Summer 2013

Loopd is Born: My Entrepreneurial Journey

Student Post – September 17, 2013 – Sitting on a bamboo chair at Mama’s Fish House below the overhanging palms, I stared into the distance where I could see a shimmering sunrise above the Maui horizon. The crests of the waves glistened from the light, and at that moment it occurred to me that this was it. The environment and atmosphere was pristine and perfect around me, however I was missing one thing. I had been observing the stunning innovation of Mother Nature, but within this beautiful picture I was just an observer. The desire to be part of this elaborate scene made me question my motivation and direction for the future.

Sunset View at Maui Film Festival

Soaring in the air I spun three rotations, and safely landed down on the downslope of a breaking swell. Guiding my kite to the left, I directed myself towards the beach, while digging the edge of my kiteboard into the Pacific. The wind was consistently racing through the air allowing my kite to harness its immense energy. Sending my kite back to the right, I raced towards a large wave. Approaching the lip of the wave, time started to slow down, and I entered a state of hyper focus. Each droplet splashing off the wave suddenly started to float. I could envision my route into the air where I would be once again part of the elaborate scene. Time sped up rapidly, and the wind blew against my body like a Maglev train racing towards its destination. Flying up towards the cumulus clouds, I looked below and felt at home. This feeling was pristine, and I had achieved my place next to the shimmering sun.

Kiteboarding Tweaked Grab, Pro Beach Maui

Two weeks earlier I had applied to an entrepreneurship program called Draper University, started by the famous venture capitalist and superhero Tim Draper of DFJ Ventures. The program is a six-week intensive pre-incubation and concept generation experience for future entrepreneurs ranging from age 18 to 28. Even though I had sent in my resume and completed my interview, I was still not sold if this was the right track for me. I have always been intrigued by start-ups ever since I was born. My dad ran a successful trade show company on three continents, and he had inspired me to take the leap. Freshman year at Lehigh University, I started a technical entrepreneurship club called CREATE, where I was inspired to help students bring their ideas to life from the paper stage. This is where I had my first romance with entrepreneurship, and I knew the rest was history. I was going to start my own company, and finally I would find my way to add my own splash of innovation to society surrounding me.

CREATE Club 3D Printing Workshop

Halfway through freshman year at Lehigh University, I declared my major Materials Science and Engineering. This was a step away from business, but I knew that with my new knowledge I would be able to make physical products that acted as disruptors for other technology. The curriculum was challenging and enduring, but I enjoyed learning about the building blocks of plastics, metals, and ceramics. Form and function both intrigued me, and I was motivated to create something that tied the two together in a simple harmony. Thinking about my future as a Material Scientist and Engineer, I realized that the normal track would not be entirely satisfying, and once again I would be looking out at the sunrise. Draper University accepted me for their summer program, and I knew that it was my calling from the Valley to the Bay.

Apple Company Store at Cupertino Headquarters

While at Draper University I met two extraordinary minds and my future cofounders: Allen Houng and Sambhav Galada. They were both trained Computer Scientists and Electrical Engineers. Allen was from Taiwan, and Sambhav was from India. We had all come from different backgrounds and cultures, but our desire to create a company unified all of us. Halfway through the program, I came up with a new concept for connecting with people physically while using new technological advancements. Recently I had observed that from the emergence of the smartphone technology, most people had become more virtually social and more physically antisocial. My goal was to use the existing platform in a new way, so that everyone could optimize the process and become more physically social. With the rise of smart wearable devices and SaaS platforms, I saw an opportunity to invent a simplified product that allowed people to interact with others in a sentimental fashion, while awarding themselves among their virtual presence. Sambhav and Allen shared the same vision that I had, and we agreed this was our new path. As a romanticist for ideas I had several projects that I was devoted to, but I had never found “the” idea. This new project was “the” idea, and my new love.

500 Startups Demo Day San Francisco

Jumping up and down from trampoline to trampoline, I was officially a superhero. My cape swayed behind me in the air, and I moved across the vast room like rolling thunder. I sat down on a bright blue beanbag and watched the rest of my class leap across the room with their unique style. It was our Draper University graduation, and my class finished their short 6-week journey one by one as they bounced from the podium. The day before graduation, student teams participated in a pitch day to a panel of venture capitalists and angel investors. Each team had two minutes per person to share their life-changing plan to beneficially disrupt the world. There had been a rumor moving quickly among our class that a few lucky teams would be chosen to receive funding. Every team delivered an extraordinary pitch, and I knew that any team could be worthy. I walked outside through the double doors and sat down next to the pool. Looking at the water’s surface, I saw my reflection, and I imagined a new life in Silicon Valley.

Draper University Summer Class

A deep voice caught my attention, and I turned around. It was one of the investors from our pitch day. He wanted to help my team make our venture a reality, and immediately my dream had come true. I had been waiting for the right pieces to come together in a harmony, and finally an upbeat and energetic melody had formed. I had a great team, investor, location, technology, market access, and supply chain. Lehigh University was my current plan, but I knew that this was my shot for the big leagues. If I didn’t go for it, then I could regret my decision for the rest of my life.

I would have never of thought that all within one summer I would start a company, move to California, and take a leave from school. The first two on my list were life goals, but I had always planned to finish what I had started with minimal interruptions. A new chapter in my life has started, and I am excited to share it with the world.

Santa Cruz Surf Break at Lighthouse Point Park

“We need to learn how to want what we have NOT to have what we want in order to get steady and stable Happiness”  – Dalai Lama

~ Guest post by Brian Friedman who is from Massachusetts and was part of DU's Summer 2013 Class. This article is cross-posted from his blog: https://medium.com/@bfried9131/loopd-is-born-b1b7a5ecad2f Check out his startup Loopd at: http://getloopd.com/

Anything is Possible at Draper University of Heroes

Student Post  July 18, 2013 – They say that Silicon Valley is the place where things happen. Where overhearing a conversation about two guys working on their newest startup at a coffee shop is common place, and where people often reply to your pitch with a "Yes, AND" instead of a "Yes, BUT" or even worse, with a straight up "NO." Yes, Silicon Valley is the place where anything is possible, and this became clear when I convinced renowned venture capitalist Tim Draper to auction off a one-on-one lunch meeting to the highest bidder.

Ana DuranThinking Outside the Box at Draper University

Regardless of whom you are and what position you hold, don't be afraid to fail. However, having a strong network is always useful, and I must confess that being a current student at Draper University in San Mateo, CA might have helped a little to secure the lunch. Draper University is an unconventional boarding school for young entrepreneurs created by Tim himself. In fact, the auction is taking place because my team, the Wonders, is fundraising for "Survival Week" which involves being in a secluded area for five days as part of the innovative curriculum. Fortunately, Tim agreed to help my team out with our wacky idea to auction him off, and we look forward to going off in the wild and surviving from the resources we gathered and the team strategy we devised while he has lunch with the lucky winner.

Be Surrounded by Like-Minded Entrepreneurs

Being at Draper University is about more than just going off on survival adventures or having talks led by top CEOs like Aaron Levie who created Box, or industry leaders like Robert Metcalfe who co-invented the Ethernet. To be here means to be surrounded by a group of thirty-eight brilliant peers from different corners of the world who share a passion for entrepreneurship and disruption, and who will eagerly give you feedback on your business idea regardless of how many times you change it. To be here means to think outside the box like how to drop an egg off from the eight floor without breaking it, and to be prepared to change the rules at any given point like playing volleyball with two balls and no net. To be here means "to do everything in my power to drive build, and pursue progress and change" as our superhero oath constantly reminds us. Most importantly, to be here means to be a hero.

What Does it Mean to be a Hero?

Through Draper University, I have come to redefine my definition of this word. Four weeks ago I would have said that to be a hero means to do something extraordinary that will benefit society. Today, I believe that a hero is someone who is not afraid to fail and who helps raise others up so that together they can do something even more extraordinary. Yes, at DU it is all about the teamwork and helping each other out in order to achieve a common goal. After all, every one has something to contribute to the table, and it is only when we pull all of our strengths together that we become more creative, more valuable, and completely indestructible. And if we fail, we fail together, we help each other up, and we try again until we succeed.

Don't be Afraid of Failure

That is the biggest lesson I have learned since being here, and as obvious and cliché as it may seem, you really need to live it in order to understand it. Regardless of whom you are and what position you hold, don't be afraid to fail. In fact, the only thing that should really scare you is failing and not learning anything from the experience. Everything else, regardless of how bad it is, holds some sort value if you know where to look for it. For example, when I was ten I was diagnosed with leukemia, and as bad an painful as dealing with cancer was, I was surrounded by the best team possible: my knowledgeable doctors, my loving parents, and my supportive school friends. Together, they made chemotherapy more bearable, and when the roughest days arrived and I wish I would die, my team was there to hold my hand and lift me up.

Also, always try to help others and form teams with your family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. They all have the potential to inspire you and to help you see the world with a new perspective, and you of course can do the same for them. So dream together, execute together and fail together. I believe this mentality is what makes places like Silicon Valley and Draper University so special. I only hope that all the heroes out there will help me share and implement this idea with the rest of world and start working together to do something extraordinary. And even if it fails, it will still be extraordinary.

~ Guest post by Ana Duran who is from Colombia and was part of DU's Summer 2014 Class.

Startup (and Life) Lessons from Bill Draper

Student Post – July 3, 2013 – A few months ago, I didn’t know anything about the Draper family. After I applied to Draper University, I started to figure them out. I knew DU was a crazy and innovative school for entrepreneurs, but I never imagined how much work and history was behind it. Tim Draper has been empowering entrepreneurs in every stage of his life and Draper University students are the latest ones. MariaGandaraWhen I started to read and to ask about Tim Draper (founder of Draper University and Draper Fisher Jurvetson), I realized that I was very lucky. I knew that for 6 weeks I was going to be surrounded by the visionary who first invested in Hotmail and Skype and who indeed has an amazing family and values.

While reading Bill Draper’s book "The Startup Game" I saw how Tim’s dad's life related to me and where I am in my life. Bill Draper is not only a prominent Venture Capitalist; he has also been behind amazing strategies and plans. He has worked in public service, at the United Nations Development Programme, and has supported many social entrepreneurs.

Bill came to our school this week and when we asked him about characteristics that entrepreneurs should have, he answered:

• Drive • Courage • Energy • Brain Power • Creativity

We wanted to know in what kind of person he would invest in and he answered that the kind of person that had a sleeping bag in his office. A person that is energetic, hardworking, and exudes confidence. When I asked Bill for advice on how to create entrepreneurship ecosystems, he told me that we needed a strong relationship between academia, business people, and industry. He said that a new Silicon Valley can grow wherever there is a good technical university.

"There wouldn’t be a Silicon Valley without a Stanford," said Bill.

Bill Draper is a perfect example that shows us that by doing business we can change many lives and confirms us that entrepreneurship will enhance the development of our countries and our life. At the end, Bill Draper gave us some tips on how to pitch to VCs, and to close his talk he told us that he has had a lucky life.

~ Guest post by Maria Fernanda Gandara Gil who is from Mexico and was part of DU's Summer 2013 Class.