Tag Archives: stanford

Knowing How and When to Adapt: John Collison, Co-Founder of Stripe

“If you’re interested in starting a company, you don’t quite get the full picture” cautioned John Collison, a self-proclaimed start-up history geek. The problem with start-up histories is that the founders tend to “whitewash things a little bit.” With this as a starting point, Collison gave the class a candid history of the founding of Stripe.

Stripe wasn’t Collison’s first company. So how do you pick the right idea to pursue? “To spot opportunities requires you to question to how things work,” said Collison. But even the right idea can seem slow at first. Two years into Stripe’s history, they had just 50 customers. Going out of their way to take care of these early customers, Stripe began to spread by word of mouth.

As feedback flooded in from these new users, Stripe had to decide how to change to accommodate their requests and complaints. Collison explained the importance of knowing how and when to adapt. It isn’t about reaching the final form of your product as quickly as possible. Instead, it’s about following the right path all the way through.

When it came time for questions, there was an obvious one: what is it like to found a company with your brother? Collison described the benefits of working with a team that you already know how to work with. It solves the “meta issues” to collaboration and lets you focus on the task at hand. Clearly, it was a strategy that paid off for Patrick and John.

By Thomas Teisberg

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Architecture as Vehicle for Expression: Jeanne Gang at ETL

If Jeanne Gang were a bird, she would live in this kind of nest.

She flips to an image of suspended, teardrop shaped forms hanging from the branches of a tree. The design of these nests is perfect: they push the boundaries of their material, and they create community.

Though unorthodox, this was probably a clear window into her thought process and a great way to begin the talk. How do we experience the spaces around us? How do we elevate space and craft it to achieve an ideal? She is a slim woman with dark hair, simple clothes, and an even voice. She is also a MacArthur Fellow and the founder and driving force behind Studio Gang Architects. Studio Gang has reimagined skyscrapers, boathouses, schools, and lakefronts. The Folsom tower rises and ripples on the San Francisco skyline, and the Arcus Center for Justice and Leadership is a tangible representation of the configurations that break down social barriers. Each work is the physical manifestation of an idea, and showcases remarkable intelligence, sensitivity, and creativity.

We don’t often think of bird nests as the greatest achievement in user-centered design, nor can most of us wrap our minds around manipulating physical space to evoke an idea. But as potential creators there is something delicate and definite that we can take away from Jeanne Gang’s architecture.

Both a bird’s nest and a building can be sublime.

By Vivian Hare
Photo: Zabreen Khan.

Exploring Beyond the Norms of Engineering and Tech With Shah Shelbe, National Geographic Society

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Shah Shelbe walked into the auditorium sporting jeans cuffed at the bottoms, a slim blue button down, and a light brown sports jacket. Although his long beard suggests that he is indeed the type of man that has spent some time in the wilderness, at first sight he did not come across as being a National Geographic Explorer. But who is to say that all explorers must wear rubber boots, hiking shorts, and carry a walking stick? Definitely not me. Just as I was quick to conjure up an image of an explorer based on my own preconceived notions, Shah urged us to think beyond the “norms” with regard to engineering and tech.

Engineers have classically been portrayed as nerdy and socially awkward specimens. But Shah, a chemical and propulsion engineer, reminded us that there is not a sole cookie-cutter mold for all engineers. He is relieved that engineering has increased its “coolness,” and stands by the belief that engineers give us the tools necessary to uncover humanity’s mysteries and save its treasures.

Currently in society, as Shah explained, companies that were invented in the 1950s and 60s are being rebuilt with the emergence of the tech industry. He says, “We are living in an amazing and remarkable time.” And as is commonly the case at Stanford it is particularly easy to fall into the trap of trying to create the next big thing – be it a new social network or an addictive app. But Shah encouraged us to think beyond the Silicon Valley bubble, promising that there are a myriad of problems beyond it that long for innovative solutions.

The Boeing employee, turned Engineer Without Borders volunteer, turned Stanford grad, turned fish savior, turned National Geographic emerging explorer (in a nutshell), is a testament to his own idea that “opportunity exists everywhere, especially in the least expected places.” Shah, the enthusiastic conservationist and Explorer, a title that most Stanford grads don’t have in their job description, inspired us to find our own inspiration because as he says, “the world needs you.”

Next Wednesday, Jeanne Gang, Founder and Principal of Studio Gang Architects, will be speaking at NVIDIA Auditorium @ 4:30 PM. To see the full lineup of speakers for this quarter, go to our website etl.stanford.edu

By Alejandro Rosenkranz

BASES Startup Career Fair – 79 Companies. 900+ Students

Last Thursday, the BASES Startup Career Fair attracted 79 companies, featuring up and coming startups like Travelnuts to more established companies like Intuit. From 11am to 4 pm, over 900 students arrived at the lawn between Gates and Mudd to seek summer opportunities and even permanent positions with premier companies in the valley.

“The BASES Startup Career Fair is a great way to get yourself out there and find new opportunities,” said freshman Isabela Becerra. “Although this is my first career fair, and I didn’t know what to expect, there’s so much energy. I’m having a great time.”

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Having a lot of freshman in attendance was a new highlight in this year’s career fair. Although upperclassmen typically compose a majority of the demographic, many underclassmen have already started looking for summer opportunities.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of freshman here. It’s great to see so many underclassmen interested in startups even early on,” said BASES Co-President Andrea Sy.

Sy also noted that this year, there were a lot of startups present that wanted to disrupt older industries like healthcare and construction.

“It’s fascinating to see what types of companies come to the BASES Startup Career Fair each year. I think it’s interesting to see how well the change in industry focus of attending startups correlate with the changing entrepreneurship ecosystem,” said Sy.

From a company’s standpoint, many were excited to be exposed to the incredible pipeline of talent: Stanford students. Shay Fidel, Stanford alumnus and head of growth operations at Plan Grid, “loves how Stanford fosters entrepreneurship,” in its students and “is trying to incorporate this in Plan Grid’s culture.” On the other hand, Oracle recruiter Amanda Johnson notes that “Stanford students are from so many different backgrounds,” so it makes her job “easier and exciting.”

“The BASES startup career fair was a great opportunity to engage with passionate students and get them excited about or mission. I love how Stanford students are both entrepreneurial and technically inclined,” said Upstart CTO Jonathan Eng.

After talking to a wide variety of companies, many students walked out feeling satisfied, some even getting interviews immediately afterward.

“After talking to a wide range of companies today, I already received an email about a potential opportunity. This event was truly worthwhile,” said freshman Natalie Ng.

For those of you who couldn’t attend the event, the startup career fair talent portal is still open for you to submit your resume! Click here. 

Complete list of all companies at the event can be found here

By Valerie Huynh

Government for the People, by the People

We are fairly wrapped in Silicon Valley culture–striving to be the best and solve the hardest, most interesting problems. Jen Pahlka’s talk is a startling reminder that simple clarity of thought is all that is really required to enact widespread change. Pahlka’s experience with government agencies gives her a clear picture of the problems that were produced when their complex, archaic philosophies were applied to technical solutions. In many cases, resources aren’t lacking, but rather the fault lies in the structure that is meant to distribute them to those in need.

Whether those resources are answers to simple questions about getting your Driver’s License in Hawaii, or actual physical food that is being held from you because of a problem with your CalFresh account, the resources exist. What Pahlka and her team of Code for America programmers do seems like something close to heroism. In what would be considered a blink of an eye in government time, Hawaii’s practically unusable government site became a place where simple questions could be simply and reliably answered. Similarly, CalFresh’s interface was cleaned and beautified until it was beyond recognition, and thousands of hungry citizens gained access to a consistent source of food. But Pahlka reminds us that the work that Code for America is involved in does not require superhuman talent, but rather simple design, clean code, and common sense.  Streamlined, intelligently designed technical solutions allocate resources were they should be allocated. With that in mind, heroism has never seemed so attainable.

By Vivian Hare

BASES Finale 2014 – Photo Gallery

Last Tuesday was our annual BASES Finale – the culmination event of the BASES Challenge competition.  The event kicked off with public pitches from E-Challenge and Social-E finalists where all the teams had a chance to show off what they’ve been working on.  Sponsors, judges and spectators from all over Silicon Valley came to participate in the event. See below for the list of winners along with some photos courtesy of Akiharu Maki Photography.

E-Challenge: 
1st Place Winner: Allertope 
2nd Place Winner: Madorra 
3rd Place Winner: Peeps 
Crowd-Favorite: Peeps

Social-E:
1st Place Winner: Beeline 
2nd Place Winner: Elevado 
3rd Place Winner: Pocketlab 
Crowd-Favorite: eleVado

Product Showcase:
1st Place Winner: Switchmate 
2nd Place Winner: Rabbit Prototyping 
3rd Place Winner: Napwell 
Crowd-Favorite: Stroll Health