By Emily Gran '16 and Thomas Hague '16
Claremont McKenna College (CMC) celebrated its third annual Entrepreneurship Week, Feb. 1-5. Students, faculty, and alumni joined together in their shared passion for innovation, participating in events organized by one of CMC’s newest research institutes, The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).
Since 2012, the CIE has led an initiative to include educational opportunities relevant to entrepreneurship and technology as part of CMC’s liberal arts experience. Janet Smith, CMC’s Von Tobel Professor of Economics, leads the CIE along with a board of highly successful alumni and parents affiliated with the college. She also leads a small team of students who help facilitate the CIE’s activities on campus. For more information on the CIE, visit its website at cie.cmc.edu.
Entrepreneurship Week provided students with an opportunity to learn about careers in the Silicon Valley, cutting edge technology in virtual reality, the CIE, the principles of venture capital, and student ventures on campus. We’ve included a short recap below of each day.
To kick off Entrepreneurship Week, the CIE hosted a panel focused on Women in the World of High Tech. The panelists consisted of recent CMC grads who each have high-profile jobs in the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Frederick R. Lynch, Associate Professor of Government at CMC, moderated the discussion among the four panelists: Candace Adelberg ’10, Kristie Howard ’15, Mayumi Matsuno ’01, and Jacinth Sohi ’11.
The panel focused on a broad array of topics including: preparation for careers in tech, how to leverage past accomplishments and personal and professional networks to develop careers in tech, obstacles and challenges faced in the competitive and male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley, and approaches for problem solving, including work/life balance issues.
Kristie Howard ’15 stressed the importance of women to majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and the importance of encouraging other women to do so as a way to promote gender diversity in technology and business.
Mayumi Matsuno ’01 shared her experience in salary negotiations, and urged women in the audience to educate themselves on the intricacies of compensation contracts. More than 100 students and faculty attended the lunch, and after the discussion, audience members asked questions and received thoughtful feedback from the panelists about their experiences. The afternoon’s conversation lent itself as an open forum for women interested in joining the growing group of women working in high-tech.
On Tuesday, the CIE hosted an exclusive lunch with the founding team of Ease VR, a pioneering purpose-built analytics platform for digital realities. One of the founders of Ease VR, Gamiel Gran P’16, spoke for the first half of the afternoon on the history of venture capital in the Silicon Valley, his 15 years of experience working in venture and his latest undertaking of starting a company in virtual reality. Gamiel was followed by his fellow founder, Prithvi Kandanda, who provided background on the excitement around the virtual reality space, mapped out the countless applications of VR for everyday users, and summarized Ease VR’s analytics platform.
Students got the chance to ask technical questions of the Ease VR team, and test drive various VR experiences using one of the head-mounted displays (HMD) and software applications. More than 100 students, faculty, and staff attended, and members of the audience were blown away by the VR experiences and the authenticity of their trips through space, to the mountaintops of Nepal, and front-row seats to Cirque du Soleil!
Mid-week, the CIE had an informal open house at the CIE during lunch from 12:15-1:15 p.m. At the open house, Student Managers Emily Gran ’16 and Thomas Hague ’16 answered questions about the mission of the CIE, how to get involved, and also how to gain access to the building. They also answered questions about the research program, the CIE’s sponsored summer internship program, and the CIE’s official publication, The Vanguard Magazine, which publishes student articles relevant to tech, business, and entrepreneurship.
Prashant Fonseka ’12 is an associate at CrunchFund, an early stage venture capital firm founded in 2011 by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and VantagePoint Partner Patrick Gallagher. Before his main talk, Prashant met with five students at the CIE who jumped at the opportunity to meet him in an exclusive setting due to their strong interest in venture capital.
More than 40 students attended his talk in the Kravis Center’s Freeburg Forum. He taught students the fundamentals of evaluating startups, whether as an investor or as a founder. Specifically, he covered topics such as identifying real problems and solutions, evaluating market size and competition, the importance of the team, and the advantages of choosing venture capital firms over others as investors, to name a few.
After the talk, a few students spoke with Prashant about their startup ideas and potential internships at CrunchFund.
On Friday, the CIE provided student founders with the opportunity to share their ventures with the community. The leadership team set up tables outside of the Hub, played music, and provided information about the CIE’s newest opportunities — leadership team applications and the sponsored summer internship program. For a list of student ventures on campus, check out the CIE’s website.