Each new academic year brings the promise of inspiring energy and exciting possibility. Next fall, students will return from summer break to an expanded campus with nearly 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art space for student entrepreneurship. This flagship capital project, Tangen Hall, and its core program, Venture Lab, will form a magnetic, dynamic, and iconic “start here” button for student founders and early joiners from Wharton and Penn that will transform our education—both how students learn and how faculty teach.
This activity builds upon Wharton’s storied history of entrepreneurship research and teaching. When biotech, software development, and global logistics were just beginning to chart industry-disrupting paths, Wharton pioneered a fully integrated curriculum of entrepreneurial studies. Next, the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center—the first academic center dedicated to studying entrepreneurship—was founded with donations from Ed Snider in honor of his father. In 1997, Robert Goergen WG62 generously endowed the Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program—one of the largest, most diverse programs of its kind. Emerging faculty leaders dive into the field, and students choose from more than 50 courses across health care, real estate, management, law, and more, connecting Wharton research with firsthand entrepreneurial experience.
It’s little wonder, then, that Penn and Wharton alumni founders have raised more than $40 billion in capital in the past decade. However, entrepreneurship isn’t only about mega-success stories. Developing products, launching startups, and testing solutions to society’s biggest problems: These are examples of learning-by-doing through a “try-and-fail” mind-set that will empower our students no matter their career path.
Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Karl Ulrich has massively scaled Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s offerings. More than 1,000 students and 170 startups participate in Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Venture Initiation Program every year.
The Penn Wharton Startup Challenge and Showcase, and other awards, propel the very best Penn student entrepreneurs. Alumni benefit, too: The dynamism of Wharton San Francisco, our Bay Area campus, offers exposure to startup life for EMBA and MBA students. It supports alumni ventures through Scale School, a lifelong learning series, and Open Space, a co-working program with more than 800 registrants. The results speak for themselves: Wharton alumni have founded almost 1,400 companies since 2016.
On campus, interest in and activities centered on entrepreneurship continue to grow, with demand at an all-time high. Wharton’s MBA concentration in entrepreneurship and innovation is now more popular with students than finance.
Located at 40th and Sansom streets, steps from student residences, Tangen Hall will redefine the western campus. It will house Venture Lab, Penn Engineering’s Weiss Tech Hub, the master’s-level Integrated Product Design Program, and cutting-edge maker and design spaces. The building reflects Wharton’s commitment to innovation as home to the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance, Joshua J. Harris Alternative Investments Program, and Jay H. Baker Retailing Center. Wharton-led and Penn-wide, Venture Lab will foster a creative ecosystem for students, alumni, professors, investors, and industry experts to bring great ideas to fruition and learn from each other.
As we look to Wharton’s future, this is why entrepreneurship and innovation are core areas of focus in the More Than Ever campaign. By giving aspiring founders the tools to turn great ideas into outcomes that matter, we can harness Wharton’s collective energy to change the world.
Geoffrey Garrett is dean, Reliance Professor of Management and Private Enterprise, and professor of management at the Wharton School, and professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania.
Published as “Founders Start Here” in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of Wharton Magazine.