Wisdom from HBS Startup Founders: Smart Startup Panel Discussion with Four HBS Founders and Investors, Including Authors of Eighteen-Founder Study

Join our panel of four accomplished HBS alum founders and hear insights from founders of over twenty startups.

Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Time: 6:30-8:00pm

6:30: Welcome and Networking
7:00: Panel Discussion
8:00: Q&A and Wrap-Up

Location: Perkins Coie LLP, 3150 Porter Drive, Palo Alto, CA 94304

VIP Members: Free
HBSANC Members: $25
HBS Alumni Non-Members: $35
Affiliated Clubs: $30
General Public: $50

* No refunds will be issued.

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About the Event:
Join our panel discussion of notable founders, investors, and authors – all HBS MBAs - with experience at more than twenty HBS founded startups.

  • Julie Bornstein, former COO and Board Member, StitchFix; founder and CEO, THE YES (backed by Forerunner Ventures; acquired by Pinterest); former CDO/CMO, Sephora LVMH; former VP, E-commerce, Nordstrom; Board Member, sweetgreen, WeightWatchers, and Redfin; co-founder of stealth shopping startup; and investor and advisor to multiple startups.
  • Liz Whitman, Founder and CEO, Exponent Beauty (backed by Founders Fund, Unilever Ventures) and Partner, XFactor Ventures; former President and CMO, The Red Door by Elizabeth Arden; co-founder Manicube (acquired by The Red Door); former Head of Marketing, Quidsi, a subsidiary of Amazon; and co-founder of Lewis Albert.
  • Jim Sherman, Founder Amber Ventures, Sherman Travel Media, West End New Media, and Hamptons Lane; co-author, Smart Startups: What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know--Advice from 18 Harvard Business School Founders. This book includes interviews from founders of Blue Apron, Rent the Runway, Gilt, and AdoreMe.
  • Catalina Daniels, Founder, Sweetwell; Venture Partner, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator; Board member, Birdhouse and RESPONSUM; co-founder, CoStart; angel investor; co-author, Smart Startups.

Startups are responsible for a disproportionate number of jobs and innovation in the US. They are exciting - but not easy. An MBA from Harvard Business School provides exceptional background and knowledge. Nevertheless, no matter where you are educated, it is difficult to be ready for the experience of starting a company. An entrepreneur can prepare for some, but not all, challenges. In this panel we intend to bring additional knowledge to light, including what may differ from what these founders learned at HBS.

About this event? Jim Simmons, jpsimmonsjr@gmail.com

About the Speakers:


James H Sherman | MBA, HBS; Founder Amber Ventures and Sherman Travel; co-author, "Smart startups"

James Sherman graduated from Harvard Business School in 1991 and Stanford University (B.A., M.A.). He started his career at Bain & Company as a consultant and then spent several years working in the media with Time Inc. and Pearson. In 1997, he launched the internet division for Martha Stewart Living. He then became a serial internet entrepreneur, launching three ventures, including an internet strategy consulting firm, Shermans Travel Media, and an e-commerce firm. He also became an active angel investor in New York start-ups, has been a mentor to entrepreneurs, and sits on the board of HBS Alumni Angels of New York. He lives in Manhattan and Bellport, NY.  



Catalina Daniels | MBA, HBS; Founder, Sweetwell; Venture Partner, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator; co-author, "Smart startups"

Catalina Daniels graduated from Harvard Business School in 1991 and the Free University of Brussels (B.A., M.A.). She spent the first seventeen years of her career at McKinsey & Company, where she became a partner. She left McKinsey to become an entrepreneur and eventually an angel investor. She is a Venture Partner at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA), the prominent New York-based tech accelerator, where she mentors US entrepreneurs and helps non-US entrepreneurs expand in the US. Catalina sits on multiple boards and loves coaching young entrepreneurs. A Belgian national, she splits her time between New York, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain.



Liz Whitman | Founder & CEO, Exponent Beauty

Liz Whitman is a beauty industry insider with experience as an accomplished corporate executive, a serial entrepreneur, and an early-stage investor. Whitman is the Founder & CEO of Exponent Beauty, the first clinical skincare brand that delivers peak potency with its patented precision dosing technology. 

Prior to Exponent, Whitman was the President and CMO of The Red Door by Elizabeth Arden, where she led the strategic reinvention for the largest national salon and spa retailer across its 30 locations. Whitman joined The Red Door in 2015 after it acquired her previous start up, Manicube, a beauty services company offering manicures, hair styling, and massage to corporate workplaces in New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. Before Manicube, Whitman was an early hire at Quidsi (acquired by Amazon) where she launched the e-commerce vertical BeautyBar.com and a co-branded sampling program with Allure magazine (now the Allure Beauty Box). Previously, Whitman was a product manager at American Express. A true entrepreneur at heart, Exponent is Whitman’s third start up: she started her career as the co-founder of Lewis Albert, a designer womenswear line. 

Whitman holds a BA from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. In addition to her entrepreneurial endeavors, Whitman is also an investment partner with XFactor Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital fund, where she focuses on consumer and beauty investments and gets to mentor and support female entrepreneurs. A native New Yorker, she resides out West in San Francisco with her husband and their dog, Edith.



Julie Bornstein | Former COO & Board Member, StitchFix and CEO, THE YES

Julie Bornstein is an e-commerce veteran, with over 25 years of operating experience in digital commerce. Julie is the co-founder and CEO of her second company to revolutionize shopping, currently in stealth. She founded THE YES, a venture-backed AI-powered fashion shopping app, in 2018 which was acquired by Pinterest in 2022. Previously, Julie served as the Chief Operating Officer and Board Member of Stitch Fix, Inc., a personal style service and online retailer from 2012-2017. Prior to that, Julie was Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer of Sephora from August 2007 to March 2015, creating Beauty Insider, Mobile and Social Shopping. Julie helped launch Nordstrom.com in 1999, running e-commerce for 5 years. Julie serves on the board of directors of Redfin, Weight Watchers & Sweetgreen. Julie is also an investor and advisor to multiple start-ups including Honeybee Health (Women's Pharmacy), Exponent Beauty (Skincare), Clockwork (Robotics), Goods (Delivery) & Archive (Resale platform). Julie holds a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harvard University.

About the Moderator:

Amber Lee Bissell  

Jim Simmons

Jim Simmons has over 28 years of operating experience in high technology firms and served as an Entrepreneur in Residence for Draper Richards, an early-stage venture capital firm, before co-founding Simmons Goodspeed Ventures in 2006. He is a board member at Sylvan Source and eLOT, Inc., and was a board member at LucidPort Technology and a board observer at WiDeFi (acquired by Qualcomm) and Nusym (acquired by Synopsys).  He served as Vice President, Marketing and Sales, and Vice President, Marketing at Conductus and Superconductor Technologies from 1994 until 2002. In 2000, the market capitalization for Conductus exceeded $1.3 Billion.

Previously, Jim was Product Marketing and Applications Manager at Therma-Wave Inc. (now KLA); Vice President, Marketing and Sales at Nanometrics; and Product Marketing Manager at KLA. He began his career by holding a variety of marketing and manufacturing management positions in wireless, semiconductors, and computers at Hewlett-Packard.


Jim received a BS in Applied Physics with Honors from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. He served as President of the Caltech Alumni Association and as a member of its Board of Directors. He is VP, Programs of the Harvard Business School Association of Northern California, Co-Chairman of the Caltech Angels Network, and co-founded the Caltech Alumni Entrepreneurship Group in Silicon Valley.