Preparations for the Big Trip – VinV 2014

Everyone, the best season of the year is finally here! Although you wouldn’t be able to tell if you looked outside at the 50° weather, December could not come soon enough! Christmas music can be heard through headphones in the library, students are taking study breaks to shop for presents, and thrift stores are getting some healthy traffic in their “Christmas Sweaters” department. Not to mention ABC’s “25 Days of Christmas”…whoever came up with that idea should get a Nobel Prize.

As if this season couldn’t get any better, thirteen lucky Villanova students, including myself, will travel to sunny San Francisco at the beginning of January to visit numerous start ups and tech companies in Silicon Valley. Appropriately, the program is called “Villanova in the Valley” and it was engineered by the ICE Center and our talented student coordinator (and expert on all things San Francisco) Liam Miller. We will visit places like Twitter, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay, Mojiva, Bumebox, and several others. Seeing these companies and their facilities will be an amazing experience all by itself, but we will also have the opportunity to speak with various executives who are doing big things in the technology industry. Of course, there will be some time to explore the wonders of San Francisco, but engaging with these company executives in a thriving entrepreneurial environment is really what this trip is about. Not many students get the opportunity to have personal discussions with executives of some of the biggest tech companies and the most promising start ups in the country. I’d be the first to say that I want to get as much out of this experience as I can, and I know that my fellow Valleyers have similar sentiments. As such, we have spent the first semester preparing for the trip.

During our first meeting in early October, we were introduced to Mike Gardner, a prominent Villanova alumnus who works in Silicon Valley. He has been an integral part in coordinating the site visits and speakers at each company. We also became acquainted with most of the other students going on the trip, this being the first time we came together as a group.

A couple of weeks later we watched “Something Ventured,” a documentary that details the origin of venture capital, which appropriately took place in Silicon Valley. I never realized that venture capital was an entrepreneurial experiment itself, and a fairly recent one at that. The transformation of venture capital from being an experiment to becoming the biggest enabler of other entrepreneurial ventures was fascinating. Given venture capital’s importance in the Valley, we needed a thorough understanding of the subject. This documentary correlated with several research sources that we had reviewed prior to the meeting to familiarize ourselves with the different facets of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

One of our duties at each of the site visits will be to introduce the executive speaker and lead discussions. As such, for our most recent meeting, we each researched one of the companies and the executives that we would be speaking with. We presented this information to the group and began to formulate questions that would engender a greater understanding of their accomplishments and creative journeys. These questions and discussions hold a great deal of value, since they represent our only chance to personally engage with the titans of Silicon Valley. It’s not every day that you’re given this kind of opportunity. We want to learn the big things that are happening behind the technological spotlight, what it takes to succeed in the Valley, and how we can use this information to add value to future endeavors. Our discussions have the potential to be invaluable—we should make sure that they are.

Over the past few months, our preparations have given us a thorough background of the fine-tuned ecosystem in California that includes some of the most valuable technological companies in the world. We have one more meeting to discuss some final details, and then all that’s left to do is to polish our shoes, don our blazers, and bring a little Nova Nation to Silicon Valley.