“In my four years here I was a Wharton undergraduate, I never heard the word ‘entrepreneurship’ mentioned,” Loren Feldman, W’78, the small business editor of The New York Times, shared at the eClub talk in December. Just moments before, almost every person in the full room had raised their hand when asked if they had thought or were thinking about starting a business.
Today, words like “startup” are prevalent in our vocabulary at Penn, and celebrities we watch include entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg. The person sitting next to you in accounting class may be running a business in his spare time.
Feldman shared the unique experiences of entrepreneurs that write for his New York Times blog “You’re the Boss,” including a Penn alumnus who custom-makes conference tables and went 20 years without making a profit and a man that lost half of his traffic overnight by changing the domain of his online nuts business.
After Feldman’s talk, three startup founders on campus pitched their business plans to Feldman to receive feedback and advice. One of the students was Wharton senior Patrick Leahy.
Along with two other Penn undergraduates, Patrick founded Firefly during PennApps, a 48-hour hack-a-thon that was held in September. Firefly was introduced to the audience as having received $20,000 in venture capital funding from The Dorm Room Fund, which is founded by Josh Kopelman, W’93, and is composed of nine Penn and two Drexel students. He presented Firefly with the poise of an experienced professional. It was hard for me to believe he is an undergraduate. But the reality is that these stories are happening all around.
This is an exciting time in the field of entrepreneurship. The position Feldman holds as “small business editor” of The New York Times did not exist before him. The creation of this position by such a major news source stresses the importance of small businesses today.
Penn is full of resources for those interested in starting business from the Wharton Small Business Development Center to the Weiss Tech House and Wharton Entrepreneurship. Penn understands the importance of encouraging innovation. Move over big business; startups may be the future.
Whether you hope to one day have your business featured in The New York Times or simply would like to read the stories of startup-founders, entrepreneurship is an exciting place to focus. Move over big business, startups are part of the future.