As this year’s Wharton Startup Challenge gears up, Joseph Quan, WG’17, who with classmate Nikhil Srivastava co-founded last year’s Grand Prize winner Twine, shares a few tips after returning to Wharton for the People Analytics Conference.

Joseph Quan, CEO and co-founder of Twine Labs, keeps a gong in the office. Whenever the people analytics software company signs a new client, every team member rings it. It’s been noisy at Twine lately.

The gong recalls one of Twine’s biggest moments — when Joseph, co-founder and CTO Nikhil Srivastava, and a contingency of Wharton supporters rang the NASDAQ closing bell, in honor of their grand prize win in the inaugural Wharton Startup Showcase in 2017.

“We had this whole ecosystem of people around us — the early investors, early customers, early interns who worked with us and believed in us, plus a whole handful of Wharton people that we invited out — classmates as well as administrators and faculty,” Joseph said. “That was a huge moment, but it really just signaled the very beginning of our journey.”

Twine is a people analytics startup that makes it easy for executives to make better decisions based on the plethora of underutilized HR data sitting within their company.

A year after its relaunch, the Wharton Startup Showcase is gearing up with a new set of semifinalists and Joseph was back at Wharton for the People Analytics Conference, this time as an entrepreneur who just closed around of funding. He said it feels like a different experience.

“Coming back to the People Analytics Conference is a little bit like the archetypal journey,” he said. “Our first year, we had to volunteer just to get tickets – that was two years ago. The second year they invited us in to present as one of the competing startups. And this year, coming back, we’re still in the early stages but have begun to develop our presence, and have been able to rekindle relationships with all the people at Wharton that were instrumental to getting us off the ground in the first place.”

Here’s what Joseph had to say to this year’s semifinalists and other aspiring entrepreneurs:

1. Business school matters.

“I think people underestimate how valuable business school can be in starting a company. When I let my circle of friends in Silicon Valley and across the broader West Coast know I was going to business school, some said, ‘Why don’t you just take that capital and just deploy it against your business instead?’ And there’s no way to really look back and say what would have ultimately ended up being a better route, but I had conviction that this was the path for me.”

2. Use the resources available.

“You have to make the most out of the opportunities around you. I was super interested in building an analytics — especially a people analytics company — so I showed up at the People Analytics Conference the first year. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been there the second year to display and present, and I wouldn’t have been there the third year now as an entrepreneur. Without that early confidence of knowing I would start a company and having conviction that the resources at Wharton would be instrumental to building it, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

3. To succeed as an MBA entrepreneur, you have to commit.

“Early on at Wharton I made the bet that I was going to start a company and there was no Plan B. And there’s never going to be a Plan B. I never submitted a resume to a job. I never attended a single networking conference or networking event for recruiting. And I basically said, I’m either going to do this or die trying. In order for a startup to really take off at a MBA level — where there are so many distractions — you need to develop that early conviction to throw all other options away. Say, ‘I’m willing to just go with this and failure will not be an option.’”

— Kelly Andrews

Posted: April 17, 2018

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