Mentoring the Next Generation of Innovators
- by Shohom Basuthakur
In my time as an undergraduate, I have discovered that Penn has an extremely active entrepreneurial ecosystem. Students and faculty members have a real passion for innovation, and programs like the Wharton Business Plan Competition, the Weiss Tech House and PennVention help to cultivate that spirit. Students and recent graduates have sold their businesses to large companies like Amazon, eBay and Google for tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars.
The entrepreneurial attitude is so widespread that it even touched two of my friends, who started their own companies this past year. In short, entrepreneurship has become an integral part of campus life.
In many cases, however, innovation would not be possible without early-stage capital. That is the lesson I learned while spending the summer as an intern at MentorTech Ventures. Founded in 2002 by two Penn alumni— venture capitalist and entrepreneur Boris Kalander, WG’88, and Michael Aronson, W’78, a long-time Wharton faculty member and very successful serial entrepreneur—MentorTech provides financial, intellectual and social capital to Penn students, alumni and faculty. They invest exclusively in Penn-related ventures, with a focus on the information technology, interactive marketing, and medical devices and materials industries.
MentorTech’s portfolio is a who’s-who of exciting Penn startups, such as Warby Parker, Yodle, Kembrel and Curalate.
I wanted to work at MentorTech because I admired their contributions to the continued growth of entrepreneurship at Penn. And now that I have worked there, I got to see those contributions firsthand.
MentorTech is the only institutional investment firm solely dedicated to the University, so, naturally, it plays a significant role on campus. But besides assisting its own portfolio companies, the firm mentors entrepreneurs and provides them with guidance to advance their businesses. This commitment to innovation is what drives MentorTech’s success, and makes it a very important cog in the wheel that is Penn entrepreneurship, both on campus and in the broader alumni community.