Jeni Incontro came to the EMBA program at Wharton San Francisco to gain the knowledge and skills needed to launch her startup.
Now that she’s past the halfway mark of the program, we asked Jeni, who is also a solutions manager for Vitech Systems Group in Los Angeles, CA, to tell us about her Wharton experience. Here is what she said:
On Coming to Wharton
I have a project management background so I wanted quantitative training, which Wharton is known for. I also was attracted to the sense of community at Wharton San Francisco. From the second I set foot on campus for my interview, I felt like I was part of this group. Nobody let me eat alone!
In class, students made an effort to talk to me and answer questions. I also came here because I had an idea for a startup, but didn’t know where to begin. I planned to treat my two years in school as an incubator.
Wharton’s EMBA program is very plugged into the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the executive MBA format would allow me to maintain my job. It was a great fit.
On Launching a Startup
My startup is called Stage Stream and is basically like Netflix for the theater. It’s an online marketplace for videos of theater productions. The concept is a hybrid of theater, business and technology and Wharton understands and supports those intersections.
At Wharton, I joined the Venture Initiation Program (VIP), which is like a campus incubator. Now that I’m in my second year, I’m taking entrepreneurship electives and am using my startup in several class projects. I also took part in the Spring Pitch Competition, which allowed me to pitch investors and get great feedback.
Another big benefit for entrepreneurs at Wharton is that so many other students in the San Francisco EMBA program are interested in this area or have their own startups. I get active feedback from them about what works and what doesn’t. They also inspire me to keep moving forward. I know they’ll ask me about the business during each class session and I want to tell them what I’ve accomplished. That is serious accountability and keeps up my momentum.
On Myth vs. Reality
One myth I had coming into the program was that everyone would be very competitive. That has been the farthest thing from the truth. People are really supportive of each other here. We’re all experienced and not competing for the same jobs the way you might in a full-time program. We’re all here to learn and build our networks. We push each other to be our best.
I also assumed that everyone would be solely focused on academics. It’s been interesting to see how we are building real friendships – not just expanding our rolodexes. I really like my classmates and want to spend more time with them aside from just being business contacts.
In my first term, I easily put in 20 hours or more a week on school work. However, I’ve learned how to prioritize and now spend 10-12 hours a week on school. I’m also spending more time on starting my business and building relationships with my classmates.
The ROI for my new business is infinite. As a result of my classes, I can easily switch from talking about technology to marketing to legal issues to funding all in a few hours. I could never have done that before coming to Wharton – I didn’t have the breadth of vocabulary.
I am gaining these fundamental skills from different areas and am learning how to quickly switch gears. This is a huge advantage for my business. Also, the Wharton name gives me instant credibility and is opening up a lot of doors.
Advice for Incoming Students
The more you put into the program, the more you will get out. The opportunity to spend time with your classmates and build those relationships is limited so don’t waste it. Go to social events and spend as much time as you can at school talking to people because that is where there is a ticking clock. After graduation, you’ll still have your education, but what will really open doors is being able to call a classmate – those relationships are invaluable.
Posted: August 12, 2015