brand-new way.”

The technology for Overplay allows users to overlay games over video content and share the result. Strzalka described the app, which is available on iOS and Android, as “TikTok for gaming."  

“You’re literally scrolling up, just like TikTok, and there are snackable 30-45 second games,” she said. “They’re really experiences you make from video.”

Strzalka said that her time at Penn, as both an undergrad and an MBA, played a crucial role in her success. She added that the support she has received from her former classmates at Penn and other Penn affiliates has been invaluable.

“Overplay’s very first investments actually came from Penn alums and groups like Red and Blue Ventures,” said Strzalka. “And my Wharton MBA class is just obsessed with each other.”

Red & Blue Ventures is a venture capital fund managed by Penn alumni, operating separately from the University. It invests in companies within the information technology sector that are led by Penn students, alumni, or faculty. 

Strzalka added that her time studying the humanities and serving as a writing tutor gave her the storytelling abilities necessary to attract investors.

“As an entrepreneur, 50% of your job is storytelling,” Strzalka said. “You have to present an idea of something that does not exist and you have to get people to invest in it.”

In addition, Strzalka has said that the negotiation skills she learned at Wharton were particularly useful when negotiating with investors on Shark Tank. Following the airing of the episode, the app saw around a 1000% increase in users and gameplay, Strzalka told the Philadelphia Business Journal. 

Strzalka urged Penn students interested in entrepreneurship to take advantage of the resources available to them. Strzalka pointed to resources such as the Red & Blue Ventures, faculty focused on entrepreneurship, and the Pennovation Center — an incubator that helps Penn researchers and students commercialize their scientific discoveries. 

“It’s almost served up to you on a silver platter,” she said. “All you have to do is reach out and take it.”