PhillyInc: Wharton fund to help students develop bright ideas

Posted: October 05, 2011

A little money can go a long way in turning what seems like a good idea by a college student into a product or service that can be used by customers.

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania just got a lot more money with which to provide small grants to its students.

The business school announced last week it had created the Wharton Innovation Fund, which will provide about $125,000 in grants annually in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Wharton alum Alberto Vitale, the former chairman and chief executive of publisher Random House, is supplying the cash.

Don Huesman, managing director of the Wharton Innovation Group, said the fund is open to students, faculty, and staff who think up new products or services that address large-scale problems or issues.

Wharton is aiming for big impact, Huesman said - not just mapping out a new deal-of-the-day website or new fast-food franchise.

"We're hoping to identify real entrepreneurs with real spirit," he said.

About a half-dozen students already showed some hustle by seeking out Huesman with their proposals before the fund had been formally announced, he said.

These are grants that enable the intellectual property to remain with their student-inventors. In other words, Wharton will not get a slice of equity in any of the new ventures.

The Wharton Innovation Fund adds to an arsenal of assets that Penn and its business school have available for entrepreneurial-minded students. The Weiss Tech House is a place where students can go to work on their enterprises. The Wharton Venture Initiation Program is an incubator program. And the annual PennVention and Wharton Business Plan Competitions give cash and in-kind prizes.

Correction

Tuesday's column contained an incorrect value of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.'s acquisition of Harleysville Group Inc. Nationwide will pay $760 million for the property and casualty insurer.
Contact columnist Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980

or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.

Read his blog, "PhillyInc," at www.phillyinc.biz.

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