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5 Awesome Companies That Grew Out of Business School

Posted in Test Prep on May 12, 2011 by

One of the advantages of having so many opportunities in business school is that you get to decide what’s truly important to you — whether it’s organizing that sustainability conference, nailing that finance internship, or starting a business with your new classmates. Serial entrepreneur, Penelope Trunk (founder of Brazen Careerist) is just one of many people who have touted the benefits of student entrepreneurship (check out this article from a recent Kellogg grad on the advantages of getting a jumpstart on your venture).

Is entrepreneurship your ultimate goal? For some inspiration, check out the following companies that got their starts while their founders were still hitting the books.

1. Kembrel

Flash sales come in many varieties. Just as Gilt has its hold on luxury brands and Travel Zoo on vacations, Wharton-launched Kembrel has found a way to tap into the lucrative college-student market with flash sales on student-friendly items. Instead of martinis and oysters, you’ll find jeans, spring break reads, video games, and dorm decor. Founded by Wharton students Cherib Habib and Stephan Jacobs, the private shopping community connects students with the hottest emerging and established lifestyle brands. Students save big, and brands gain exposure.

Before Wharton, Habib founded a mobile phone accessory distributor and online retail store,–while Jacobs founded RealAcad, a nonprofit company devoted to providing support for entrepreneurs. After winning Wharton’s Business Plan Competition, Kembrel won the $3000 People’s Choice Award and later received press mentions from Mashable, Forbes, and TeenVogue, among others.

2. Finale Desserterie & Bakery

Founded by Paul Conforti, Kim Moore, and Kristen Kryzewski, Finale has been described as the “Robin Hood” of fine desserts, offering premium treats such as creme brulee and tiramisu at prices which even college students can afford. Many who have visited Harvard Square are familiar with the swanky dessert shop; few however are aware that the restaurant originated with the HBS Business Plan Contest.

Early in their HBS careers, the founding trio knew that they wanted to start a restaurant company; they quickly zeroed in on desserts as a possibility and spent the following year developing a formal business plan (motivated, in part, by the Business Plan Contest). Upon graduation, the three committed to their vision and even took on jobs as servers and shift supervisors at local restaurants like “The Cheesecake Factory” to gain knowledge of the inner-workings of the restaurant industry. (In the process, they set the unofficial record as the lowest paid graduates of HBS.) The hands-on experience paid off, however, and they soon closed a first round of financing of $750,000.

Within the first year of opening in 1998, Finale received rave reviews in Newsweek, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Phoenix, and Boston Magazine, among others. Today, Finale has expanded to include a second desserterie in Harvard Square and a third in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. The plan is to expand throughout the New England region and then across the country.

3. New Leaders for New Schools

Another venture that emerged from the HBS Business Plan Contest is New Leaders for New Schools– a national non-profit organization devoted to recruiting and training the next generation of urban public school leaders. New Leaders places their rigorously trained graduates as principals and other top administrators in urban public schools and provides them with ongoing support, networking opportunities, and a lifelong community after graduation. Participants are selected for “an unyielding belief and sense of urgency to ensure all students achieve academically at high levels,” among other qualities.

Founded by former McKinseyite Benjamin Fenton in 2000, New Leaders has impacted the lives of a quarter million students in 10 states. Locations include the Bay Area, Memphis, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Chicago, NYC, Newark, New Orleans, Washington D.C, and Baltimore.

4. Bump Technologies

It’s so ubiquitous you probably take it for granted by now: as the billionth application offered at Apple’s App Store and the eighth most popular free app of all time, Bump allows two smartphone users to bump their phones together to exchange contact information, photos, and other data. The process is simple: two people indicate on their respective screens what information they want to send to the other, receive a confirmation, then bump their phones together, and within seconds, the information is sent through a separate internet server to the other user. Recent developments include a Facebook and a PayPal application that allows users to “bump” money between accounts.

Winner of the 2009 New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Bump was conceived by David Lieb, a former employee of Texas Instruments who roped in his fellow TI employees Andy Huibers and Jake Mintz to form what is now called Bump Technologies. To date, the company  has been funded by startup incubator Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, and other angel investors. Most recently, Bump received a $16 million round of financing led by Andressen Horowitz.

5. TicketLeap

This Wharton-launched venture provides a superior solution for online ticketing needs, covering all events, whether “big, free, or small.” It differentiates itself from a host of online ticketing options by offering deep social integration with Facebook and Twitter, extensive customization options, and a seamless user experience.

Users can set up an event registration page that matches the event’s personality and branding, create custom discount codes for certain customers, check-in guests with mobile phones and laptops, develop flexible payment schedules, and access ticket sale and patron data to determine patterns that will allow them to create more effective marketing strategies.