Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stanford AVP-STVP visit day 1

I'm part of the Aalto Ventures Program group visiting Stanford University this week. Aalto is a partner of Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and we try to learn how they support the exceptional startup ecosystem of the Silicon Valley. The not so modest goal of AVP is to apply STVP methods to make Helsinki the entrepreneurial hub of the nordic and baltic countries - Finland alone is maybe too small.

Here's an interesting nugget of information: in 2009, venture capital (VC) backed companies produced 11% of the jobs in the U.S. and their revenue exceeds 20% of the GDP (Source: National Venture Capital Association).

Other notes from the first day of the visit:

  • STVP guiding principles (written on the walls): Every problem is an opportunity. The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. Entrepreneurs do much more than imaginable with much less than seems possible.
  • People here recommend Tina Seelig's new book inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity. Haven't read it yet. Seelig's MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) on creativity has 39k participants. Should check that one too.
  • ecorner.stanford.edu  has a lot of talks by company founders, broken down into a couple of minutes clips so that they are easier to use in teaching. "oh I want to have an example of scaling for the students, let's see". These were recommended to me, have to check out if/when I have time: Guy Kawasaki, Vinod Khosla, Jack Dorsey, Bill Gross, Carol Bartz, Marissa Mayer, Mark Pincus, Nick Earl, Erin Turner. Speakers are prepared to not only advertise their current company, but use it as a dataset using which to illustrate eternal stories. No TED talks, not too much polish. "What were you not told of beforehand?". Sometimes no slide decks, but just audience questions. Sometimes also important to protect young students from exploitation - not necessarily appopriate for a visiting speaker to invest in students.
  • Steve Blank now has an online course at Udacity: How to Build a Startup. However, as Blank himself says, the online version lacks the feedback and rigor of the real Lean Launchpad course, which why Blank has also developed the Startup Weekend Next
  • Must check ree.fi, REE stands for Roundtable in Entrepreneurship Education, and the latest REE conference was held recently in Finland. I hate that I didn't hear about it.
  • Important to instill the entrepreneurial mindset from the start, and to provide practical examples of why to learn difficult things such as math. Couldn't agree more. Couldn't make myself motivated to learn much of the linear algebra or calculus that was taught during the first two years. I had no idea of where to apply it, although I've found every bit of what I managed to learn useful in my later computer vision and audio signal processing work.
  • It might help Stanford students into the entrepreneurial mindset that on there's e.g., Google's first server and a replica of Hewlett's and Packard's garage on display. I don't know what would be the equivalent at Aalto. I just remember that there were old Nokia phones on display when I started my electrical engineering studies in the 90's. Should we put even more emphasis, e.g., in the game projects to produce high quality making-of materials so that we can accumulate and display the lessons learned for future students?
  • Interesting: E&I Living Learning program equips dorms with maker spaces. Would definitely be useful at Otaniemi too.
  • meetup.com is heavily used in Stanford and the Valley to organize groups to develop one's ideas and networks.
  • Interesting form of conference: people pitch what they want to discuss (share, learn...), after which the space is divided into sections with topics. One may leave/move anytime to promote cross-pollination of ideas.
  • Recruitment/interviewing in the Valley: Tell me about your top three blunders and what you learned from making the mistakes?