Cal Poly senior Katie Exum is used to defying expectations. The 6-foot-1 Torrance, Calif.-native came to Cal Poly in 2012, where she quickly emerged as a standout in the Industrial Technology and Packaging Area. Just as she prepares to graduate this December, she has secured a packaging engineer position at one of the highest-paying employers in Silicon Valley—Amazon Lab126, which designs and engineers consumer electronics, such as Fire tablets, Kindle e-book readers and Amazon Echo.
As Exum approaches the start of her career, she reflects on the moment that changed her direction at Cal Poly.
The first cohort of 17 Cal Poly students immersed in an intensive 10-week entrepreneurship and innovation “boot camp,” will graduate from the new program this month.
The Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs: A Study-Away Entrepreneurship Immersion Program is a collaborative effort involving Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and Extended Education, and Draper University. Students from all disciplines throughout Cal Poly took part in a unique entrepreneurial experience in the world’s capital of technology innovation: Silicon Valley.
Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business and College of Liberal Arts co-sponsored a concentrated three-week course, followed by seven weeks in San Mateo at Draper University. The aim was to help would-be entrepreneurs embrace risk and find the motivation to innovate.
Of the 17 students representing Cal Poly, 10 were business students concentrating in everything from economics, to industrial technology, to finance. Cal Poly’s cohort of undergraduate students studied alongside master’s degree candidates and working professionals at Draper University.
“As a freshman, I needed to complete some prerequisite courses in order to take some of the entrepreneurship classes I was interested in,” said Katie White, business administration major. “This program offered me a chance to take those classes and to spend 10 weeks with driven, ambitious, smart entrepreneurs in an environment that would help me take my idea much farther than I could solely on campus.”
The program touched on broad issues such as finance, the legal system, creativity and survival. Courses focused on such varied topics as venture capital, sales and digital marketing, negotiation, prototyping, and the important lessons of failure.
The program culminated with a pitch competition in Silicon Valley where more than 30 teams pitched to an audience of venture capital investors. Cal Poly students led three teams that placed in the competition’s top five. Industrial Technology senior Tiffany Keller took second place in the competition with PolyLabs, a smart keychain that remotely accesses apps with the push of a button thanks to Dingbot technology. Economics sophomore Eli Burch and business administration freshman Katie White took third place with Clock’d, a bluetooth enabled app that allows hourly employees to clock in and out of work while recording data for improved work efficiency. Fifth place went to business major Tommy Espinoza, who partnered with fellow Draper student Yoni Dejene; their concept for Investful imagines an online school with interactive and project-based courses on trading stocks.
Both PolyLabs and Clock’d have been accepted in to the CIE’s Hatchery, Cal Poly’s on-campus incubator for student projects and startups.
“This program has better prepared me to become an entrepreneur in many ways,” said industrial technology senior Matt Prout. “I have gained invaluable insight on creating a company from successful entrepreneurs and experts in many different fields. I’ve learned important lessons and have done activities that pushed me in various aspects of my life. All of these skills and experiences directly translate to life as an entrepreneur.”
Cal Poly business students will help pilot the university’s Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs program in winter 2015. The program will give 17 Cal Poly students the opportunity to study away in Silicon Valley with Draper University as part of a universitywide effort to bolster entrepreneurial resources for students across campus.
Ten Orfalea College of Business students will participate in the program – the largest contingent from any college at Cal Poly. Business majors, along with art, political science, computer science and kinesiology students, will spend three weeks at Cal Poly before studying at Draper University for the remaining seven weeks of winter quarter.
“I’m proud to see so many business students leading the way in this program,” said Orfalea College of Business Dean Scott Dawson. “We’re preparing graduates to make an impact on day one of their careers, and when it comes to entrepreneurship, I can’t think of a better training ground than this program.”
Orfalea College of Business professors Tom Katona and Tod Nelson will teach entrepreneurship courses complemented by business ethics curriculum taught by Cal Poly philosophy professor Kenneth Brown. Katona, Nelson and Brown will visit Silicon Valley periodically to work with students in and out of the classroom. Students will also have the chance to engage with Cal Poly alumni and guest speakers from the valley’s startups and venture capital firms.
“This is much more than just an academic experience for our students,” said Katona of the program. “This is an immersive experience into the entrepreneurial culture that is thriving in Silicon Valley and driving business globally.”
Orfalea College of Business students studying industrial technology, finance, entrepreneurship and economics will participate in the program. The cohort includes Katie White, a business administration freshman and winner of the Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Ray Scherr Pitch Competition. Entrepreneurship sophomore Nicholas Sinai will also participate in the program. He was named University Innovation Fellow by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter) in 2014. Alfredo Espinoza, business administration freshman and a member of the Cal Poly Wrestling Team, will also be part of the cohort.
The Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs program is a partnership between Draper University and Cal Poly that aims to amplify the Learn by Doing philosophy. As part of the Cal Poly’s larger effort to build innovative curriculum and programs, the university and its Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship have developed a spectrum of resources for students to develop and sharpen new products, create startups, and collaborate across disciplines while working toward their degree. Those resources include the SLO HotHouse, the on-campus Hatchery and the Innovation Sandbox.
Draper University was founded by venture capitalist Tim Draper to “teach entrepreneurship to people who are relentless in their desire to change the world and make things happen.” Draper is the founder and managing director of Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The company — with more than $7 billion in capital commitments and affiliate offices in more than 30 cities worldwide — has funded many well-known technology companies, including Hotmail, Skype, SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
For more details about Draper University, visit http://draperuniversity.com.
For more on Cal Poly’s Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs program, visit: http://extended.calpoly.edu/entrepreneurs/index.html.
Cal Poly has announced an agreement with Draper University, a San Mateo-based entrepreneurship program run by venture capitalist Tim Draper, aimed at providing students with an intensive background in the innovative and entrepreneurial character of Silicon Valley.
Beginning in January, up to 24 Cal Poly students will take part in a 10-week program called “Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs.” The experience will include two academic courses taught on Cal Poly’s campus in an intensive three-week format, followed by seven weeks in San Mateo at the Draper program, which aims to help would-be entrepreneurs embrace risk and find the inspiration to innovate.
“This is a unique opportunity for Cal Poly students from all disciplines throughout the university,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “The Draper University program, like Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing approach, fosters creative thinking and teaches students the value of jumping in, doing the work and learning from failure on the way to success.”
Draper University’s residential program features a curriculum designed to advance students beyond their inhibitions and teach them how to harness creativity and inspiration in their entrepreneurial efforts.
The program touches on broad issues such as finance, the legal system, creativity and survival, with courses on varied topics such as venture capital, sales and digital marketing, negotiation, prototyping, and lessons in failure. Along the way, participants network, hone their public speaking skills, develop business and product ideas, and interact with some of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds. At the end of the program students will have the opportunity to pitch their business idea to a panel of angel and venture capital investors.
“We know our hands-on training and access to Silicon Valley innovators provides an experience that can’t be replicated in a university setting,” said Tim Draper, founder of Draper University. “Our program will provide a launch pad for these stellar Cal Poly students to take their business ideas to the next level.”
The “Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs” program is part of a broader focus on entrepreneurship at Cal Poly. The university is also developing plans to expand its Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on campus, as well as the center’s Hothouse business incubator and accelerator program in downtown San Luis Obispo.
Draper is the founder and managing director of Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The company — with more than $7 billion in capital commitments and affiliate offices in more than 30 cities worldwide — has funded many well-known technology companies, including Hotmail, Skype, SpaceX and Tesla Motors.
For more details about Draper University, visit http://draperuniversity.com.
For more on Cal Poly’s “Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs” program, visit: http://extended.calpoly.edu/entrepreneurs/index.html.