By: Najia Yarkhan
“I made new friends, learned a ton every day, and came back inspired in a way I've never felt before,” Daniel Borup, Senior in Mechanical Engineering, remarked upon returning from the Technology Entrepreneur Center’s (TEC) Silicon Valley Workshop.
Each winter break, TEC and the College of Engineering send a select group of students to Silicon Valley for a 5-day entrepreneurship workshop to visit startups, leading technology companies, venture capital firms, and more. The workshop exposes students to many facets of technology entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership—from which they learn and become inspired to bring entrepreneurial energy back to the Illinois campus.
This year, Jeremy Stoppelman, Co-Founder and CEO of Yelp, Inc., Shawn Carolan, Managing Director of Menlo Ventures (Investor in Siri), and Eric Klinker, CEO of BitTorrent, Inc., were among the University of Illinois alumni who shared their stories and insight with students. Computer Science alum, Roger Dickey, an entrepreneur and Former GM at Zynga, also invited students to his home one evening for an intimate gathering with local entrepreneurs.
Students received advice on everything from finding their passion to building a successful company. Just a couple days into the trip, students were already using words like “pivot” and “disruption” in everyday conversation and were making jokes about playing “entrepreneur, entrepreneur, venture capitalist” instead of “duck, duck, goose”! But all fun and jokes aside, the wealth of knowledge shared with students helped them realize and pushed them to pursue their own entrepreneurial paths.
”You have no guarantees in life but as long as you're fairly young, you can embark on these adventures," advised Mikio Ishimaru, Illinois alumnus with experience ranging from technical engineering to intellectual property litigation. Ishimaru’s advice sums up the students’ call to action from this trip. Students learned that most of the successful entrepreneurs they met had failed again and again before becoming successful.
They learned about the passionate hard work that goes into startups and also about the uncertainty that comes with it. Students realized that the alumni they were hearing from were in the same shoes as them not too long ago, with the same resources and chances of reaching this success. But what set these people apart and made them game-changing innovators, impacting the lives of millions of people, came down to one common trait: the relentless pursuit of their entrepreneurial dreams.
While reflecting on the workshop, Natalie Farmer, Senior in English, said, “I think one of the most valuable things that I learned is that it is okay to fail and important to keep trying even after failure. The talks dealing with finding your passion also left quite an impression on me. I left with an earnest conviction that my adult life will exist somewhere in the realm of entrepreneurship.”
Just like Natalie, 25 other students left Silicon Valley with an entrepreneurial flame ignited within them. They returned to Illinois with it still burning and are ready to light this university up with entrepreneurship