What I Learned From the Wharton Business Plan Competition

What I Learned From the Wharton Business Plan Competition

When I found out that I would be visiting UPenn a month ago, I immediately went straight to Google and searched for possible events I could attend. And there it was the Wharton Business Plan Competition was being held on May 1 in the Huntsman Hall at the University of Pennsylvania. After sorting out a few scheduling details with my dad, it was set; I would be able to attend the event.

I'll be back in the Huntsman Hall next year!!

I’ll be back in the Huntsman Hall next year!!

And so when the day finally arrived, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Going through the website of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, the finalists seemed to have some really promising ideas. Moments later, there I was sitting in the auditorium listening to the speakers.

At first, it didn’t feel quite right. The auditorium was packed with graduate students and people who looked like they had a backpack full of experience with them already. But I quickly realized that this is it. This is what the business world looks like. This is what I’ve been dreaming of in the past year. This is where I want to be.

When the presentations started, I was honestly a bit overwhelmed by all the data, credentials and what the businesses have done already. But this is the beauty in these events; as an incoming college freshman, it was an invaluable learning experience for me and a preview of the world I’ll hopefully be able to enter one day.

Building a well-rounded team

When the team leaders started introducing their team members and the people who have helped them in the process, you could really see that every member had a unique skillset that really contributed to the team. The winning team Slidejoy boasted students who have gotten multiple degrees from both Wharton and Stanford. But more importantly, they all had a set of important tasks.

The winning team of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, SlideJoy

The winning team of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, SlideJoy

Importance of Networking

During the breaks and networking sessions, you could really see people go at it, discuss ideas, share thoughts and exchange business cards. And true enough, when the presentations resumed, I suddenly started seeing how important this aspect was as the teams presented their current client bases and how they were able to get them to jump in their start-up ventures.

I even got to sit beside this founder and CEO who told me why he was there, and it was quite simple, “I’m here to build connections, network and at the same time, scout for talent.”

Love for your product

This is probably the one common thing that every team had – they had an unparalleled love for their product. This was extremely evident as they gave their presentations, answered tough questions from the panelists and ultimately, tell the stories behind their product during the networking and elevator pitch sessions.

These teams were able to make it so far because of the work they put into their business. You could see that it wasn’t an easy journey yet they were there having the time of their life as they proudly presented what they’ve probably worked for in the past half year or so.

SlideJoy giving their elevator pitch to the audience! ---"Knowledge is the muscle of Business" ---

SlideJoy giving their elevator pitch to the audience! —“Knowledge is the muscle of Business” —

A Variety of Businesses

The amazing thing was that all 8 finalists had such unique stories and very different businesses plans. You had one team, “Abaris” trying to create an online marketplace for annuities. You had “AdmitSee” tackling the admission process by creating an online reference tool by crowdsourcing the different profiles of already admitted students.

Then, there was “IdentifiedTechnologies” with their quad-copters collecting data for big-time gas and oil firms. “Senvol” on the other hand has served Fortune 500 companies with its algorithm to help manufacturers cut costs by determining which parts are more efficiently made by 3D printers.

And for people who like to live in new countries or are looking to move into a new place for quite some time, enter “VeryApt”, an apartment recommendation system that provides you with a tailored list of apartments based on their combination of both user-generated reviews and data analytics.

Then there was “PhaseOptics” which is trying to solve the problem of vision loss by offering breakthrough technology that will surely help ophthalmologists interpret images and give treatment to patients at an earlier stage.

Starting to feel hungry while reading about all these businesses? There was even a food business in “Matt & Marie’s” and its promise to serve high-quality Italian sandwiches in a fast food format.

All these businesses will probably releasing their own form of advertisements soon and “SlideJoy” has found a way to get people to view them — by paying them to do so.

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