The Venture Initiation Program (VIP) offers a suite of programs for founders, joiners, and navigators alike that are designed to engage and empower entrepreneurial teams at every stage of their journey.

◎ Are you a Penn alum eager to support student entrepreneurship? Get involved.

The VIP Experience

The Venture Initiation Program is your launchpad for turning visionary ideas into thriving ventures. Whether you're a student with a spark of curiosity or an alum ready to ignite the next big thing, our suite of VIP programs caters to founders at every stage. Your journey starts here.
Venture Development
Learn how to identify your customers, perfect your pitch, build your team, refine your business model, and more through our venture development curriculum, on-demand videos, and live workshops.
Join a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and innovators who share your drive and passion. Our community events, networking opportunities, and collaborative platforms foster an environment where like-minded individuals grow together.
Be it strategic decisions or day-to-day challenges, our seasoned VIP advisors are dedicated to helping you make informed choices and realize your venture's potential. Unlock one-on-one advising and mentorship as you progress through VIP.

Tools & Resources
Access a treasure trove of resources tailored to facilitate your venture's growth. From comprehensive guides and cutting-edge technologies to a collaborative venture workspace, we provide the tools you need to turn your ideas into reality.
Industry Insights
Gain a competitive advantage with industry insights and practical guidance from subject matter experts. Tune into curated events and sessions as navigate your venture through ever-changing market landscapes.
Secure the financial backing you need to realize your visionary projects. As you reach specific milestones, you'll unlock eligibility for VIP Incubator and VIP Accelerator, which provide access to opportunities for funding.

Programs for Founders

VIP introduces and coaches founders through the key aspects of entrepreneurship — from ideation and product development to fundraising, business planning, networking, launching, scaling, and more.
Embark on your entrepreneurial journey with VIP-C. Whether you're a first-time founder or second-time entrepreneur, VIP-C offers an inclusive space for abundant learning, networking, and community-building.
Our 3-month, cohort-based incubator is designed to help founders transform strong ideas into market-ready solutions and tactfully navigate the challenges of launching a new business.
For dedicated student and alumni entrepreneurs with advanced startups, VIP-X propels your venture towards rapid growth and investment readiness with targeted support, non-dilutive funding, and other resources.

Other Programs

For students who are interested in joining a startup in a non-founder role or exploring the ecosystem.
VIP-Practicum invites you to roll up your sleeves and join a startup as an early member of the team. Gain invaluable experience that shapes not only your skills but also the trajectory of ventures on the rise.
Join the ranks of Peer Advisors — members of this student-led team get trained to assist founders during coaching sessions and provide founders with additional one-on-one support.
VIP annually enlists experienced entrepreneurs to mentor and assist VIP students. With diverse backgrounds, these EIRs offer invaluable guidance and support to student teams.
Wharton Entrepreneurship played a huge role in Avisi's early days. As student entrepreneurs, we hardly knew where to start; but the community gave us the resources, support, and confidence to overcome countless challenges and create a medtech venture. If you're a student, I highly encourage you to explore Venture Lab and think about pursuing entrepreneurship to solve issues you're passionate about - if not now, when, and if not you, who?
Rui Jing Jiang, CEO & Co-Founder, Avisi Technologies Inc

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to participate in VIP?
The Venture Initiation Program primarily serves active Penn students across the University of Pennsylvania. Alumni are welcome to participate in VIP-C; however, the majority of events will be conducted in person. There are remote resources available (video content, virtual sessions, and other resources).
How do I get involved in the Venture Initiation Program?
Your first step is joining VIP-Community. To join VIP-C, you must fill out a simple registration form for Venture Lab Membership. In that form, please mark that you are interested in participating in the Venture Initiation Program. 
What is the difference between VIP-Community, VIP-Incubator, and VIP-Accelerator?
Each of our programs is designed to cater to different stages of your entrepreneurial journey. Here's a breakdown of the key differences: 

VIP-Community (VIP-C): VIP-C is an inclusive and open community of founders who are constantly working towards refining their ideas. It operates year-round and accepts founders on a rolling basis. The program provides a wealth of educational resources, live workshops, group coaching, and community events. VIP-C is ideal for those in the exploration phase, focusing on market discovery and idea development. (Simple registration required.)

VIP-Incubator (VIP-INC): VIP-Incubator has two cohorts — one runs during the fall semester, the other in the spring semester. Each program spans 3 months. This program is for startups that are prepared to validate their market and develop a solid business model. Through a combination of structured curriculum and personalized guidance, including 1:1 advising sessions and tailored Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) workshops, VIP-INC supports ventures in the crucial early stages of business development. (Application required.)

VIP-Accelerator (VIP-X): VIP-Accelerator operates during fall, spring, and summer semesters, with each program lasting 3 months. Like VIP-INC, it offers personalized guidance through 1:1 advising sessions and direct interactions with EIRs. VIP-X is tailored for startups that are ready to accelerate their growth and scale. This intensive program is designed to provide advanced ventures with targeted support for refining strategies, securing investments, and achieving rapid expansion. (Application required.)

In summary, VIP-C is for idea exploration and testing, VIP-INC is for validation and business model development, and VIP-X is for scaling your venture to new heights. Each program has a unique focus and timeline, ensuring we meet the diverse needs of entrepreneurs at various stages.
Can I apply directly to the incubator or accelerator without participating in VIP-C?
Yes, you can apply directly to the incubator and accelerator as long as your venture has achieved the milestones required to be eligible for those programs. Otherwise, we would advise joining our VIP-Community.
Can I participate in more than one program?
You can stay in the VIP-Community as long as you’d like or feel that it's helpful. You can participate in VIP-Incubator and VIP-X concurrently with VIP-C. However, your venture can go through VIP-Incuabtor and VIP-X only once. 
Are there specific types of ventures or industries that VIP is looking for?
VIP welcomes ideas of all business types and from all industries without any restrictions.

I have co-founders who are not affiliated with Penn. Can they participate in VIP?
Penn students must be the lead applicants for programs as a PennKey is required to access the majority of Penn resources and events. However, you can share content, learnings, and information with co-founders. This includes virtual events/sessions.

What types of funding opportunities does VIP offer?
There is don-dilutive grant funding available for startups who are accepted into our accelerator (VIP-X). VIP participants have the opportunity to receive small grants from Penn Wharton Innovation Fund. Learn more here.

Does VIP take equity or ownership in the ventures it supports?
Funding through Venture Lab is non-dilutive, grant funding. 

What success stories have come out of the VIP?
Check out alumni of our VIP-X programs here. Also, sign up for the Venture Lab newsletter to stay in the loop on stories, events, and more.

Does VIP provide international support, or is it limited to a specific geographic area?
Venture Lab and the Venture Initiation program primarily support founders who are based in the Philadelphia area. VIP-X San Francisco supports founders in the San Francisco area.
Is VIP only for early-stage startups, or do you support more established businesses as well?
VIP is intended for early-stage entrepreneurs and ventures. We support founders from idea and concept up to launch and early-stage growth. If your startup has received equity funding from an institution, you are not eligible to participate in VIP-Incubator or VIP-X. Otherwise, please feel free to join VIP-Community. VIP programming is designed primarily for young entrepreneurs. If you are a more seasoned entrepreneur, please check out VIP-X San Francisco, Scale School, and Entrepreneurship through Acquisition (ETA).

Featured Stories

April 22, 2024 02:50 PM
Jochi, founded by Yash Dhir, SEAS'24, and Rahul Nambiar, SEAS'24, has been making waves in the Penn startup scene, securing multiple awards and recognition, including Venture Lab's 2024 Startup Challenge's Launch Award, The AI at Wharton Award, The Audience Choice Award, the Draper Bridge Fund Award and has also taken home the prestigious President's Innovation Prize!
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April 16, 2024 12:09 PM
PHILADELPHIA, APRIL 16, 2024–The University of Pennsylvania’s Venture Lab is pleased to announce the winner of its annual Startup Challenge: Nirby, founded by Piotr Lazarek SEAS'25 W'25. Nirby is a real-time soil analytics and farmland management tool for large agricultural enterprises, leveraging satellite data and proprietary drone systems to deliver actionable insights within minutes. The tool enables up to 40% savings on fertilizer expenses and up to 15% increase in crop yields.
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An Interview with Wharton graduate Bridget O'Carroll, founder of Studio Qila, the first Native-owned digital fitness studio.
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By  Christine Cheng
, November 05, 2023 09:03 AM
Beginning on September 18th, students participated in the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative’s week-long Climate Change and the Future of Food Salon Sprint. During this Salon Sprint, students identified impactful business solutions to the challenges facing the food system and iterated their ideas through a series of workshops mid-week. The week concluded with a pitch competition on September 22nd, which offered students the opportunity to win a validation prize of $500.
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, September 21, 2023 02:57 PM
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Contact Valentina Goutorova
Director, Venture Initiation Program

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