Carol Curley, WG’81, serves as Chief Investment Officer of Charian Ventures and Managing Director at Golden Seeds, an early-stage investment firm that focuses on women entrepreneurs. She knows the importance of spaces that encourage creativity, innovation, and collaboration—all key components for a successful young business. She also knows how those spaces create meaning and memories.
That is why she chose to memorialize her grandfather, Henry J. McCue, by naming two “pin-up studios” (a lounge and display area for recent work and success stories, as well as a space to congregate and collaborate) in Tangen Hall, the University’s new home for student entrepreneurs, currently under construction at 40th and Sansom streets in University City.
By making a gift to name these new spaces, Curley is paying forward her family’s commitment to higher education. “My grandfather, Henry J. McCue, not only encouraged me to pursue higher education, but also funded my college education,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have a space named for him that was filled with students and their dreams?’”
The ambitions of Penn and Wharton students are what first dazzled Curley when she judged the Wharton Summer Venture Awards in 2013. “I was blown away is the best response,” she said. The Summer Venture Award (SVA) provides $10,000 in funding to assist students financially over the summer in lieu of full-time internships so that they can concentrate on developing their entrepreneurial ventures.
Since then, Curley has joined Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s advisory board, judged several Startup Showcases, and presented for students in courses and capstones. Naming student spaces is just one more way to strengthen her connection to Wharton.
The Pin-Up Studios in memory of Henry McCue will be modern co-working spaces where student teams can work, discuss, and create. “It sounded like it would be a very social space that is welcoming to everybody. That was really important to me,” Curley said.
Curley has been investing in and advising early-stage companies for more than 20 years, focusing on women-led ventures and those in sectors with a technology and finance orientation such as healthtech, software-as-a-service, and fintech.
Most businesses fail because of a lack of execution … One of the reasons investors like me focus a lot on the team — sometimes even before the idea — is to get a sense of whether the team can understand what it takes to move the business forward.”Carol Curley, WG’81
Wharton’s focus on finance and analytics means that students learn how to turn ideas into reality and bring them to scale. In Curley’s experience, scaling is less about the idea and more about execution.
“Most businesses fail because of a lack of execution,” she said. “They can’t get the app launched, they weren’t able to understand the client’s needs. One of the reasons investors like me focus a lot on the team — sometimes even before the idea — is to get a sense of whether the team can understand what it takes to move the business forward.”
Curley said her connection to student entrepreneurs at Penn will endure for years to come. “I will continue to be involved with the mission of entrepreneurship,” she said. “I see that as an important distinction for the University.”