I must say that I have a strong affinity for the startup world – meeting bright, interesting and engaging people and being exposed to promising opportunities that comprise this world, so playing a role for this event was truly an honor for me.

Following up on a recently released Wall Street Journal article by Ralph Gardner, I had served as the investor co-chair for the 1st Wharton Alumni Business Showcase at Christies New York, an event that gave 12 early stage companies an opportunity to give a live pitch to an audience of accredited angel investors, early stage venture capitalists and other parties interested in the companies being showcased for the night. With a little over 200 attendees, I was tremendously happy with the strong turnout since it was the first time this type of event was offered from the Wharton Alumni community – even angels who were not Wharton alums were also in attendance. The best part of all this was my opportunity to contribute in building this platform where courageous entrepreneurs get to meet with equally courageous early stage investors, so the energy level for the event was pretty high.

As a bit of background of the event, the Showcase actually started four years ago but only as the Wharton Club of New York alumni business plan competition, which was modeled after the annual contest the school held for students.  While gathering feedback from both the startup folks and the investor folks, from past events, both parties told us to “forget the competition” and to get them a chance to pitch for the real capital or to get them exposed to real deal flow, respectively.

So we did just that. The only problem was that the response was so large we only accepted 63 startups but had to go through a vetting process with 1st and 2nd round judges to help us whittle it down to 12 finalists – this part was very time-consuming but worth it in the end. Without a shadow of a doubt, I send out a big thanks to all the esteemed alums, who served as the 1st, 2nd and final round judges and hail from different companies, such as, ABB Technology Ventures, Accretive Capital, DJF Gotham Ventures, Edison Venture Fund, Founders Capital Management, Golden Seeds, HopStop, Hudson Clean Energy Partners, IA Ventures, Intel Capital, Inter-Atlantic Group, Investcorp, McKinsey & Company, MentorTech Ventures, Northeast Securities and Silver Lake Partners, just to name a few.

Besides all the talented and exceptional people whom I was proud to work alongside, I was also proud at how the showcase platform came together versus the typical business plan competition. Don’t get me wrong, I love that there’s an exercise to flex competitive muscle from an academic point of view, with nominal cash prizes to recognize those who are placed at the top, but I feel like it’s an interim, and sometimes unnecessary, step if we’re talking about really seeking startup capital for your business – your dream! By creating a quality platform for the entrepreneurs to showcase the “stuff that they’re made of” to a roomful of investors means that investor pitches get delivered with more passion, answers to questions carry greater stake, and stage fright takes a backseat for the survival of a dream, especially if you know the right sets of eyes and ears are in front of you to witness them.

I’d like to send a special thanks to Marc Porter, Wharton ’82 and President of Christie’s New York, for hosting this marquee event and for his helpful staff’s support on all the logistical aspects involved.

For all of us who were involved, it’s a labor of love and we plan to do more in the future, so stay tuned!