A Wharton EMBA Decides To Do A Startup

LindsayWhen I think of takeout.  I think Chinese food. And when I think of Chinese food, I dream of potstickers. Delectable deliciousness. In fact, I have waxed poetic about these little bundles of dough-and-meat joy. Even got into a top journalism school writing about them.

I never pursued that degree, but less than six months left to go before I earn my MBA at Wharton | San Francisco, potstickers are still a favorite. Nearly 100 hundred of us, students and administrators, schlepped around the world for a four-day whirlwind trip to Beijing and then… drumroll… Shanghai, the home of the best darn dumplings in the world. They are soupy wonderful.

Not as aqueous as the broth surrounding my delectable little friends was the solid schedule of meetings we had while there. You got to hand it to Wharton admins. They run a tight ship: Baby retailers, “The Amazon” of China,” Nike, GM, and Major League Baseball and more. The schedule was hotter than the plant where most of China’s steel is manufactured:  I nearly burned my knee as I crouched to snap a shot of the sheets of not- yet- solidified metal. Smokin’.
But for me, company visits were company visits. With a background as a TV journalist, I’ve been lucky to meet some of the most important leaders of the world and get to ask whatever questions I wanted. I have had a lot of access. Which gets to my point.

Oh access. It’s easy to take it for granted. But as a person who has worked for a classmate’s start-up, gathering up the nuts-and-bolts of starting a company and now is moving to launch my own venture….Wow. I’m glad I chose Wharton.

The business world is a bit chillier and certainly less responsive when you aren’t calling on a media deadline for a major network. But the Wharton network makes the climate a little warmer.

It’s pretty cold to take a seat alone in one of those famed shared office spaces in San Francisco. You know? The kind where you pay for a chair and two feet at a long table in a semi-hip space in SoMa. Your idea in your pocket and your school loans clanking around your ankles: You could have become a consultant or a banker with your MBA. But somehow you’re emerging from the program a dreamer.  A dreamer with a new tool kit you just bought. Problem is… you’ve never driven a nail into a board.

But as Ethan Mollick, our Entrepreneurship professor said on our final day of the term: “You are more equipped than most people in the world to start a business. Less than .0006 of the population has the caliber of education you do. I hope you try to start your own company.”

On my first day of building out my own idea, I sat down. A lively man approached and asked where I went to school. I told him and he said; “You’re finishing up at Wharton? Well I went to Wharton, and so did that guy and that girl and that… yeah that guy over there, too.”

And that kind of instant camaraderie is not just heart warming. It’s inspirational and keeps you moving in the lonely world of entrepreneurship that can easily get mired in pajamas, long naps and unfinished goals.

But if the tall dreams propagated by people sitting at long picnic tables isn’t enough, how do white linen tables, cabernet and steaks with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner sound? Top it off with some of the most successful VCs from Sand Hill Road and a guy who has fostered the success of thousands of start-ups. They are Wharton grads and active alums. And against the backdrop of the glistening Bay Bridge, they not only talked to little old me but imparted meaningful advice.
Sure. We’ve got plenty of the best and the brightest in finance graduating from the program—and it’s true that the job market isn’t what it was. But Wharton, well it’s solid. More sound, less noise. And certainly something I love sinking my teeth into.

Lindsay Stewart is an MBA for Executives student at Wharton | San Francisco. Former special projects producer for KPIX- TV, she is now working on a startup idea. Stewart graduated from UC-Berkeley with a BA in English in 2002. Her previous posts on P&QforExecs:

A Third Of The Way Into Wharton’s San Francisco EMBA Program
Why I’m Getting An Executive MBA At Wharton
An Apt Metaphor: Letting The Goat Into Your House
Working In Groups: The Quintessential Pearl Experience of The EMBA 
The Women of Wharton