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What do Juul, Cisco, and Cruise Automation have in common?

They all have 5C Founders of course!

“What’s Ponoma?” asked my Dad the first time I mentioned my dream college. As an international student, I now laugh with my peers each time we encounter these situations. It is surprising how little people know about the Claremont Colleges. We call this ‘The Claremont Condition’ and it refers to all the things that set the 5Cs apart, despite which the Colleges remain less well-known than the Ivies, Stanford, and the UCs. I recently came across an article on the Claremont newsletter ‘Between the Lines’ that perfectly explains this idea.

While our small size puts us at a disadvantage in statistics like entrepreneur count, when we compare the raw venture dollars raised by alumni or the number of per-company founder alums, we see that the Claremont Consortium ranks among the highest. Resilience, Honeybook, and Juul are some of the 5C-founded companies with billions in market capital.

This brings me to my final question: Why don’t we see more entrepreneurship among our current students? As someone who enjoys building solutions, I joined Pomona Ventures, the entrepreneurship club on campus that facilitates these aspirations at the undergraduate level. As a freshman, being part of PV has allowed me to build tools for problem-solving and connect with a network of student and alumni entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists.

The time to innovate is in college! In the famous words of our soon-to-graduate Head at PV, Nanea: “This is literally the last time you will find yourself around so many people your age. Make the most of it.” A recent study backs this quote and showcases how undergrad is the best time to spearhead start-ups. Say you have an idea, and you want to build a company: specialized human capital is readily available- your coding friend from Harvey Mudd, the finance bro from Claremont Mckenna, an environmentalist from Pitzer, the activist from Scripps with the Pomona world-changing attitude (I apologize for conforming to the stereotypes but you know it’s true!) can work in creative collaboration to build incredible projects. You have relatively more free time in school than you will later, and more importantly, you have a readily available beta audience to target your products at, and gauge reactions and behavior from!

Where to start: there are a host of accessible funds for college students to find, alums to reach out to, scholarship programs to apply for, alumni venture capitalists you can get in touch with, not to mention pitching competitions thrown by The Hive, Kravis Lab, and Pomona Ventures.

Where to go from there: So now you have human and fiscal capital, a target audience, networking opportunities, mentors, and time. With the quality of alums and available resources it seems like an achievable goal for a college of free-thinkers…right? Then the main problem is this: Why do the 5Cs still not have a start-up culture otherwise prevalent across public American universities?

Pomona Ventures recognizes this vacuum for creative problem-solving at the undergraduate level and aims to organize a host of events to promote entrepreneurship. We start with our annual 5C-wide pitch competition: SageTank. It has been a breeding ground for innovation for several years and acts as an ecosystem for universities, founders, and VCs. Students get the opportunity to pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of Venture Capitalists and receive funding as well as personal mentorship. This year, on April 30th, for the first time we are inviting alumni to join the pitch and present in front of their peers during Alumni Weekend! So if you have an idea (or your HMC friend has one and is willing to involve you), what’s holding you back? Start now, and sign up for the competition.

I’d like to end with famed advice from someone who has spearheaded SageTank for 3 years- Nanea (again): “Every Time I am involved with SageTank, I am blown away by the creativity and hard work the students possess to achieve their projects. It is incredibly fulfilling to see some of these companies actually take off. Knowing that the founders get one-on-one mentorship from VCs shows that our event is making a significant impact in the community. It makes me realize that anyone can be an entrepreneur. You just need to learn the skills that come with pursuing that idea. In a world where you want to be in the room where it happens, Sagetank brings it all to your fingertips.”

Eshanya Agrawal is an international student from India who uses she/her pronouns. She is a freshman who is enthusiastic about problem-solving and creating sustainable solutions in the entrepreneurial community. Her academic interests include Politics, Policy Analysis, Economics and English. Outside of class, you can often find her lounging on Marston Quad trying to write poetry, or on the constant hunt for good vegetarian food around campus!

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