Creating a Dynamic Dialogue Between Alumni
Ross H. Klenoff, C'94, W'94, General Corporate Attorney and Chair of WE-EARN Affinity Group
17 September, 2014
This issue focuses on the activities of the Club’s Wharton Entrepreneurs-Education and Resource Network (WE-EARN) and highlights four of its intrepid members. Ross Klenoff, C’94, W’94, leads this enterprising affinity group, producing some of the most well-attended events of the WCNY. WE-EARN under Ross’ leadership illustrates the broad and additive benefits that the Wharton Club of New York brings to alumni in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
How does WE-EARN help New York area alumni?
First, we produce educational events highly targeted to Wharton entrepreneurs. Events feature innovative entrepreneurs, experienced venture capitalists and seasoned attorneys. Our events are large enough to create a dynamic dialogue, yet small enough to afford up-close access.
Second, while we’re not a networking group, many of our events offer excellent opportunities for collaboration and networking. For example, we’ve held two intragroup brainstorming sessions and have another planned for September. After a few fun exercises to get the creative juices flowing, we’ll break up into groups, and members of each group will brainstorm outside-of-the-box growth options for one another. The collaboration resembles the dynamic you might see back on campus. The goal is real, tangible results. Events are designed to help members grow their businesses (or connect with others who can help).
Are there mentoring opportunities at WE-EARN?
If we have enough interest from alumni with a proven track record, we may establish a mentor and mentee program, not just a one-off event but a six-month program.
Tell me about yourself.
I work as a general corporate attorney. After working at top firms in the city for over a decade, I launched my own practice, the Law Offices of Ross Klenoff, a few years ago. Running my own practice, I’m really connected to the work and my clients. That’s not always the case at a larger firm. I love running a leaner operation, which enables me to deliver strong value. I work with emerging growth and successful mid-size companies on a full range of corporate transactions (such as financing, M&A, joint ventures, formative counseling and commercial contracts). I love using my corporate law skill set, along with my Wharton business background, to help companies achieve their goals efficiently and effectively. My Wharton background has been very helpful over the years. For example, my eyes definitely don’t glaze over when some of the more complicated accounting and financial concepts pop up in a deal.
Why did you get involved in the Club?
I have a proclivity for organizing and running groups, and I find the startup and emerging growth space really exciting. At the same time, I enjoy helping out and giving back to the Wharton community. So when the opportunity arose, I was happy to volunteer!
I get to meet a lot of interesting people with whom I would not otherwise connect. And my role has given me extra visibility in the Wharton community, so I’m well-positioned to help out.
Who are some of the participating WE-EARN members?
I understand you’re interviewing Rajeev Jeyakumar, WG’13, Mark Hirsch, W’88, Joe Meyer, WG’97, and Melissa Shin Mash, WG’12. We have hundreds of members. I can tell you about a few of them.
Siddharth Saran, WG’04, is an active member of WE-EARN. He’s Co-Founder and CFO of Tuck-It-Away, which reduces inefficiencies and waste in the $25 billion self-storage market. It enables consumers and small businesses to optimally manage their possessions through a unique combination of storage and services, powered by an innovative technology platform.
Diego Jimenez, WG’09, is Co-Founder and Head of Client Development for ExpertAngle, a company that connects business professionals with healthcare practitioners and industry experts directly through an online marketplace.
Robert Seo, WG’12, is CEO of Slidejoy, an intelligent Android app that pays users to view beautifully designed ads every time they unlock their phones. Over time, the app learns the preferences of a user and curates a more profitable and relevant user experience.
Nadine Kahane, WG’12, is CEO of Stone & Strand, a leading online destination for unique fine jewelry, bringing the age-old relationship of a personal jeweler and client into the modern era. It uses the convenience and storytelling capabilities of the Internet as a platform for jewelry lovers to discover the best designs. (Nadine also participates in our alumni discount program.)
Maria Yuan, W’10, founded IssueVoter, a social enterprise that gives socially active people a voice and ability to influence issues that matter to them. It sends their opinion to their representative on bills up for vote in Congress — and they can track their representative’s votes and bill outcomes.
What were some recent events?
I mentioned our February event, “Emerging Trends in Media.” In June, we had an event called “Lessons Learned From Successes (and Failures) Leading Startups and Emerging Growth Companies,” where I facilitated a panel discussion with Neil Vogel, W’92, CEO of About.com, Dan Gellert, WG’06, Co-Founder and CEO of GateGuru, which was acquired by TripAdvisor last year, and Joe Meyer.
In September, we have our next intragroup brainstorming session. It will be led by Kaihan Krippendorff, W’94, who works with leading companies to design disruptive growth strategies.
In October, I’ll be presenting “Legal Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs.” If you’re an entrepreneur, this event is a fantastic opportunity to get an overview of the key legal issues you can expect to face from the “idea phase” through to your first venture capital financing. Going forward, we’ll continue to pull together practical, value-added programs for folks in the startup and emerging growth space, and create opportunities for like-minded alumni to connect.
What kind of positive results do you see arising out of WE-EARN events?
Folks have picked up team members from events. Participants and panelists connect with one another. And group networking has helped connect members with financing sources.
These events work because of the alumni. Events are well-attended, and the alumni ask great questions. At the same time, we have alumni who want to help out. For example, Thatcher Bell, WG’05, Managing Director of Gotham Ventures, helped me organize and moderate the “Emerging Trends in Media” event back in February. Joe Meyer, former CEO of HopStop, saw the write-up for that event and offered to be on the panel for an event we had in June. I appreciate that kind of help. I encourage folks to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they’re interested in speaking or being on a panel, or they can help pull together an event.