‘Create something game-changing’: Pomona Ventures’ upcoming SageTank helps students and alums boost entrepreneurship

Around 15 students pose for the camera on the lawn.
SageTank is inspired by the TV series Shark Tank and will be held on April 30. (Courtesy: Pomona Ventures)

Known as a “startup ecosystem” which provides students a platform to collaborate, learn and dream, Pomona Ventures’ keystone event — known as SageTank — will be held on April 30. SageTank is an entrepreneurial opportunity that allows creatives to dream and work to make their visions come true. 

The annual event, inspired by the TV series Shark Tank, offers students the chance to pitch startups to a panel of judges to create business opportunities for both startup founders and investors. The club’s mission is to provide students with a platform where they can “learn from founders, support founders, become founders and find their co-founders,” according to its website. 

Pomona Ventures not only spotlights student founders’ innovative ideas but helps its team members realize their own personal strengths by encouraging creative innovation. 

“Over the past year, we fostered a club culture that takes away imposter syndrome,” co-president Nanea Haynes PO ’22 said. “There was a point where Pomona Ventures felt a little hierarchical, and when [my co-president and I] started leading together, we took the time to get to know everyone’s creative vision and create a much more democratic system.” 

Haynes’ co-president is Shreya Kamra PO ’23, who credits Pomona Ventures with teaching her the art of networking and building connections. 

“It’s just been an opportunity for me to create something game-changing,” Kamra said. “I’m just creating a space for entrepreneurs that has never been there.”

The co-presidents believe that collaboration is the key to innovation but also acknowledge the significance of diversity and leadership. The co-presidents, vice president and CFO of Pomona Ventures all identify as female, and the club has strong international representation, with members hailing from India, Kenya, London, Japan, Myanmar and Ecuador. 

“We all come with different experiences and perspectives [and] objectives, and we all meet in a place with empathy and an open mind,” Kamra said. 

The team members of Pomona Ventures echo this feeling of unity through diversity. 

“I am so fortunate to work with the most supportive, kind-hearted and genuine people,” said Suhasini Singh PO ’25, a team member who is responsible for the media marketing of SageTank. 

The club welcomes members of varying years and experience levels and provides a healthy social environment. 

“I think that it’s really helped me as a freshman,” Rishnav Thadani PO ’25 said. “I have found such an amazing cohort of friends and have really made some wonderful relationships.”

This year, Pomona Ventures is organizing a venture capital entrepreneurship event that is bigger and better than any of its previous competitions.

“SageTank is different this year because we are now accepting both current students at the Claremont Colleges and alumni at the Claremont Colleges,” Haynes said. 

In light of this change, the only requirement the club now has is that the startup must have an operating history of fewer than three years. 

“This will allow current students to learn about former students and their paths and see the products of innovation,” Kamra said. “We’re trying to connect students who want to run startups with one another with mentors who can guide them in the process. SageTank offers an opportunity [for] connections.”

Alumni are highly encouraged to apply for a multitude of reasons. 

“Firstly, it’s a great expression of gratitude for what the 5Cs have to offer — you can give back,” Kamra said. “You can also be part of a lot of meaningful relationships that are at the forefront of society when you’re creating something.”

Former participant Ruben Pachecho-Caldera PO ’21 said the opportunity “demystified the fundraising process.”

“From curating a team of experts to pitching your idea to investors… It was amazing to have that experience in college,” said Pachecho-Caldera, who helped with the pitch for Yoodli, serving as a software engineer. 

Pomona Ventures has already connected with Contrary, Crescent Funds and Kravis Lab, all organizations whom are either donating or providing services to the club and the winners of SageTank. While the prize money is certainly an incentive, the club says that the experiential exposure the competition offers is the real value. 

Applications opened for all 5C students on Feb. 19 and will remain open until March 20. The team urges all those interested to become a part of their family and join their ecosystem.

“Just because the path is unknown doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” Haynes said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed the ending quote to Shreya Kamra PO ’23. The speaker was Nanea Haynes PO ’22.

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