University of Pennsylvania: Wharton School - Entrepreneurship Club
Toby Clarence-Smith, co-president of the Entrepreneurship Club at University of Pennsylvania: Wharton School
Toby Clarence-Smith studied at the London School of Economics and worked as Assistant Vice President at Barclays Capital and Summer Associate at Bridges Ventures, before starting at Wharton School. A month ago, I spoke with Toby, the co-president of the Entrepreneurship Club, where he provided plenty of entrepreneurial advice as well as discussing a speaker who was not only the founder of Warby Parker but also an alum from Wharton.
What is your club’s main aim this year?
Wharton has seen a surge in entrepreneurial activity in recent years with a large number of students showing interest in the startup space. We hope to help continue to foster this interest and support our community, as well as to reinforce Wharton’s image as a thought-leader in the entrepreneurial world and a top MBA program for students interested in starting their own company
Who was the most exciting speaker this year?
Hard to choose, we had so many great ones! But if I had to pick one I’d say Neil Blumenthal – Neil graduated from Wharton in 2010 and went on to found (along with 3 other Wharton classmates) what is probably one of the most exciting and successful startups in recent years: Warby Parker. Warby Parker has not only disrupted the eyewear retailing space but has generally popularized a new business approach, which is now being replicated across different sectors and different products. The fact that Warby Parker manages to marry financial returns with ‘social returns’ is amazing and inspiring.
A bit about your personal background: What were you doing pre-MBA?
Upon graduating from the London School of Economics in 2007, I went on to work at Barclays Capital in Leveraged Finance and IBD. I left BarCap in 2010 to join an exciting venture capital fund called Bridges Ventures that aims to use its commercial expertise to deliver both financial returns and social and environmental benefits.
What do you hope to do post-MBA?
I hope to start my own company! More generally I hope to work at an early stage (ie pre Series A or Series B) startup.
What do you think is the key to entrepreneurial success?
I think many people mistakenly think that the key to entrepreneurial success is having a good idea. Of course, if you come up with a great idea then that’s obviously a good start! But what I’ve learned at Wharton is that ideas are rarely unique (and if they are, it might be because they aren’t very good!) and that what matters far more is execution. Within the umbrella of ‘Execution’, if I had to choose the one thing that has stood out to me over the course of last year from my classes and from my own entrepreneurial pursuits, is that the team is absolutely critical.
What area of business do you think is best to start up as an entrepreneur at the moment?
It’s hard to say. There is a lot of funding at the moment and a lot of new startups getting funded. One area that perhaps still needs a lot of innovation and which presents a good opportunity to aspiring entrepreneurs is the education sector.
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