Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs

We took our MBA class to Silicon Valley recently.  Where better to study the program’s technology and innovation management theme than at its epicenter? We were not disappointed.

Rensselaer has a number of alums working in the Valley who were very helpful in arranging company visits, spending time with our students, and attending receptions to relay their experiences and offer advice in an informal setting.  They were especially encouraging toward students with an entrepreneurial bent.

Entrepreneurs are Silicon Valley’s archetypal heroes.  Failure is not a stigma but rather a badge of honor.  The Valley has many serial entrepreneurs, who leave a previous start-up because it failed, stalled, or was acquired by a larger company.  The area has an image bursting with highly successful founders who hit it big, but most new ventures do not necessarily lead to large pay-outs. 

As elsewhere, start-up funding is an issue.  Despite the attention venture capital receives, initial financing still comes mainly from personal savings and loans from family and friends.  One alumnus told me he is asset-rich but cash poor because he puts everything he earns back into his company – and everything he earned in his previous companies went into funding the current one.  Another, who co-founded a very successful start-up and now does angel funding, said the fund supports one out of every 500 proposals it reviews. 

Dr. Thomas Begley, dean of the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.