While it wasn’t exactly like the TV show Survivor because no one was voted out of Wharton, students in the recent West Coast workshop on the Development of Web-Based Services did vote to eliminate ideas for web-based products or services they had come up with during a recent four-day workshop.
For second-year West Coast EMBA student Chi Nguyen, the tournament format of Prof. Karl Ulrich’s intensive course was a unique opportunity to gain valuable feedback on her own business. “By pitching our ideas in elimination rounds every day, it forced us to crystallize our concepts very quickly. And putting so many smart people in a room and have them say, ‘This business model wouldn’t work,’ or ‘Have you ever thought of adding this to your Web site?’ was so helpful. You’re unlikely to have another occasion to get that many smart people to pick apart your business concept and give you advice.”
Fellow second-year West Coast EMBA student Christiaan Schaeffer, who runs a consulting firm, notes that the workshop also provided an opportunity to interact with first- and second-year students from the East and West Coasts as well as several full-time MBA students who were able to participate because the workshop was held during their winter break. “I ended up in a group with a lot of East Coast students and thought it was a great way of mixing everyone. By intensely working together on the projects, we really connected and I now have contacts on the East Coast,” he says.
In addition to whittling down and developing business ideas, the class also focused on the practicalities of launching a Web-based business, the different resources available, and brought in guest speakers such as Erik Blachford, CEO of Terrapass.com, and Trip Adler, CEO and co-founder of Scribd.com.
“This course was an amazing experience. I would take more classes like this. It’s hands-on, real-world stuff that you will apply every day,” says Nguyen. “This is how you really will start your business and get going.”
She adds, “During the same time period, EMBA students could have gone on a Leadership Venture to Antarctica or consulted in India for the Global Consulting Practicum. This is what makes Wharton so amazing. The kinds of opportunities here are unmatched by any other place – and this is coming on the heels of our class trip to China!”