Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition

Ellen L. Hanson and Richard E. Perlman W'68 Commit $10 Million to Create New Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

What You'll Gain

Our new Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) program provides training, funding, and guidance to help interested students buy an established small to medium-sized company and operate, optimize, and grow it. Our workshops and events are open to all Penn Students. The $50K Perlman Fellowship is a competitive opportunity available only to Penn and Wharton Master's Degree and Ph.D students in their final year of study and graduating in 2024.
Win $50K Perlman ETA Fellowship to support post-graduation search for a business to acquire and operate (Penn and Wharton Master's Degree and Ph.D graduating in 2024 only)
Connect to a vibrant community of students and alumni passionate about Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition
Participate in hands-on ETA workshops delivered by accomplished practitioners in the field
Learn from Wharton faculty in rigorous classes on topics including acquisition options, search fund entrepreneurship, and self-funding

The Perlman ETA Fellowship

The Perlman Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) Fellowship offers up to a $50K award and additional resources for Penn and Wharton Master’s and Ph.D. students in their final year of study and graduating in 2024, who aim to acquire and operate a business immediately after graduation.


What is Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition?
Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) involves buying and growing an existing small business that has already demonstrated product-market fit. Individuals who pursue this path are commonly called ‘searchers’.

The size of the deals can range from $25,000 to $25 million for a single company. ETA entrepreneurs typically buy a majority share of the companies in which they invest. The acquirer becomes the CEO and operates and grows the business, some with the goal of selling it again for a profit within a five to seven-year timeframe. Searchers can acquire businesses across various industries.
What are the different ways to acquire a business?
There are several paths to ETA:

  • In the traditional search fund model, an individual searching for a business to acquire (the “searcher”) raises funds from investors to fund the search process. Once the searcher finds a target business to acquire, the investors provide the funds for the acquisition.
  • In a self-funded search, the searcher funds the search process using personal funds. The searcher raises funds from investors after the target business is identified to complete the acquisition. Eligible students are encouraged to apply for the Perlman ETA Fellowship award.
  • Similarly, a searcher can self-fund the search process and then secure an SBA-backed loan to purchase a business.
  • Aspiring business operators can participate in a CEO in Training program or an accelerator program to build and enhance skill sets and gain operating experience.
What academic classes does Penn/Wharton have that are focused on ETA?
  • The Wharton School currently offers three classes directly focused on Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition:

    • MGMT 213: Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (undergraduate course)
    • MGMT 811: Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (MBA course)
    • MGMT 814: Search Fund Entrepreneurship (MBA course)
What does Venture Lab’s ETA program offer to students?
Venture Lab’s Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) program provides training, funding, and guidance to Wharton and Penn students interested in pursuing entrepreneurship by acquiring a small- to medium-sized business to operate, optimize, and grow. Eligible students can do the following:

  • Receive financial support through the Perlman ETA Fellowship,
  • Take academic courses for credit that focus on a variety of ETA models,
  • Participate in hands-on workshops,
  • Network with passionate peers and accomplished alumni, and 
  • Develop the skills needed to be a successful searcher and business operator.
Who can participate in Venture Lab’s ETA programming?
  • Venture Lab events and workshops are open to all Penn students. 
  • The $50K Perlman ETA Fellowship is open to Penn and Wharton Master’s and Ph.D. students in their final year of study and graduating in 2024.
  • Each Penn and Wharton academic course has its own prerequisites; students are encouraged to contact the relevant academic department with questions.
What other resources are available for students who are interested in ETA?
How can I get in touch with the Venture Lab program team?
Please reach out! Xavier Stewart, Senior Associate Director, leads Venture Lab’s Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition program. He can be reached at xstewart@wharton.upenn.edu
Are there Penn and Wharton alumni who invest in searchers?
Yes! Alumni can be found in all aspects of the ETA space, including as search fund investors, CEOs, and searchers. Alumni lead search fund investment firms include:

The future of business is reliant on forward-thinking, innovative leaders who will challenge norms, and bring fresh, new ideas and approaches to the world. There is no better investment than in the next generation of great business leaders and Ellen and I are hopeful that this program will inspire more students to pursue ETA.
Richard E. Perlman, W’68
At Wharton, I learned the business fundamentals required to find success while managing a small company. There are more Wharton alumni in the ETA space than most realize, a passionate and supportive group of folks that have helped me greatly both as a student and now as a graduate on a fun and exciting career path.
Austin Lee, WG'21, Former President, Wharton MBA ETA Club
Through their generosity, Ellen and Richard Perlman are enhancing programs and opportunities for today’s aspiring entrepreneurs and nurturing a growing community of motivated, driven, curious students who are ready to approach the greatest challenges in society and business as innovative problem solvers.
Erika James, Dean, The Wharton School

ETA Company Spotlight

Learn more about the companies that our Wharton and Penn entrepreneurs are buying and growing
Raptor Technologies
Jim Vesterman, WG'06
Board Member & former CEO
Claude Tellis, WG'00
Blyth, Inc.
Robert Blyth Goergen, Sr WG'62
Former CEO
DCI Design Communications
Charbel Zreik, WG'05
Former CEO
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