Big names share successes, failures at Wharton's Startup UNconvention - Philly


Mar. 3, 2015 8:28 am

Big names share successes, failures at Wharton’s Startup UNconvention

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. and media mogul Steve Forbes headlined the event, which featured workshops on how to be a better entrepreneur.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. delivered an UNconvention keynote.

(Photo by Jason Sherman)

Learning from failure is essential to running a company.

That was one of the key takeaways from Wharton’s Startup UNconvention, held this past Saturday, Feb. 28. Some of the most influential people in America joined a wide variety of Wharton students, tech startup founders, business owners and people who were just interested in learning more about starting a company.

The event featured workshops on:

  • Building a business brick by brick
  • Building a “hypergrowth” sales team
  • How to use incubators to grow a global business
  • Learning from failures
  • Data-driven decision making

(Full disclosure: The author led the session on data-driven decision making.)

“It’s exciting to see so many students curious to learn more about how to gain traction for their startups,” said Pankaj Jain, a partner at 500 Startups. “Building a product and getting your first customers is just the first step, the real question is how to scale to millions of users.”

Unconvention attendees, Feb. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jason Sherman)

Unconvention attendees, Feb. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jason Sherman)

Among the keynote speakers, which included Steve Forbes, Jon Huntsman, Jr. and local favorite Josh Kopelman, the room of hundreds of participants kept extremely silent as they listened to every tidbit of information.


“It took us years to finally get things right with the Huntsman Corporation, I spent many sleepless nights wondering how we were going to take this thing to the next level,” said Huntsman, who at one point had a 90 percent approval rating as the governor of Utah.

When a local entrepreneur asked how to pay his bills when his company is doing great but he can’t keep his electricity on, Huntsman replied, “I’d say you should embrace failure, and learn from your mistakes, and never repeat them. If you can wake up in the morning and think of how you can make your business better, while earning an income doing it, you’ll be a step ahead in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, Forbes, the chairman of Forbes Media, spoke about how companies such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, oil companies, jean companies and the like took a simple resource and transformed it into a worldwide commodity that people simply can’t live without.

“110 years ago, a car in this country cost the equivalent of $125,000. Ford and his engineers created the assembly line to allow every person to afford this luxury,” Forbes said. “Human ingenuity and the creation of resources is truly remarkable and something we simply cannot live without.”

To some degree, Forbes said, he’s done that with online media.

“The Startup Unconvention was engaging and provided salient points as to what to look for as an investor as well as tangible suggestions for entrepreneurs to grow their startups,” said Resham Mehta, a second-year Wharton MBA student, when asked for her thoughts about the event.

Steve Forbes also delivered a keynote. (Photo by Jason Sherman)

Steve Forbes also delivered a keynote. (Photo by Jason Sherman)

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