What Silicon Valley has taught me – Day 1

On Monday we had the opportunity to stop by a few companies and talk to their founders about their own successes and failures and what we could learn from them. First up was Tom Siebel. He began his introduction by telling us that he had just been in a sailing accident in Mexico just 10 days before. You could tell that he was a pretty eccentric guy. Mr. Siebel is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of C3 Energy, and was formerly the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Siebel Systems which merged with Oracle Corporation in 2006. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History, an M.B.A., and a Master of Science in Computer Science.

Simply stated, C3 Energy allows utility companies to better manage their systems through an extra layer of diagnostics on top of the current grid. He was a very fun guy to be around. In order to raise money for C3 Energy Mr. Siebel sent a few emails on Friday and raised $20 million by Sunday. His advice to future entrepreneurs, “Don’t drop out of school. You build your future networks through the companies that you work at” – Tom Siebel. He’s an avid supporter of education and building your company while you’re in school. This was a common theme among many of the UIUC alumni we had spoken to throughout the week.

We also had the opportunity to speak to K.R. Sridhar of Bloomenergy. He received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with Honors from the University of Madras and a master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering and a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from UIUC. His company, Bloomenergy, focuses on generating large amounts of energy while utilizing minimal resources. We were given a private tour of the facility. His advice resonated with the advice Mr. Siebel had given us, to continue our education while working on what is passionate to us. “Changing the world is a full time job” – K.R. Sridhar

We spoke to a few representatives from Silicon Valley Bank who spoke to us about how to pitch yourself to potential investors. Essentially it boils down to passion and the idea. The odds of succeeding as an entrepreneur are against you, but only the successful entrepreneurs ignore the odds and follow their passion. In addition, we spoke to several Andreessen Horowitz portfolio company representatives, including Airbnb, Anki, IFTTT, Pinterest, Quantifind, and Udacity. They answered questions on how they began in the start-up world and gave us some great advice on living and breathing a start up.

Overall, the first day was exciting and exhausting, but it was just the beginning to a very insightful week.

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