The Morgridge Entrepreneurial Bootcamp (MEB) 2020, like many other events, took on a modified form this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What is usually an intensive week of hands-on learning for graduate students in the sciences, engineering, and math, was an opportunity for returning MEB alumni to talk about their career paths and the lessons they have learned. Daily webinars over the lunch hour allowed the MEB 2020 students to talk with program alumni and hear about possible entrepreneurial careers.
About 50 participants connected daily for panels on different topics including: founding a life science company, corporate entrepreneurship, consulting, technology startups, venture capital and investments, and two different “bonus” talks providing resources and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Dan Olszewski, Director of the Weinert Center and Co-Founder of MEB presented a list of resources for students to access both on and off campus. He highlighted accelerator programs, speaker series, business plan and pitch competitions, and courses that MEB students may find helpful to supplement their research.
Several panelists spoke about the impact the MEB program had on their education, introducing them to opportunities in business and entrepreneurship that they didn’t know were possible with advanced degrees in STEM fields. While they acknowledged the variability of experiences and types of business they have pursued, panelists identified diversity of experiences as one important “universal truth” in entrepreneurship. Taking time to work on other things beyond your research opens up a lot of doors and helps establish your interests in topics beyond your field. Resiliency and perseverance were recurring topics on all of the panels with speakers telling stories about the dedication required to fund ventures or how they championed their idea through failures. Panelists also spoke about the power of establishing and using your network to connect with a diverse group of individuals.
Life Science Founders (Ben Casavant, Andrew Markley, Chorom Pak)
Corporate Entrepreneurship (M. Cabell Jonas, Claus Moberg, Adam Swick)
Consulting (Wen Chyan, Daria Fedyukina, Elizabeth Hines, Chloe Kim)
Technology Founders (Zainab Ghadiyali, Hyunjun Park, Suryanarayanan PaneerSelvam)
Venture Capital and Finance (Yiqun Bai, Josh Carson, Carson Cook)
Next Steps & Resources (Dan Olszewski)
A capstone webinar entitled “Rules for the Long Road” was led by John Morgridge, CEO Emeritus, Cisco Systems, UW alum and MEB Co-Founder. John shared his takeaways and personal reflection on his fifty years in business. He suggests that students are open to new opportunities, to listen when they present themselves but don’t always look for the next thing, because “opportunities are random.” He spoke about the importance of investing time and energy into your personal and professional relationships in addition to forgiving yourself and others along for mistakes. If you don’t, he says, negative experiences “can sour your way of thinking and it’s not helpful to hold on to them.” Another way John suggests you foster relationships is by donating to organizations that are important to you. “Don’t be afraid to write a small check, they will appreciate it and it can be the start of a relationship with the organization that can lead to new opportunities,” John said. In closing, John shared the three things that he feels are important for a successful startup: always have pizza, let the engineers pick out wine and beer for events, and finally, have t-shirts (he teased as he showed off his t-shirt from MEB 2018).