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Some of the brightest minds came together this past weekend (Friday 1/24/20 and Saturday 1/25/20) for a 24-hour event, where teams competed to solve 3 Brand Challenges for Ralph Lauren Corporation. Wharton Business School worked in partnership with RethinkConnect to create an immersive experience that sparked creativity and kept everyone engaged to power through the night.


This event is a different experience than that of a conference or even a typical “Pizza Hackathon”. With about 70% women in attendance, this inclusive and diverse event was framed as an Ideathon (coding optional). It didn’t feel as intimidating and created hope for attendees to potentially win by presenting their fresh and innovative ideas.


This event included 150+ Wharton and UPenn students as well as hand-selected thought leaders and mentors from various industries and backgrounds as well as our “API Hub,” which included technologies such as Avery Dennison, Klarna (Pay Later), 3D-Look, Radius8, SIRL and Hero. Mic


Ralph Lauren Corporation tasked student teams with three retail business challenges each worth $10,000 for the winning teams. The students worked through the night in order to strategize solutions and present the following day. The teams received support from brand executives, investors, Wharton & uPenn professors, and successful entrepreneurs.

If all that wasn’t enough, Daymond John, Founder/CEO of FUBU, Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, Star of ABC's Shark Tank and CEO of The Shark Group kicked off the presentations to the Executive Team at Ralph Lauren by imparting some of his work ethics and entrepreneurial expertise. 


Mina Fader, the Managing Director of The Wharton Baker Retail Center opened the introduction ceremony by highlighting “how this is an exciting opportunity to work in partnership with Ralph Lauren to re-envision retail.”


Dalia Strum, the Chief Partnerships and Marketing Officer along with Dana Randall, the Chief Creative Officer, Experience Design at RethinkConnect focused on every detail from thought-leadership and mentors to the visually stimulating experiences, and right down to food and beverage. Their major focus was looking at every element as brain food.


They have been studying the experiential space for quite a while and realized the power that being immersed in those environments has the opportunity to foster. Seeing the participants creative juices brew and all of the amazing things that could be created as a result is what this type of environment is all about. 


“The opportunity to converge experiential and education is an interesting space that we’re looking to explore more of. There’s so much opportunity for ideation, we want to make sure we focus on getting the best results by stimulating creativity and bringing the right people together to collaborate.” said Dalia Strum, the Chief Partnerships and Marketing Officer of RethinkConnect


“We want them to dream. These playful moments and quirky installations were meant to inspire creativity so they could think about ordinary things in different ways.” said Dana Randall, the Chief Creative Officer, Experience Design at RethinkConnect.



This was the first event of its kind for the retail school at Wharton Baker Retailing School and initiatives like this are have the opportunity to shape the way consumers engage with retail.

Some sentiments from the event:

“The digitization of the apparel retail space is upon us. It’s events like the Wharton Ideathon, which bring together industry experts, influencers and business students, that help companies like Avery Dennison reimagine how our solutions make the future of retail possible.” #madepossible

— Michael Colarossi, Avery Dennison

“The event was an amazing confluence of one of retail’s most iconic brands, exceptionally talented Wharton students, and exciting technologies. The conversations and discourse created some really exciting ideas and opportunities. We were thrilled to have been part of it all”

— Brendan Phelan, radius8

SIRL had a great time at Ideathon 2020 working with UPenn students across different departments to re-invent brick-and-mortar retail. We learned a lot from the many creative ideas from the students, and also thoroughly enjoyed sharing our startup journey and experiences with them


— Michael Wang, SIRL

The ideathon was great— from the pitches to the mentor groups, to the talks from Ralph Lauren, the event was very helpful to Hero.That said, we were surprised and delighted that the best part of the ideathon came from the students themselves. It is rare to have the chance to pitch one’s ideas to a highly motivated and intelligent individual who exists outside the Retail/Tech space. By speaking with students, we received a ton of excellent questions and ideas that sit outside the typical echo chamber of the client/vendor relationship in retail tech.


Nikos Buse + Craig Domeier, Hero 

“This event gave us the opportunity to both get closer to the decision-makers at RL while at the same time collaborate with the students on their amazing ideas and feedback. For us, it was a win-win on both sides.”


— Whitney Cathcart, 3DLook


“I think I got as much out of being a mentor as the students did from participating in the Ideathon. I left feeling inspired by the energy and creativity of the students and also made great new relationships with fellow mentors.

— Pablo Henderson, Equinox Hotels 

“The Wharton Ideathon was expertly managed and provided a great learning opportunity for students and mentors alike.

— Dave Beckel, Berenberg Capital Markets

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