Tag Archives: tech

Women in Entrepreneurship Summit: Changing the 13% of Women-Led Startups

By Stephany Yong

I love startups.

Now before you let out a sigh and roll your eyes at just another Stanford student with startup fever, hear me out.

I remember the first time I set foot into StartX my freshman year. It was the third week of winter quarter, and I was set to meet Kyle, the founder of a startup called Pixlee, whom I had met at the BASES career fair the week before. Walking through the floor space to the room where the interview would be held, I took note of the interesting set up, with tables forming clusters of makeshift offices for the startups housed there.

It was unlike any office space I had ever seen – there were nerf gun bullets and swivel office chairs strewn across the floor, whiteboard paint walls with customer acquisition strategies half mapped out in marker. And another glaring thing – I was the only girl in the building that afternoon.

Over the next few months, I dove headfirst and worked there part time on marketing when I wasn’t in class. The experience transformed me and how I viewed myself and my work. I loved how I was making an impact, preparing sales decks, writing blog posts, and consulting with the CEO on my projects (of a 10-person company at the time but still pretty cool). Furthermore, I adopted a fascination with shipping and building things. At Pixlee, three engineers had built a service that delighted hundreds of thousands of people around the world. It inspired me to get more serious about my first computer science class, and ultimately, pursue a degree in computer science.

My first foray (if you can call it that) into entrepreneurship opened up an entirely new world to me. The environment was infectious, marked by cheeto-stained keyboards and standing desks, but more importantly, a scrappy and growth-driven mindset that made me want to improve, be sharper, and learn more about the space by asking good questions. When thrown into an unstructured setting, I was forced to find a way to add value to the team, and now it’s a skill I want to continue to improve over my career. But looking around me at StartX, I noticed how the Valley’s celebrated startup culture only featured a handful of women.

I thought back to all the remarkable women I had met at Stanford – amazing engineers, product gurus, designers, and marketers – I know that they would bring tremendous value to any startup, whether it be one they start or one they join. There are unique problems that can and should be tackled by the other half of the population, who are just as creative, strategic, and determined to solve the world’s consumer, enterprise, health, and energy problems as their male counterparts. And this is where I see the value in the BASES Women in Entrepreneurship Summit.

The summit is going to feature female founders who will lead intimate discussions with at most 15 participants about topics that they think are key discussion points: the things you should know as an entrepreneur, from splitting equity with co-founders to navigating the murky waters of defining your company’s culture and everything in between.

This naturally leads us to ask why we need a womens’ summit to begin with. And I think this statistic speaks for itself: Only 13 percent of VC deals went to women-led startups in 2013 (Pitchbook). I think this minority percentage stems less from an issue of competency or interest, but rather, starting a conversation around the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face. How do you pitch to a group of male investors and navigate any doubts they may have about the industry you are devising a solution for? How do you handle being a strong negotiator without coming across as overly aggressive? How do you build a network in a male-dominated venture capital scene? These are tough questions for anyone to address, let alone asking in front of 100 other people at one of Stanford’s several VC panel discussions and mixers throughout the year. We hope organizing groups of 15 entrepreneurial women in workshops led by female entrepreneurs will create an open and encouraging environment where women can freely ask questions, share their stories, and build meaningful relationships with one another.

I’m so glad that this spring we’re finally bringing together some of the most driven, entrepreneurial women across campus and the Valley to get to know each other and start a discussion about something that means so much to me.

We look forward to reading your applications, and can’t wait to see you in April!


Apply now at here at http://bit.ly/baseswomensummit

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

The Revolving Door Keeps Turning: Stanford’s Ties to Silicon Valley

See the original article at The Stanford Daily

Authored by: Roneil Rumburg

Stanford’s faculty and Silicon Valley are inseparably intertwined.

Members of our engineering faculty will at times build, advise or work for Silicon Valley companies, and some professors advise entrepreneurship-focused student organizations like BASES or StartX, which encourage students to explore their interest in entrepreneurship. Faculty often leave Stanford to found companies, and many successful founders and leaders come back to teach: Even President Hennessy has deep industry ties after founding and advising technology companies throughout his academic career. Many of our most well-known Computer Science faculty members, like Mehran Sahami ‘92 M.S. ‘93 Ph.D. ‘99, Andrew Ng or David Cheriton, have had simultaneous successful careers in academia and industry.

Some have criticized this sort of revolving door between Stanford faculty and technology industry leaders as being detrimental to the purity of academia at Stanford. Stanford’s successful ties to Silicon Valley do indeed draw external attention away from the humanities, and with Computer Science recently overtaking Human Biology as the most popular major at Stanford, one might be led to believe that students are studying engineering disciplines for the wrong reasons.

Stanford’s increasing ties between research and industry are also often seen as detrimental because the motivations of industry may distract students from being motivated purely by the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I would argue, however, that Stanford students do still have the ability to choose to study whatever they want.

Moreover, this problem is independent of Stanford’s ties to the tech industry. Some students are always going to be drawn to studying what is currently in vogue, whether it’s engineering, economics, business, finance or any other discipline, and when trends change this group will move to whatever starts trending next. Pursuing engineering right now is fairly lucrative, but if the tech industry cools down, this class of students will be driven to pursue other more lucrative fields.

Stanford could try to solve this problem in a few different ways, but severing ties to industry or weakening the quality of the engineering school would not be likely to improve students’ confidence or freedom to pursue their real passions.

I would also argue that research linked to industry has some significant benefits. People often speak about a sort of “valley of death” in the commercialization of research, referring to the difficulty of successfully making research breakthroughs usable for the masses. In most cases, research done in labs never makes it into the hands of consumers. Stronger ties between research and industry could help strengthen the path from research to commercialization, because when commercialization is considered from the start, research findings may end up being more usable in industrial applications.

However, if all research were linked to industry needs, important breakthroughs or even complete fields would likely never have been discovered. Many of humanity’s greatest accomplishments have come from undirected research. Some sort of balance between these two competing areas needs to be maintained, but, if anything, it seems that we need more practical research to be done to overcome the valley of death.

Stanford’s mission statement, as written on ExploreDegrees, says that the objective of the university is “to qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life.” Stanford was founded at a time when academia was completely disconnected from everyday life, and for this reason the Stanford family hoped to bridge the gap between intellectualism and “usefulness” by founding our university.

Given this mission, it seems inevitable that faculty may want to leave academia at times to broaden their experience and gain some perspective on what it takes to succeed outside of the university. Stanford was founded on the notion that education needs to be practically useful, and it seems to me that the best way to achieve “direct usefulness” is to learn from those who have been successful both in and out of academia.

For those interested in industry, Stanford has an unprecedented level of access to industry leaders and knowledge, but for those uninterested in Silicon Valley, there is nothing forcing them to pursue this knowledge further. A true liberal education should give students the freedom to prepare themselves to follow any path they choose, whether it is in academia, industry or somewhere else entirely, and maintaining ties to industry gives Stanford access to a body of knowledge that could never exist solely in academia.

Roneil Rumburg ‘15 is the Chief Operating Officer of BASES. Contact him at roneil@stanford.edu