Wharton was a sponsor of this year’s Tech Crunch Disrupt Conference. Several executive MBA and full-time MBA students attended, along with alumni and staff. A few EMBA students share highlights from the event.
Pav Dharwarkar, a first-year EMBA student in San Francisco, is founder of Cadenza Capital Management in Los Angeles:
I invest in public equities and am always looking at growth, so the conference was a chance to learn more about the up and coming areas in technology. Also, the conference attracted many people from throughout the Wharton community that I otherwise wouldn’t have met like full-time East Coast MBA students, alumni and even prospective students.
In addition to startup competitions, there also were some big name speakers. For example, Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook talked about wanting to build new technologies and infrastructures so that everyone can get a smart phone at an affordable rate, bridging the gap between those who can access the Internet and those who can’t. He also talked about security and privacy issues and the government’s role in those areas. Other speakers included well-known VCs Tom Perkins, the cofounder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and Don Valentine, the founder of Sequoia Capital, who shared insights on how they make great investments. The key, they said, is to assume the past is wrong and to do something totally different rather than making step-wise improvements in existing technology. In addition, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, and Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, spoke. Mayer talked about the benefits of competition with Microsoft, and Khosla discussed whether VC funding is right for startups.
Another highlight of the conference for me wasn’t even a planned event. I’ve done a lot of investing in Brazil over the last decade and was talking to folks from that country at the international pavilion when an NPR reporter from San Francisco asked for an interview. I agreed and we did a segment on the macro-economic landscape in Brazil.
As an entrepreneur, there was a great synergy at the conference between work, school and my future interests.
To read a Knowledge@Wharton article about Tom Perkins’ guest lecture at Wharton | San Francisco, click here.
Kathy Sohrabi, a first-year EMBA student in San Francisco, is vice president of engineering at UgMo Technologies. She is based in Los Angeles:
I’m a technologist and am plugged into the technology and startup community, and so I was excited about attending this conference. It was quite an experience! The event brings together not only technologists but also entrepreneurs and VCs. It was great to see all the sources for a successful venture come together at this venue.
In particular, I enjoyed the fireside chats with various VCs and founders of successful companies. The founders shared insights about how they started their companies, their timelines and how they interacted with VCs. The VCs discussed the types of ventures that interest them and the appropriate stages to engage with them. I took home more than a few helpful lessons from those talks. I also enjoyed experiencing startup alley and the demos from the companies participating in the event. That really gave a snapshot of the current trends in technology in terms of what is being done now and what opportunities there are for the future. Some of the current trends featured were 3D printing, drones, and wearables. For example, there was a helmet for motorcyclists with a cell phone connected to the Internet and controlled by the driver’s eye movements. There also was a lot of coverage of crowd funding, social entrepreneurship and e-commerce.
This event has encouraged me to pivot on some of the ideas I’m pursuing. It reinforced that good ideas are out there, but they need to be married with the tools and knowledge that we are learning at Wharton to build something with a probability of success.
Entrepreneurship is in the water in the Bay Area. You can’t help but be exposed to a lot of ideas and entrepreneurial mindsets here so this conference was highly complementary to many students’ interest. A lot of us are chomping at the bit to start the classes related to entrepreneurship after our core classes because we can’t wait to dive deeper into these areas.