Alex Poscente (W '21) is an entrepreneur, artist, and interlocutor. In the summer of 2020, she merged these talents when she founded her startup Ivy Insights, which builds teams of consultants from top universities for companies across the United States.
Upon logging onto our FaceTime call, Alex informed me that she was feeling under the weather—if she hadn’t told me, I wouldn't have known. Her bubbly and effervescent energy is contagious, and she speaks about her journey with enthusiasm and humility.
Alex, who is pursuing a marketing concentration in the Wharton School and a creative writing minor in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a serial creator. She founded a summer camp as a child, an art company in high school, and an augmented reality startup called Space, Inc. early in college that she no longer works on. She's involved in several organizations at Penn, including being the president of Lantern (a Wharton senior society); however, she’s spent most of her free time in college working on startups.
Last summer, Alex’s study abroad program was canceled due to the pandemic. After coming home, she discovered that this was the case for many other students, and she felt like so many brilliant people she knew were left with nothing to do. “I just looked around and realized how much untapped potential existed within my own circle and community,” she says. Alex’s parents are entrepreneurs themselves, and were working tirelessly at the beginning of the pandemic to modify their own business value propositions to meet a changing landscape.
Alex recognized the opportunity to connect these two groups in limbo and capitalized on it: “I called my business mentor and told him my idea—to start a company rounding up the top–tier talent from whatever school they’re coming from, and build teams of them and connect them to companies and startups who are looking for different ways to grow.”
Her business mentor, a Penn alumnus introduced to her by her mother, loved the idea. Alex built her first team of students that very weekend, and her company has continued to grow ever since. Her mentor connected her with companies in his network, and since then, Alex has been talking to new ones on a weekly basis. She connects these companies with top students from all of the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, and more.
During the summer and throughout the fall 2020 semester, Alex was pioneering the company entirely by herself. Eventually, it reached the point where she was developing the startup and balancing five different teams of students on her own, all while taking a full course load. “By the time I hit the end of first semester, I realized that the company was obviously working and that I couldn’t do it alone, so I needed to grow my own team,” she says. She recruited two other Penn seniors, Julia Buchholz (C '21) and Brandon Winner (W '21), who work on business development and help build out the company’s strategy.
“On a biweekly basis, we’re building new teams and connecting students to each other and to workforce opportunities. These projects are short term, so all of the students are getting these micro–internship settings where they’re able to consult and network in a way that’s really advantageous to everyone involved. It’s very dynamic—no week is the same,” Alex says.
Running a successful startup while being a college student is no small feat. Though it hasn't been easy, Alex's love of entrepreneurship keeps her inspired. “It was definitely a challenge doing everything at once," she says. "I’m glad I am graduating because I’ve always had this passion and fire for entrepreneurship. I love seeing projects that I’m in charge of come to fruition.”
Her background in the arts goes hand in hand with her business pursuits. Alex and her siblings are artists by trade—they all attended an arts magnet high school in Texas that is an unofficial feeder into the top conservatories in the nation, be it Juilliard, USC, or Berklee College of Music. Her brother is a musician; her sister, a dancer; and Alex went to high school for filmmaking and acting.
“Having a background in acting is interesting because it’s a really similar dynamic to business. It’s the same thing, whether you’re talking to a potential client or an audience member. It doesn’t really matter how your day is going, you have a job to do, and you have to see it through. I’ve definitely appreciated doing both,” she says.
Alex reflects upon the impact of her parents on her fearlessness and creativity. She explains that her father is a New York Times bestselling author, a former Olympic gold–medal skier, and a motivational speaker. Her mom is an easy role model as a female founder who has run multimillion–dollar companies. Both are incredibly supportive of Alex’s entrepreneurial pursuits.
After graduation, she plans to continue with Ivy Insights in tandem with a job at another startup called The Airway Company, where she will hold the titles of chief marketing officer and head of sales. “For all intents and purposes I’m going to be continuing this postgrad, just because it’s working too well to stop. There are so many students and companies who come back to me later with pages of thank–yous,” she says.
As of now, Ivy Insights is on track to exceed six figures in its first year of business. However, Alex explains that she has always viewed her businesses as matters of circumstance. “I see an opportunity and a need, and I start. A lot of it is letting the business model prove itself, and doing it until it reaches a point where it doesn’t make sense anymore," she says.
Nevertheless, Alex is proud of how far Ivy Insights has come and what it has accomplished. But most importantly, Alex is just happy that she has been able to help others during this chaotic year. "Maybe this will just be a short–term thing, where students have more bandwidth and time because of the pandemic, and if that is the case, then that’s OK, because we were able to help students during this interim."