Wharton To Add New Building For Startups

Wharton will soon have a major new building on campus. File photo

The sustained growth of the startup landscape cannot be denied. Or, like the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, embraced. Wharton announced today (Oct. 25) the construction of a new 70,000-square-foot building to house the school’s first-ever dedicated space for cross-campus student entrepreneurship. The new building is made possible by a $25 million gift from Nicolai Tangen, founder of London-based investment partnership AKO Capital and a 1992 Wharton undergraduate alum, and his wife, Katja.  

But while the Tangens’ gift is certainly large, it isn’t even the largest gift Wharton has received ths month. That was a $50 million gift from Marc and Carolyn Rowan, two Wharton alums. Nor does either gift make much of a splash on the list of all-time biggest business school gifts, which is topped by David Booth’s $300 million to his namesake school at the University of Chicago in 1997. Columbia Business School, meanwhile, has received gifts of $100 million and $125 million.

The Rowans’ donation was earmarked for a surprisingly vague set of priorities, such as advancing “every aspect of Wharton’s mission and operation,” including investment in “the latest instructional technology, cutting-edge student programming, influential faculty research, updated facilities that foster student learning, lifelong learning and career services for alumni, and so much more.” The latest gift from the Tangens has more tangible goals. For a start, it will fund Tangen Hall. It will also  establish the new Katja and Nicolai Tangen International Endowed Scholarship that provides financial aid to international undergraduate students in need. The Tangens have supported a total of 22 Penn students since establishing their first scholarship in 2012, with many of those students receiving funding for all fours years of their education.


Nicolai Tangen. Wharton photo

The Tangens’ $25 million gift was made via the AKO Foundation to Wharton’s More Than Ever fundraising campaign, which school officials hope to use to raise a historic $1 billion with which to invest in cutting-edge technology to help attract top students and faculty.

“We are profoundly grateful to Nicolai and Katja Tangen for their extraordinary commitment to extend opportunities for entrepreneurship to all Penn students,” Amy Gutmann, Penn president, says in a news release accompanying the announcement of the Tangens’ gift. “Talented and creative students are working hard to identify challenges where they can implement efficient, sustainable, and actionable solutions through innovative ventures. Their efforts will start in Tangen Hall and have impact across the country and around the world.

“We are also grateful that Nicolai and Katja are expanding their steadfast scholarship support, enabling the best students from every part of the world to attend Penn, to thrive in their studies, and to serve communities worldwide.”


The hope, says Wharton Dean Geoff Garrett, is that Tangen Hall will be the heart of entrepreneurship and innovation feor Penn students as the Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship and other student entrepreneurship programs across the university come together in the newly established Venture Lab. Programs that will move into the new building include the Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program, the Weiss Tech House, the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center, the Wharton Small Business Development Center, and the master’s-level Integrated Product Design Program.

Venture Lab will aim to enhance university-wide faculty involvement in entrepreneurship, where over 55 standing faculty members in various disciplines have shown interest in entrepreneurship. Fifteen members of the Wharton standing faculty focus their teaching and research in entrepreneurship.

“Tangen Hall marks a new chapter for the entrepreneurial community at Penn and in Philadelphia, providing a central hub for the groundbreaking innovations that happen here every day,” Karl Ulrich, Wharton vice dean of entrepreneurship and Innovation, says. “This physical space will allow faculty to more strongly support students who turn ideas into outcomes that will transform business for years to come.”

Adds Garrett: “This gift not only represents a profound commitment to Penn and Wharton student financial aid, it also energizes our entire campus community through Tangen Hall, a game-changing facility for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology. Katja and Nicolai Tangen’s immense impact will be felt for decades to come.”


In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked the Wharton School sixth for entrepreneurship. A full-time MBA education costs $70,200 per year; four years of tuition for a Wharton undergrad degree costs approximately $201,049. The Wharton School has 5,000 undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral students, and an alumni network of 98,000 graduates.

The new building will be located at 40th and Sansom streets in downtown Philadelphia and include storefront retail space for student ventures, meeting and collaboration spaces, a test kitchen for food-centric startups, a Maker Lab operated by Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science featuring 3D printers and laser cutters, a virtual reality environment or “VR cave,” and a cafe. Construction of Tangen Hall will begin in 2019 and is expected to be completed by 2020.

“Katja and I are continually inspired by Penn students, and pleased to have the opportunity to engage with them and set them up for success,” says Tangen, a member of Wharton’s Board of Overseers and the school’s More Than Ever Campaign Cabinet and a founding donor of Wharton People Analytics, an interdisciplinary initiative by a group of Wharton faculty using data to help organizations make better decisions. “We look forward to their many achievements in the years ahead, and to witnessing how this new building will bring together the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators to share their talents with one another and for the greater good.”


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