The following day we had the opportunity to visit GE Software, Bloc.io, and talk to Max Levchin and Affirm. GE Software is a relatively new operation. It is centered around leveraging leadership on sensors and controllers, modeling analytics and software development. We spoke to several alumni who currently are helping establish GE’s vision in the software industry. In addition to much of the cool technology in the office, they spoke to us about how they foster a start-up culture in a large corporation. Small teams still work together is solving many of the problems facing the industry. The only difference is that there is much more funding and resources available for those working in GE. This allowed us to explore a new kind of culture that is still prevalent in larger corporations.
After that, we traveled to Bloc’s headquarters. Bloc is an online web development bootcamp. In addition to providing an in-browser curriculum, Bloc provides direct mentorship, social learning, and lifetime access to create a community of learning. We had the opportunity to speak to Co-Founders Roshan Choxi and Dave Paola, both UIUC graduates. They gave us an indepth history of Bloc.io, most of which I cannot publicly share. Roshan received a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dave received a B.S. in Computer Science. These two guys were very down to earth and open about their thought process and their experiences up to this point. Roshan spoke to us about the difficulty with finding co-founders and establishing a team that works in the long run. He compared it to a marriage. It’s important to choose the right person, and once you’re committed, you need to stick together, even through the arguments. He went on to compare his employees as children in the relationship that help the family function. These two guys were very easy to talk to, and although their company is still in the early stages, I feel that they have helped us realize a better understanding of the start-up culture.
To end the day, we had the opportunity to grab dinner at Max Levchin’s company, HVF. Max’s latest undertaking, Hard Valuable Fun (HVF), is an innovation lab focused on solving big problems and improving lives by extracting insights from the vast quantities of data around us. HVF launched its first project, Affirm, in early 2013, and recently launched Glow at the end of May. Max is a graduate of UIUC where he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science. Max co-founded PayPal and was its CTO, from founding through its purchse by eBay. I’ve spoken to him once before at the TEC ThinkChicago Conference in September. Although he’s had quite a bit of experience with start-ups, Max was also very easy to talk to and had very insightful advice for passionate entrepreneurs. He spoke about his projects, Affirm and Glow and truly inspired many of us to follow our passions. He, like many others on the trip, encouraged us to stay in school, build networks, and work on a start-up following graduation. He helped us understand the importance of finding a problem that is currently solved and working to fix them.
The day was very eye opening and inspiring. This day was by far one of my favorites.