Written by Daniel Madley, DU Summer 2015.
The first four weeks in Silicon Valley passed blindingly fast. I’ve been fortunate to spend it immersed in the Summer session of Draper University (DU) with 70 other young entrepreneurs hailing from over 30 countries. The truly international breadth is fitting for two reasons: firstly it provides a genuine melting pot for the ideas we are all working on, and secondly (as has been noted for us) everyone is an immigrant in the Valley. Such is the cultural shift required to thrive here, and it is this mindset that DU looks to cultivate. Founded by venture capitalist Tim Draper, the program allows inquisitive young minds to network, develop their business ideas and undergo personal development.
I was the first person selected from New Zealand, which was also advantageous because I managed to trade our winter for the better part of two months of Californian summer. After landing, I quickly became acclimatized to Uber’s services. Public transport is too infrequent to make the most of what the Valley has to offer, and with our packed DU schedule (with hardly any days off over the six weeks), time was of the essence. My roommate was also an Economics student working on FinTech, so we lost no time discussing our projects, where we were at and how to get the most out of the programme. The bulk of the group activity was split into teamwork - I was in Ice Lightning with five other people from America, China, Ethiopia, Jamaica and Columbia. We quickly learnt what our home, San Mateo, had to offer through a scavenger hunt.
Our day is usually scheduled around several talks. With the wealth of knowledge in Silicon Valley and DU’s connections, the speaking list is eclectic. It is not unusual to learn about a company dealing with space imagery in the morning, before focusing on the benefits of social media to reach customers in the afternoon. Each week is broadly organised by a theme, such as creativity, and we explore the multi-faceted opportunities technological progress provides for our future, and how to best capture this value. Mentors and Entrepreneurs in Residence assist with this, by challenging our projects, and requiring us to research and answer their questions while presenting our ideas more cogently.
Our teams worked together in other activities, namely cold selling to strangers in San Francisco and prototyping business ideas during a 40 hour weekend “Herothon”. There is a also a balance between reading and sport. Physics of the Future and The Startup Game were assigned reading, and a box of books was also in our room to peruse through. The Fourth of July allowed me to get a taste of American culture with American Football, a BBQ and fireworks in San Francisco. This sport will prove useful as we prepare for Survival camp next week.