TEPPER TEAM GROWING MICROGREENS AND POTENTIAL INVESTORS
The likelihood of continuing seems greater for Webb and RoBotany. “We made sure to identify a market problem so we didn’t build something nobody wanted,” Webb explains. Their system has increased labor efficiency in its test warehouse by up to 50%. From the spacing of rows of vertical farms to the fact that many reach upward of 30 feet in the air, there are inherent dangers. But the human-free grow rooms have allowed the team to move racks closer together, increasing the amount of production space, and Webb says RoBotany has already been growing microgreens, arugula, and baby spinach with robots. Meanwhile, the backend software is now complete.
Over the next two to three weeks before school resumes, the RoBotany team will continue testing in their Pittsburgh-based warehouse; conversations are ongoing with potential investors. Webb says the team may be able to secure a $300,000 to $400,000 seed round this fall.
Webb spoke with many people about skipping an MBA, using the time and resources for other pursuits. He’s glad he didn’t. “You have such a concentrated set of resources that you can tap into that it seems to be creating a trend of people going to get their entrepreneurial MBAs or their MBAs in entrepreneurship,” he says.
‘THE MAN IS STILL NEEDED. BUT WE NEED THE REBELS TO PUSH THE ENVELOPE TO CREATE NEW VALUE’
Though sticking it to “The Man” can be an attractive and enjoyable experience for ambitious young professionals, Mawhinney believes there is a cap. He calls it the 80-20 rule. “Twenty percent of the students have the risk-taking profile and the curious mind and the immense energy that it takes to follow that entrepreneurial path,” he explains. “And the other 80% are people who go to work in wonderful places like Deloitte or McKinsey or Google or Facebook and they are the people that keep the franchise moving forward. But that 20% are the ones that are creating the new franchises. They’re changing the world.”
Ponzo, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily see a cap — at least not in the need for MBAs to think entrepreneurially, whether they are working for The Man or not. “The entrepreneurial way of thinking and the disruption is here to stay,” he says matter-of-factly. “Change is only going be more dramatic and we need to prepare all of our students to think entrepreneurially. If it’s not thinking entrepreneurially for starting a business, it should be thinking entrepreneurially about your job or career. Or if you’re at a more traditional company, it’s thinking entrepreneurially within that company to keep it as a leader and viable.”
Still, the irony, Mawhinney explains, is that eventually, some of those 20% end up creating the next Man.
“Entrepreneurs are the ones who build the companies that become the next Man,” he says. “Google, in a sense, is The Man today. And before that, Microsoft was the Man. And that progression will continue. The Man is still needed. But we need the rebels to push the envelope to create new value. And those rebels are the entrepreneurs.”