New Frontiers for Wharton Entrepreneurship

For the past six years I have been part of the Venture Initiation Program (VIP) selection committee. We hear pitches from students across Penn’s campus and students at our Wharton San Francisco campus who have a venture they’ve been developing and are in the early stages of launching.

Over the years there are a few interesting things we’ve noticed. One is that Penn and Wharton entrepreneurs are really a microcosm for the rest of the world. We see many similar trends on campus to the broader economy, and we see similar shifts in venture themes. This cycle, it was modifications to the Kickstarter concept, whereas few years ago it was it was building ventures focused on social networks.

This year marked our first joint submission process across our two campuses. The Philadelphia pool included Wharton MBA and undergraduate students as well as students from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Arts and Sciences and Penn Law.  The San Francisco applicant pool included current MBA for Executive students, MBA for Executive alumni who graduated this past May (in San Francisco, we allow MBA for Executive students to apply up to one year post-graduation) and MBA students participating in the Semester in San Francisco.

Here’s how the pitch process works: Students submit a written application that includes a business overview and two-minute video which is reviewed by the selection committee. Those selected give a two-minute live pitch followed by two minutes of questions from the committee. We keep the timing tight so roughly every five minutes a new group of student presenters come to the front of the room. As you could imagine, this is a lot of fun and quite interesting; in a typical cycle we hear from 30 to 40 applicants.

This fall, after the dust settled, we accepted nine new ventures, including two Wharton Venture Award winners from the summer (they receive automatic acceptance into VIP).  In San Francisco, six new ventures were accepted.  You’ll find a complete VIP list on our site here.

Congratulations to all who participated in the process this semester.  We recognize the hard work that goes into each of the steps including the application, video and a live pitch–which may be the first pitch for many students.

Editor’s note: This post first appeared on Wharton’s Entrepreneurship Blog on Oct. 18, 2012, where you can also find the full list of the new VIP members.

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