The Fresh Face of Entrepreneurship

I have been living and working in Silicon Valley since 1987.  I’ve been here long enough to become jaded by brilliant people coming up with great new ideas to change the world.  Yet again.  Ho Hum, another day at the office.  But every once in a while, I have a day that reminds me why I love being here so much, and why I love being involved with the startup mentality of entrepreneurship.  Today was one of those days.

I’m a graduate of the Darden School – the graduate business school at the University of Virginia.  The Darden School includes the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship, the leading center for studying entrepreneurship and what makes it work.  And, of course, Silicon Valley is the center of the world for entrepreneurial activity.  So why is it that very few people in Silicon Valley know or care about the Darden School and its Batten Institute?

Silicon Valley cares about results – especially repeatable results.  So Silicon Valley will care about the Darden School when, and only when, it takes notice of a series of companies affiliated with Darden that are success stories.  So, I got in touch with the Batten Institute a couple of weeks ago and offered myself as a mentor groups of entrepreneurs affiliated with the school.  If I can help them succeed, I will have accomplished my goal of raising the visibility of a great business school here in Silicon Valley.

Today, I met with two of the companies.  Both are still in stealth mode, so I cannot share what they are working on, but both are very impressive technologies targeting large markets where the needs are not currently satisfied.  That is an excellent start.  Beyond that, I enjoyed hearing the dedication and passion in the voice of the founders.  They are pursuing their dreams, working to improve society by bringing their products to market.  They hope to make money doing so, but I got the impression that they would continue with their work even if they were told that there was no chance they would ever make money.  That is an attitude I love – because the entrepreneurs with that attitude will not give up on their dream when it seems hopeless.  I learned long ago that one thing successful companies have in common is a management team that kept it alive long enough to succeed, while failed companies had management teams that allowed it to fail.

I’m looking forward to working with these groups of entrepreneurs as a mentor, much the same way that I enjoy teaching my students at the Santa Clara University Law School.  In each case, I get to deal with very smart men and women who love to learn and apply what they learn.  And it is wonderful to pass along what I have learned, just as I received the benefit of learning from my elders early in my career.

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