From robotic mini-cars to high-tech grilled cheese, members of the Tepper School’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club enjoyed a fascinating trek to the San Francisco Bay Area over winter break. The 30 students spent four days taking in innovative startups and cutting-edge venture capital firms.
Tepper School MBA ’15 candidate Satish Ramakrishnan organized the trek in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “As a two-time Carnegie Mellon University graduate — now working on my third degree from CMU — and Bay Area native, I wanted to help expose my peers to the startup scene and the vast entrepreneurial opportunities in Silicon Valley,” he explained.
Ramakrishnan is a fellow in the James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellows Program, which develops entrepreneurial potential through mentoring, hands-on experience and more. It was made possible by Jim Swartz (MSIA ’66), founder of Accel Partners, a venture capital firm with more than $6 billion under management.
Accel Partners, based in Palo Alto, Calif., was one venture capital firm highlighted on the trek, along with Google Ventures, where the group was hosted by alumna Shanna Tellerman (A ’03, ETC ’05) and Y-Combinator, the leading startup accelerator.
Students visited three or four companies each day, including startups from a range of industries. At Anki Drive, founded by three CMU doctoral alumni, they were treated to a demonstration of mini-cars that operate using machine vision and machine learning. They spent time at The Melt, a gourmet grilled cheese chain employing innovative online ordering. The Melt founder Jonathan Kaplan (BSBA ’90) also established CMU’s Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund. The students also visited Lytro, the producer of innovative light field cameras.
Additionally, the group attended two alumni events: a panel moderated by Dean Robert Dammon and a happy hour mixer in downtown San Francisco.
“With every trek, we try to provide the opportunity for students and area alumni to be networking,” noted Janice French, associate director of Alumni Relations. “Eighty people participated in our happy hour. Students love them and alumni love them because it's a great way to allow for casual conversations.”
Christopher Jacoby (MBA’07), the San Francisco Bay area alumni chapter president, concurs. “I enjoy connecting with members of the Tepper alumni network and learning about the great and interesting activities and accomplishments of fellow Tepper MBAs,” he said.
Ramakrishnan agreed, stating, “It was great to be able to meet alumni in the Bay area and learn more about their experiences after graduating from Tepper, in addition to hearing of their struggles and how they overcame them.”
While the main goal of EVC Treks is to expose students to the startup and venture capital opportunities available, “they also are great opportunities for our students to network connections for internships and full-time employment,” says Dave Mawhinney, co-director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“The CEOs and founders are often there during our visits,” he continued, “and while they’re pleased to tell their stories and give back, they’re also getting the chance to begin the recruiting process. In Silicon Valley, the competition for talent is incredibly high, and Carnegie Mellon graduates are extremely desirable.”