EMTM VIPs Launch Exciting Initiatives
The Wharton Venture Initiation Program (VIP) gives University of Pennsylvania students the opportunity to bring a business idea to fruition through the help of seasoned advisers, educational programs and networking sessions, and EMTM students are using this invaluable resource to launch innovative new enterprises. Dan Hughes ’11, Brendan McCorkle ’11 and Michael Crossey ’12 are behind four projects chosen for the competitive program last fall. This article is the last in a series tracking their progress.
I have tried to get as much value out of every class as I could for my business and I approached VIP in the same way, and it has paid off.
Dan Hughes, EMTM’12
Vice President, Product Management
New York, NY
Dan Hughes’ StoragebyMail offers customers an alternative to traditional self-storage with centralized space and online tracking. Though StoragebyMail has been operating for two years, Hughes sought out the help of VIP to develop investor interest and obtain legal advice as he builds the company and expands its operations. In the past several months, Hughes had been focused on securing financing. “We now find ourselves in the nice position of maybe not needing it, because we’ve figured out the customer acquisition piece of the puzzle.”
StoragebyMail’s visibility has grown due to Hughes’ marketing efforts, such as taking a street team to Manhattan to advertise StoragebyMail’s services to college students. He’s also been participating in the MassChallenge, a high-profile global startup competition that offers major resources and up to $100,000 prize money for winners, and StoragebyMail is now among the finalists. The Challenge, which Hughes first heard about through VIP, has brought him plenty of new exposure and customers, and he credits his VIP experience with helping him get this far. “For VIP I had to pitch my business and learn how to talk about it concisely, and this prepared me to make the pitch to MassChallenge.” As he nears the end of his EMTM career, Hughes says the program in general has helped him to think like an entrepreneur. “I have tried to get as much value out of every class as I could for my business and I approached VIP in the same way, and it has paid off.”
Even though my project changed, I’ve been able to take value from the program all along. Throughout this process my VIP advisors and peers have been a wonderful sounding board and inspiration.
Brendan McCorkle, EMTM’11
The Free Beer Company
The Free Beer Company
Brendan McCorkle initially began the program focused on a business called Textaurant, but late last spring the founding team parted ways. McCorkle came away from his initial VIP experience more determined than ever to start a business. “What I realized, after some soul-searching, is that I am going down the road of a serial entrepreneurthis is what excites me.” After consulting with the VIP team, whose advisors encouraged him to stay in the program and develop another business concept, McCorkle settled on one that was close to his heart: gluten-free beer. As someone with wheat intolerance, he recognized the dearth of great gluten-free microbrewed beers on the market. “Jeffrey Babin advised me that having my own skin in the game as far as a personal passion for the product is a powerful route to entrepreneurship. I started brewing my own beer, and in the interim researching the market.” By September, he had a winning recipe, a company name and an incorporated business. This fall McCorkle will be working with VIP to continue the process of building the company: finding vendors, figuring out how to store and transport the product and moving forward with financing. “Even though my project changed, I’ve been able to take value from the program all along. Throughout this process my VIP advisors and peers have been a wonderful sounding board and inspiration.”
We’ve had so much success and are so busy with projects—much of that is due to our involvement with VIP and we are thankful for that.
Michael Crossey, EMTM’10
Co-Founder and CEO
MG Legal Solutions
MG Legal Solutions
Michael Crossey, an attorney and managing partner of Crossey Law Group, founded MG Legal Solutions as a way to integrate technology with legal practice, and refine the traditional legal business model by using software solutions that can reduce client costs, batching theory to pull together entrepreneurs needing similar work, and providing a pre-packaged startup toolkit. The software solutions will include tools such as common documents, video overviews of various legal issues faced by entrepreneurs and online minute books for corporate recordkeeping. MG Legal Solutions will also be offering interim executive and general counsel services to new companies. Crossey spent the last two semesters working with VIP to develop products and help bring their services to the market, and the work is going according to plan. “We’ve had so much success and are so busy with projects—much of that is due to our involvement with VIP and we are thankful for that,” Crossey says.
Currently MG’s software is undergoing private beta tests and Crossey Law Group is transitioning its legal client records to online solutions. “We’re also going to be rolling out additional functionality on our websites, www.crosseylawgroup.com and www.mglegalsolutions.com, by the end of the summer to further assist clients and entrepreneurs,” Crossey says, adding that he is already providing outside general counsel to many of the entrepreneurs he has met through VIP. Crossey sees VIP as the ideal test tube for his burgeoning business and he has found the support from classmates and mentors invaluable in the process. “The major benefit of VIP for me has been the exposure to entrepreneurs and the opportunity to work closely with them,” Crossey says. “VIP is the perfect place to test our vision and ensure that we’re building great products and services for our fellow entrepreneurs. Success is always a team effort and VIP can be a strong part of the team.”