Student StartUp Dreams Come True at Weiss Labs

When I visited the Weiss Tech House, one of the first things I noticed was a note scribbled on the white board: “Take a chance on the us. We are the 3%. 97% of startups fail.”

Indeed, Weiss- Labs is an incubator for entrepreneurship and innovation at Penn that is incredibly successful. Started this semester by co-founders, Guthrie Gintzler and Ernest Tavares, Weiss Labs has created a community of support and guidance for budding entrepreneurs at Penn. The first cohort of 7 teams, selected out of 70 applicants, meets for weekly meetings to give each other updates, and feedback and learn about different aspects of entrepreneurship from speakers who are leaders in their fields– anyone from lawyers to venture capitalists.

Guthrie and Ernest in part created the incubator to battle the risk-averse and pre-professional Penn culture, which sometimes prevents students from pursuing their entrepreneurial aspirations. “A lot of people who have good ideas are too afraid to take a break off from their internships and work on their good ideas because it breaks some sort of social code […] It’s oftentimes better to work on your idea and follow your passion even if you’re taking a year off. And companies at the end of the day respect that a lot more than people think”

When Guthrie and Ernest were trying to probe what makes an incubator really successful, they heard that the main thing is creating a tight community. But it’s more than just a community for entrepreneurs; it’s also a family. Guthrie joked, “Pledge Weiss-Labs.”

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Be Innovative Yet Cautious: Secondary Effects Loom

We live in an era when change and innovation are commonplace.  The reality is that today’s computer chip will likely be obsolete tomorrow, or soon thereafter.  The 2010 vehicle models will soon seem like they belong in the last century, and the next-released communication software will make us astonished that we ever lived without it.  The same principle applies for governing policies, public and private initiatives design, and really anything susceptible to growth and change.

Yet, for all the technology we rave about, policies we praise or growth we welcome, innovation and change also have dark sides that are seldom discussed.  Fortunately, even in the presence of an overwhelming and loud majority, there are usually a few brave souls willing to point to the negative and voice a dissenting opinion (at least in a free country).

What are the secondary effects of our actions and our developments that are presumably meant for good?  And are those secondary effects always good themselves?

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