Mostafa Afr (M&T’25) is currently a junior at Penn studying electrical engineering and entrepreneurship. This past summer, he was one of four M&T students who received the Entrepreneurship Award, which was a $5,000 grant that allowed him to pursue an original project in lieu of a traditional internship under the advisement of Dr. Vohra and Faculty Director Allon. Herewith he discusses his time in the M&T Program thus far and the product he spent his summer developing.
Q: Tell me about your summer entrepreneurship project.
MA: I’m a gamer at heart. Some of my fondest memories growing up are of me playing video games with my friends. One of my favorite things to do is show my friends my gaming setup and all the cool ways I’ve been able to arrange my tech. Unfortunately, one thing has consistently haunted my dream setups. The cooler peripherals and tech I get, the more cables I need to power it all, leading to jumbles of ugly cables. It seems no matter my best efforts, I need some loose cables to power my mic, my headphones, and charge my devices. That’s how I came up with my idea for ChromaCord. My venture is an RGB cable startup that aims to make aesthetically pleasing light-up cables targeted at gamers. Gamers hate getting tangled up, and do their best to hide their cables, or at least keep them tidy. At the same time, however, they buy RGB strips en masse to give their setups an aesthetic touch. ChromaCord provides wires with RGB lighting for gamers and anyone who wishes to decorate their working space. With RGB lighting as well as magnets for cable management, the wires become something that people can show off.
Q: What drew you to the M&T Program?
MA: M&T was my dream program from the start, and I applied early decision but didn’t get in. I liked the idea of the community aspect of M&T, the cohort of 50-55 students, and the access to network building that the program provided. I’ve always been interested in start-ups and my goal is to launch my own start-up and at the very least work on something on the side that I’m passionate about. I thought M&T would be a great place to pursue my dream. Anyone can take the classes to learn about engineering and business together, but the M&T program is truly one of a kind.
I was a Wharton undergrad during my first year at Penn, and I admit I was a little bitter about not being in the M&T Program. I knew so many M&T kids and was trying to figure out what they did right and where I went wrong. On a positive note, not getting into M&T right away made me take my first year very seriously and it set a tone for my college experience. I very vividly remember seeing my friends going out to dinner or getting together and I felt I needed to stay home to work to apply to transfer into the program. You only get one shot to transfer in after freshman year, so not getting in a second time was something I couldn’t risk. Aside from a few business classes, I actually mainly took engineering classes my first year, so I sort of was on the M&T track even though I wasn’t officially in the program. I remember my advisor looking at my schedule and being a little confused. My engineering friends all thought I was in engineering and would always gasp when I told them I was in Wharton.
Luckily, I was admitted into the program as a transfer from Wharton and was able to become an M&T as of the beginning of my sophomore year. Once I was officially in the M&T Program, I really felt the community aspect and I met so many great people just sitting in the M&T building. I would talk with Dr. Vohra and Professor Allon, I would meet with alumni, meet with fellow M&Ts, and it’s really made the difference for me. I’ve been very happy and I’m very thankful to be in the program.
Q: Can you talk little about your experience in the M&T Program thus far?
MA: Since joining the M&T Program, I have had the ability to work on a project I care about – and learn how to take an idea and turn it into a real thing. This wasn’t something I had done before. My goal is to be an entrepreneur and my experience this summer isn’t something I would have been able to do if I wasn’t M&T. The mix of product design courses from engineering and entrepreneurship classes from Wharton have helped me figure out which ideas are good and worthy of my time. To have the background in engineering to build prototypes and the business understanding to see what’s feasible and what’s not, is invaluable. Additionally, I’ve been working on actively meeting people and growing my network by attending events to find people with similar interests.
I’m still learning. I’ve only been in the program for a year, but I think I’ve grown so much more in the past year than I did in the three years prior.
Q: At this point in time, where do you see yourself after graduating?
MA: My primary goal is to be an entrepreneur and run a start-up. My hope is that by senior year I will have something going on so that when I graduate, I will have a clear path. My back-up plan is to do graduate school and get either my MBA or a master’s in electrical engineering. But my dream goal is to graduate and be working on something I’m passionate about that will make a difference in the world.
Q: If you could give advice to students interested in applying to the M&T Program, what would it be?
MA: After I got into M&T I started a YouTube channel where I have published videos on college advising and admissions. When I was applying, I wished there were more online resources available to me so hopefully some of my content will help others. The biggest piece of advice I would give is to be honest. Be direct in your essays. Talk about what you’re passionate about. In my transfer essay, I was honest and mentioned that I had been rejected early decision, but I was applying again because I really wanted to be part of the program. I know that many high school students don’t know exactly what they want to do, and that’s okay, but try to figure out what you’re passionate about as your essays will be more authentic and a better representation of who you are as a person.