Local biz whizzes share their know-how

The two young men looked like they stepped straight out of the club circuit on Delaware Avenue as they addressed the 30 or so high school students. Vijay Chattha (C’99) and Nihal Mehta (EAS’99), co-founders of the hip-hop-inspired UrbanGroove Networks, Inc. — which includes philly2nite.com, the Internet guide to Philadelphia nightlife — shared their insights and experiences on creating a successful business venture.

The Oct. 24 event in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall was hosted by the Wharton School’s Milken Young Entrepreneurs Program (MYEP), a community service program which helps local high school students start their own small businesses and exposes them to entrepreneurship.

Giving a brief background of their Golden Web Award-winning Web site, Chattha and Mehta explained to the class that as students at Penn they realized that there wasn’t a comprehensive list of events happening in Philadelphia.

“It was tough to look through 160 pages’ worth of newspaper to find out what was happening,” Mehta said.

Chatta explained that many of their fellow students took jobs in New York, San Francisco and Chicago because they felt that Philadelphia didn’t have much of a nightlife. But Mehta and Chatta saw an opportunity there. They started compiling events and organized them into a Web site, creating the interactive philly2nite.com. “We would go to South Street and snatch up all the fliers we could find,” Chatta said. “Now people just send us the information.”

Parent company Urban Groove also distributes urban culture information to cell phone subscribers and via on-the-street marketing.

Mehta and Chatta’s lecture focused on the need for “dynamics” to “take advantage of an opportunity” in creating a business. The room buzzed with youthful chatter as the teenagers, dressed in baggy jeans and sweatshirts, attempted to define what that meant.

The class concluded that dynamics included characteristics such as daring, forcefulness, charisma and spontaneity. Chatta and Mehta challenged the class to use dynamics. They divided the class into groups of three and assigned each group a business idea, such as a fish cannery or a hair-removal-wax distributor, and a market. The students brainstormed ideas that they could present in a business proposal for venture capital.

The ideas impressed the CEOs. Chatta remarked that many of the students displayed “dynamic” traits of creativity and humor. Though the exercise was fun and everyone had his or her laugh, there was a lesson to be learned.

“Dynamic behavior is important because you need that spontaneous energy, the ability to stop on a dime, because that’s how business and the economy work,” Chatta said. “Whatever is on your plate is what you have to make the best of, even if you don’t have the best answer.”

Jessica Brown, 16, of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, said that the exercise “taught us how to be creative with what you have to get what you want.”


Originally published on November 9, 2000