Being embedded in the heart of entrepreneurship, meeting and talking with the movers and shakers in California’s Silicon Valley, is a rare opportunity for college students.
Lehigh students and alumni recently enjoyed this experience for the second year when they took part in LehighSiliconValley, a weeklong West Coast immersion program coordinated by Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation.
This year’s program featured an added benefit. Before traveling to California, students spent two days studying the East Coast entrepreneurship scene, including a day in the nation’s newest innovation hub, New York City. Often associated with Wall Street and Madison Avenue, the city has become a hotbed for a new breed of venture-backed startups.
“The vastness of the tech explosion that is happening in New York can best (and perhaps only) be comprehended by hearing the first-hand accounts of those experiencing it,” said Dale Falcinelli ’70, ’72G, LehighSiliconValley creator and professor of practice in Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics. “Our job was to take major-league players who are in the game and gather them all in an 11th floor room in a building in downtown Manhattan.”
• Follow the students at the LSV2013 Blog
The questions worth asking
With more than 40 years in venture capital, keynote speaker Alan Patricof, known as “the godfather of venture capital,” fit that bill. A longtime innovator and founder of one of the world’s leading private equity firms, Patricof now specializes in digital media firms. He urged LSV participants to think in a “contrarian way,” making individual choices in providing funding and selecting areas that excite them.
Although he was surrounded by 55 Lehigh students and alumni eager to learn more about startups, Patricof said they should not all become entrepreneurs.
“Think about where you can play a role in some major or minor companies,” Patricof said. “Look for a way of making a difference and providing your entrepreneurial spirit to an existing company. Whatever you do, don’t do another ‘lookalike’ company.”
That point was underscored by the second keynote speaker, Glenn B. Kaufman, the founder and managing director of D Cubed Group, a New York-based private market investment firm focusing on consumer and business services.
Students graduating from elite business schools tend to identify the same goals and interests, Kaufman said.
“They will follow whatever’s hot and they will be a few years behind,” he told participants. “You should make sure you don’t go that way. You should really make sure you know what you want to do, and why, and that you’re not a sheep.”
Structured in a question-and-answer format, the day in New York City included panels of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Students appreciated the experience and passion that presenters shared.
“This experience completely changed my outlook on what it means to be an entrepreneur,” said Travis Smith ‘15, a double major in finance and in Lehigh’s honors program in integrated business and engineering. “It never crossed my mind that being an entrepreneur is all about asking and answering questions. But more specifically, it’s about finding out which questions are worth asking and answering.”
Following their Dec. 8 visit to New York City, participants spent Jan. 6-12 in Silicon Valley.
“It was great having an idea about how the entrepreneurial world works on the East Coast in New York City before traveling to Silicon Valley,” said global studies senior MaryLeah DiNisco.
Photos by Scott Krycia and Jeanette Brinker