When I stopped getting paychecks and started getting emails about textbooks and class preparation, I knew that the beginning of the semester was upon us. While it was bittersweet to leave my summer colleagues at Goodreads, I am excited to be starting the next chapter, which I predict will be just as exciting and rigorous as life at a growing startup. And this time, I’m beginning my semester on the other side of the country. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Semester in SF pilot program, and this is the first of many posts where I’ll share my reflections and maybe even some provocative commentary.
I see the pilot as a startup that the Wharton community is building together, and as such, I’m setting the expectation that at times, there will be uncertainties and kinks that we need to address. But if any group subscribes to the mantra of “fail fast, fail early, and fail often,” then it’s this one. So far, though, there isn't any hint of things gone even slightly awry, at least from the first two days of school. In fact, while recently chatting with one of my classmates, we concurred that thus far, things have gone quite swimmingly. We kicked off the program bright and early yesterday, complete with a tour of the sparkling new Wharton West facility, basic introductions to faculty, staff and fellow students, and a riveting building safety video. Oh, and 6 consecutive hours of class, which happened to include a guest speaker from Flurry, Peter Farago (WG ’03) who gave a great presentation on the growing importance of mobile apps and how they are changing the way we interface with customers and spend our advertising dollars. His presentation was one in a series of many that are included in our weekly Regional Seminar, which will include guest speakers sharing advice on everything from team building to social media marketing to the basics of venture funding as well as a VC workshop and field trips to local startups and incubators. To say I’m excited would be an understatement – this series of stellar guests and events was crowd-sourced from all of us and brought to fruition by faculty, career management, staff, alumni and students and I’m so grateful that it’s happening, as these are the sorts of events that I constantly seek out, crossing my fingers that the $20 I pay to SF New Tech or some other organization will actually be worth it. If Peter’s talk was any indication of what’s in store for us, then we’re a very lucky bunch.
I imagine that my classmates are equally thrilled, as there seem to be a lot of entrepreneurial-minded bones in our bodies. When we took a quick inventory of peoples' majors yesterday and went through the stock options of finance, management, marketing, and so forth, there were maybe 5 hands that went up. We quickly deduced that the crucial one missing from the list was "entrepreneurship," after which there were so many arms in the air that it was almost as if we had just done a group cheer. There really isn't a much better audience for the launch of this program. We're an eclectic and passionate group, and many of us have aspirations to start our own businesses someday, if we haven't started them already. As might be expected for any swath of the Bay Area population, we have our fair share of seasoned and emerging entrepreneurs, start-up mavens, techies and venture capitalists. I'm excited to be a part of this diverse and talented student body - the very first Semester in SF cohort - and I am confident that we will establish a strong foundation for the future of the program.
So, for those of you curious about what we’re up to here, after 2 days I can report that I’ve been through a round of an innovation tournament, pitched an idea and convened a group for our Entrepreneurial Marketing class, and am vying for a super nerd award since I just opted into every single class that is being offered here, most of which include “technology,” “entrepreneurship,” or “venture” in the title. I’m fairly convinced that any reference to those sorts of things increase my interest and motivation level by at least 5x, so it certainly seems like I’m in the right place. Yesterday, I managed to plow through our full 8 am to 3 pm day on 5 hours of sleep with minimal caffeine intake and a healthy level of engagement, which I suppose is a good sign. For the record, I plan to sleep more moving forward, though it won’t be hard to fill my waking hours with interesting projects, forays into the local startup scene, and quality time with classmates.
To those in Philadelphia, it must be said that I will miss you, and rest assured, I’m still getting ALL of your emails about the various color-themed parties and all the great opportunities in every single club known to man. Think of me fondly when you are eating lunch. I’ll probably be having breakfast.
To my fellow techie / entrepreneur / California-loving classmates in the pilot, I hope that you’re all ready to dive in with an open mind. And I hope that things aren’t perfect so that we can wrestle with the challenge of novelty and change – I’m confident that in doing so, we’ll emerge better leaders, equipped to navigate unexpected bumps in the road as we start our own companies now and in the future.