The Entrepreneur Give-and-Take
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Wharton School’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program (EIR) has been an overwhelming, and copied, success.
Two-time participant Nirav Shroff, W’13, who met with Nathaniel Turner, W’08, says of the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program: “[It] allows students like me the opportunity to have a completely open-ended discussion with a proven entrepreneur.”
Schroff and fellow classmate Neal Pancholi, W’13, discussed with Turner their plan to create a platform that allows financial advisors to build long-term relationships with those seeking sophisticated, qualified advice.
Turner offered several suggestions that stuck with Shroff, such as the importance of focusing on creating, not overanalyzing, and how to recruit technical talent.
The highlight of the conversation came at the end of the session with Turner. “He was adamant that we stay in touch and share our beta version with him,” Shroff says.
The Entrepreneur-in-Residence program offers counseling and career opportunities to Wharton students. Emily Cieri, managing director of Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, estimates that almost 200 entrepreneurs will have met with more than 2,000 Wharton students during EIR’s history.
Turner’s own story as a student illustrates how these meetings have become success stories. During EIR, Turner encountered serial entrepreneur Josh Kopelman, W’93.
Kopelman was so impressed by Turner’s ideas and prior entrepreneurial experience that he called Turner while driving home from the meeting and offered him a summer internship.
This opportunity helped Turner launch Invite Media, which he then sold to Google for $80 million.
The alumni’s passion and dedication makes such EIR stories possible. Shelley Boyce, WG’95, has mentored many Wharton students during her years of participation.
“First and foremost, I enjoy talking to budding entrepreneurs. It also reminds me when I was there many years ago as a student when I was launching my own company, MedRisk,” she says.
One of the benefits of the program is how alumni learn from students.
“I feel like I learn more than I give back,” Boyce says, adding that she thinks of herself as a “professional learner.”
Boyce makes sure that she remains in contact with the students she meets. “Thirty minutes isn’t long enough to spend with most of them, so I’ve offered on many occasions to provide further support or give them my business card to call me because of the diverse and innovative ideas these students provide.”
Boyce is one of the many alumni who returned to participate in the program this past fall. Sponsored by Robert Haft, W’74, last semester’s session included entrepreneurs Ellen Yin, W’87, WG’93; Richard Perlman, W’68; Robert Corrato, WG’00; Joe Zebrowitz, C’88, WG’06; and Troy Williams, WG’06.
According to Cieri, EIR has been emulated at universities nationwide.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” she says. “A colleague of mine from the Kellogg Business School at Northwestern jokingly told me how she stole Wharton’s idea for the EIR program, and they loved it.” Two years ago, another colleague at Harvard mentioned to Cieri that they were adapting the program as well.
As for the future of the program, Cieri is certain of its continued success. “EIR has become the hallmark of our mentoring programs. This is a program that never gets old. The vibrancy of the alumni keeps it fresh and relevant, and the students’ excitement makes it rewarding for the entrepreneurs.”
—By Chris Abreu, LPS’11