2020 Jacobson Venture Awards Winners Announced!

The Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies has established the Jacobson Venture Awards thanks to the generosity of Andrew Jacobson, WG’93, and Marina Kunis Jacobson, G’93, WG’93. This program seeks to provide Lauder students with the opportunity to focus their energies on their entrepreneurial venture during the summer.

Each venture receives a $10,000 cash award. This financial support, coupled with the many other co-curricular opportunities at Wharton, provides a strong foundation for students’ professional development as entrepreneurs.  The Venture Award supports a student’s work over the summer in lieu of a full-time internship, allowing the student to concentrate full-time on developing the venture. Dr. Sudev Sheth, Senior Lecturer and Faculty Lead of entrepreneurial initiatives at Lauder, says, “The Jacobson Global Venture Awards provide an unparalleled opportunity for Lauder students to unleash their creative spirit and entrepreneurial vision across industries and geographies. It offers young visionaries a chance to harness emerging technologies and leverage global networks to build sustainable businesses that will change the 21st century for the better.”

The jury of esteemed judges included:

  • Kathryn Harrison G’12, WG’12
  • Allan Kwan G’87, WG’87
  • Kent Madsen G’98, WG’98
  • Tereza Nemessanyi C’92, G’97, WG’97
  • Diego Rimoch G’15, WG’15
  • Radhika Shroff G’00, WG’00

The winners of the 2020 Jacobson Venture Award are:

FRANCO MARTÍNEZ LEVIS – CRONI

Croni aims to provide self-service and POS solutions for the foodservice industry in Latin America. The first solution is a tablet-based kiosk, where customers can make their orders, pay, and earn loyalty points, increasing the store’s revenues and improving customer experience.

Franco, a 2nd year MA/MBA student focusing on the Latin America region, was born and raised in Argentina. He worked in Consulting at McKinsey & Company, where he focused on Digital and Operations for different industries and countries in Latin America, and spent one year leading a social program for the national government in Argentina. He’s very passionate about soccer, technology, and startups.

Franco shares, “Receiving this support once more after last year will be key in getting our startup to the next level. It is invaluable to count on the Jacobson’s and all the Lauder alumni in your corner!”

AARON COHEN – FORWARD HEALTH

Forward Health is a venture with the aim of radically improving access and quality of healthcare for underserved Senegalese people through innovations in telehealth and chat technologies. Beginning with teleconsultations, Forward Health believes it is possible to significantly improve health outcomes and save lives. Forward Health has four goals/guiding principles in its healthcare mission: to increase access, affordability, quality, and accessibility in Senegal.

Aaron Cohen, a 2nd year MA/MBA student focusing on the Africa region, is an entrepreneur with a strong conviction that African nations can lead innovation at a global scale. Aaron has founded two technology startups in the United States, and has 7 years of experience across Africa, including over 3 years of project foundation and implementation with the Peace Corps and organizations like USAID and the World Bank. Aaron is also a former diplomat at the United Nations, and speaks English, French, Mandinka, and Chinese.

Aaron shares, “I am so thankful for the generosity of the Jacobson family and the award program that they have founded. It was an honor to be selected in such a competitive pool of my talented peers. I can say as a founder of previous startups that the team has been incredibly supportive and the experience has been top notch all-around. The process has made me even more proud to be a student in the Lauder program.”

RON KERBS – KIDAS

Kidas is a social media monitoring service for parents to protect their kids from cyberbullying and online predators. The service uses artificial intelligence to analyze kids’ online communication and alert parent about dangerous situations without violating kids’ privacy in other cases.

Ron is a 2nd year MA/MBA student in the German program. Ron comes from Israel and has a BSc and an MSc in information system engineering from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology). After his studies, he served for 7 years in the Israeli military as an engineer and R&D team leader. Just before Wharton, he was an analyst in an early-stage VC fund in Berlin, Germany.

Ron shares, “The Jacobson Award is a great Lauder tradition and I am very grateful to receive this support last summer and this summer. Last summer Kidas used the award to launch our Android service and this summer we will be using it to launch our iPhone service and hopefully expand our customer base. I would like to thank the Jacobson family, the judges, and Lauder community for their ongoing support.”

Anthony Morano & Iacopo Santini – Xoma

Xoma is the first distilled pulque agave brand to enter the US marketplace. It is the smoother tasting, more sophisticated cousin of Mezcal and Tequila that’s sustainable and generates social impact by providing fair and reliable wages to agave farmers. This duo will be creating their brand and launching this summer in the Philadelphia marketplace with a vision to expand to other countries and products in the future!

Anthony Morano CEO, a 1st year MA/MBA in the LATAM program, previously cofounded the Culinary Heritage Co, a non-profit that promotes cultural pluralism through food media. In addition to managing the research, communication, operations, and finances of the content, he developed more than 70 videos in tens of communities across 15 countries. Prior to the CHC, Anthony cofounded, Huli, a healthcare tech platform where he led the business to product-market fit, grew the team to 30 people, and ran the marketing, customer service, tech, and sales operations.

Iacopo Santini, COO, 1st year MA/MBA in the LATAM program, was born in Mexico City to Italian parents and later moved to Indianapolis. Prior to Lauder he focused on underwriting private debt and equity placements in U.S. middle market at Bain Capital Credit. He gained operational experience at a portfolio company aiding in capital raising and helping refinance the asset-backed loan to support a turnaround. This experience gave Iacopo a yearning to launch his own business.

Both Anthony and Iacopo are in the Spanish language program and spent the first 3 months together during their summer immersion. After tasting Xoma during the immersion in Mexico, both students agreed this should be the next big product. The duo shared with Lauder, “We are blown away by the generosity of the Jacobson family and of the Lauder community to support us at such an early stage. This competition gave us the push we needed to launch Xoma, knowing that our community has our back.”

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