Wharton Winner: Penn Wharton Startup Challenge Gives $30k to HR Startup, Twine

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Joseph Quan (left) and Nikhil Srivastava of Twine

PHILADELPHIA, PA., May 1, 2017—Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship is pleased to announce the winner of the inaugural Startup Challenge: Twine, founded by Wharton MBA students Joseph Quan and Nikhil Srivastava (both WG’17). The Showcase took place on April 28 on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Twine makes internal mobility within a company seamless by recommending the best employees to fill open roles, helping companies to boost retention and significantly reduce hiring costs by efficiently hiring from within.Twine solves a major HR problem for companies that are competing to attract top new talent, while their own employees leave to seek opportunities elsewhere. According to Twine, the average Fortune 500 company loses $100M in undesirable, preventable employee turnover each year. Twine’s algorithm matches internal employees with open roles, helping individuals grow their careers within a company, saving the company millions in recruiting and training. Twine is a three-time winner of the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund and a member of VIP-Xcelerate, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s new intense, four-month accelerator program for student ventures that are ready to launch; applications are by invitation only.

Twine was chosen at the Startup Showcase, a new version of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, showcasing the best student-founded startups from across the University of Pennsylvania. Eight finalist teams in the Startup Challenge were chosen that morning from 29 semifinalists, after pitching in closed-room sessions to panels of alumni entrepreneurs and investors. The finalists pitched to a live audience and a panel of judges for over $135,000 in cash and prizes to help them launch their startups.

The Startup Showcase was a triumphant finish to an exciting year of entrepreneurship at Penn and Wharton. Students across the University are founding fast-growing companies, and the resources available at Penn and in Philadelphia continue to expand. Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship is proud to be a leader in entrepreneurship, and thrilled to have launched this new event to showcase the amazing accomplishments of student entrepreneurs.

In addition to the finals of the Startup Challenge, the Showcase offered a room full of the best student ventures from across Penn the opportunity to demo their companies for accomplished alumni and interested members of the public.  A new feature, the in-elevator elevator pitches, were a huge favorite, as student entrepreneurs gave short pitches to alumni investors in an actual elevator. Another new element this year, the $10,000 Innovation Award went to Neuroflow; the Innovation Award is funded by the Penn Wharton Innovation Fund, endowed by Alberto Vitale (WG’59), which is, in his words, intended to be “a catalyst to stimulate innovation at the School and to surface the brainpower of its students.”

The 2017 Startup Challenge winners are:

  1. Perlman Grand Prize: $30,000 + $15,000 in legal, accounting, & strategy services to Twine
  2. Second Prize: $15,000 + $15,000 in legal, accounting, & strategy services to RightAir
  3. Third Prize: $10,000 + $15,000 in legal, accounting, & strategy services to CitySense
  4. Frederick H. Gloeckner Award for Best Undergraduate Team: $10,000 to Ride Health
  5. Social Impact Prize: $10,000 to RevoLOOtion
  6. Innovation Award: $10,000 to Neuroflow
  7. Michelson People’s Choice Award: $3,000 to Splaced
  8. Crowd Favorite Award: $2,000 to VisiPlate
  9. Best Use of Technology Award: $1,000 to AgGrow

Previous participants in the competition include ventures such as eyeglass phenom Warby Parker, dominant Brazilian baby e-commerce site Baby.com.br, and drug R&D company Integral Molecular.

70 Penn and Wharton alumni acted as judges over the course of the day—see the complete list of judges here. The Startup Challenge finals judges are:

  • David Cohen, PAR’14, PAR’16, PAR’17, CEO, Chief Investment Officer, and Co-founder, Karlin Asset Management, Inc.
  • Carol Curley, WG’81, Managing Director, Golden Seeds
  • Karen Griffith Gryga, GEN’93, WG’93, Chief Investment Officer, DreamIt Ventures
  • Marc Lore, Wharton alum, Founder and CEO, Jet.com; President and CEO, Walmart U.S. Ecommerce
  • Richard Perlman, W’68, Founder and Executive Chairman, ExamWorks Group, Inc.
  • Stephen Tang, WG’92, President and CEO, University City Science Center

Startup Challenge & Showcase Sponsors:

  • Perlman Grand Prize Sponsor: Ellen Hanson and Richard E. Perlman, W’68
  • Platinum Sponsor & Michelson People’s Choice Award Sponsor: Gary and Alya Michelson Foundations
  • Gold Sponsor: Eric Aroesty, C’92
  • Silver Sponsor & Best Use of Technology Award Sponsor: Safeguard Scientifics
  • Friend of PWSc: SoFi (This sponsorship includes membership in SoFi’s Entrepreneur Program plus a $2000 cash award to the receiving team)
  • In-kind Sponsors: Blank Rome LLP, Duane Morris LLP, Grant Thornton, KPMG, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

About the Wharton School

Founded in 1881 as the first collegiate business school, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is recognized globally for intellectual leadership and ongoing innovation across every major discipline of business education. With a broad global community and one of the most published business school faculties, Wharton creates economic and social value around the world. The School has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students; more than 9,200 participants in executive education programs annually and a powerful alumni network of 95,000 graduates.

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