From Contacts to Office Space: EMBA Students Find Entrepreneurial Resources at Wharton in San Francisco “Incredible”

running a company with her father in Russia in the 1990s, Maria Merchant’s
dream was to someday launch her own business. However, she lacked a business education,
as well as contacts in the U.S.

To help
overcome those obstacles, she decided to pursue her EMBA degree at Wharton in
San Francisco
. Within three
months of starting the EMBA program, she took steps to turn her dream into
reality. Merchant, who was self-sponsored, left her consulting firm job and
turned her own business into a full-time project.

She explains,
“Students might not realize how much Wharton has to offer entrepreneurs, but so
many contacts came through Wharton that it was just incredible. For anyone
planning to start their own company, I recommend exploring their
entrepreneurial ideas as early as possible in the program to allow them to take
advantage of all the resources.”

She launched
Angiologix, a
cardiovascular diagnostic company, through Wharton’s Venture
Initiation Program (VIP)
a program that assists Penn students in taking their business ideas from conception to
implementation. Based in California, Merchant participated in VIP’s monthly
advisory meetings by phone or set up one-on-one advising calls. She was even
given use of office space at the San Francisco campus.

Wharton San
Francisco EMBA alumnus Scott Hilton, executive vice president of operations at, says,
“I can’t think of a better environment to help in moving a business idea forward
because there are other students and professors in the program looking to help
out or invest money, as well as the ability to get your business going with all
those fresh ideas from the program.”

classmate Marc Lore, who founded a few months before starting the
EMBA program at Wharton in San Francisco, agrees. “There are huge advantages to
starting a business while going to Wharton. The classes are very relevant,
there are a lot of smart people in the program, and there are plenty of
opportunities to leverage the knowledge of the professors because they eat lunch
and dinner with the students.”

adds, “I felt this was the only time I would have to really give it a chance
because of the opportunity to take advantage of all the new contacts, the
knowledge of the professors, and all of the other resources — the VIP
the Wharton Business Plan Competition and the Wharton Venture Award. I felt like if I didn’t do it then, I might not ever try.”


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