The 2019 Cornell Silicon Valley trip marked the first year that eLab teams and undergraduate students were invited to the West Coast to learn and network in the tech space, as well as pitch their business ideas. In addition to their eLab professors and mentors, six teams attended the West Coast marquee event: Response, Incite, Liyanga, Suna Breakfast, Shipfair, Noozit!, and Smart Rest.
On March 25th, the students visited First Round Capital, a premier investment fund that focuses on pre-revenue companies. Christophe Gerlach (CALS ‘20) shared how he learned that investors at First Round Capital, “value the importance of founder market fit and are attracted to founders who are tackling a problem in a unique way. Successful founders often have a competitive advantage through expertise and skill set in their startup’s industry.” The students were intrigued not only by First Round Capital’s ability to provide financial resources and support, but also how the fund supports its startups in all aspects of growing the business, including branding, product design, sales, and creating pitch decks. The six eLab teams had the opportunity to pitch and received valuable feedback on how to continue improving their businesses.
The students also heard from Cornell alumni at Google who shared both their grit and success stories from building their startups before ultimately selling their companies to the tech giant. It was eye-opening to students to hear about the process of running a business after an incubator program and that greatness is rarely achieved in the absence of failure. Later in the afternoon, the eLab students went to Silicon Valley Bank to gain insight into how the students on the trip heard from speakers including Jim Cavalieri (Engineering '91), SVP, Office of the Chairman and co-CEO at Salesforce, Priya Rajan (MBA '16), Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank, and Sid Trivedi (A&S '13), Partner of Foundation Capital. The trip to Silicon Valley was an exciting and eye-opening experience for eLab’s student founders.