The discussion with Diane Hessan, moderated by C.A. Webb, kicked off with C.A. giving a short anecdote about Diane. “I remember I talked with an old colleague of Diane’s who said ‘Diane is one of the best CEOs I’ve ever worked for’.” A statement that set up the discussion to be an exciting one.
Diane “grew up on the wrong side of the tracks” and when she graduated college, the expected career path started and ended with becoming a secretary. She paused, “I didn’t really want to become a secretary.” She then went on to talk about her first few jobs and explain another epiphany - she wanted to be a difference maker wherever she worked. “I didn’t want to be someone that could be easily be replaced. Where I would leave and they could find someone to do just that job and forget that I was ever there.”
Throughout the talk, Diane hinted at things she had learned during her time working, mental notes she took on what she had observed (including not being a secretary or easily replaced). Toward the end of the discussion she brought those hints full circle, imparting some advice on the interns in the room. “Notice and take note of things your superiors do. I did, I saw things my bosses would do that I thought ‘I’m definitely not going to do that when I’m a boss’, it helps you step back and decide what kind of manager you want to be. You learn what really matters.”
The conversation wrapped up on two thoughts:
One, show up to interviews early. Sit and observe what’s going on. Are people friendly, smiling, happy… or are they distant and unpleasant. A lot can be said for watching a company work, it can help you decide if it’s really somewhere you want to work.
Two, Keep up! Things change so quickly, technology, rules, culture. Spend time getting to know what’s changing. They used to say that you spend 25 years learning and then you apply it to your career. But now, at the rate everything is changing, you have to learn and work at the same time.
Before the conversation had even started, Michael Skok made his way around the room at Acquia’s headquarters shaking each intern’s hand to get a better sense of his audience - those who he was about to engage in an hour long conversation.
Michael started the conversation with a story about his first foray into technology when he was a kid - his dad, an engineer, was helping him build parts for his go-kart. Through this, he learned that he is passionate about connected the dots. This is when he turned the conversation around, asking the interns about their passions. “I’m interested in learning what you’re passionate about. What’s a passion you have that you don’t know what to do with?” Michael asked. Mimi, an intern at Acquia, raised her hand to share her passion for ocean conservation and marine biology.
He moved to the whiteboard and wrote down the “P’s of Success,” which he said we’d get back to later, and asked the audience what they thought, how could we help Mimi pursue her love for ocean conservation and marine biology. This turned into a lively discussion with the entire room while Michael walked the group through the three main steps he identified as the process for pursuing a dream, passion or idea. 1) Ideate, 2) Expiration and 3) Problem/Solution.
After much brainstorming and discussion on how to pursue ideas and best practices for being successful at it. By the end of the hour-long discussion the P’s had been filled in as: Passion, Personal and Potential. Peppered throughout our discussion were stories of success, challenges and learning from Michael’s career both as an entrepreneur and as an investor to help bring the P’s and other factors for success to life.
Michael left the group of interns with a few parting words of advice, “You’re in a unique place as a student, you don’t know what’s not possible. The less you know, the less there is inhibiting you.”
When we say, “We took Boston by storm Wednesday night," we mean it in more than one way. Urban Beach Bash was a hit, despite the threat for a classic New England thunder and lightning storm. Attendees, made up of a mix of students, startups, VCs and community members, got to network over games such as baggo, frisbee, and mini golf as well as snack on summer foods like fried dough, hot dogs and frozen hoagies… yum!
The event brought together tech startups and the community that supports them, all the way from interns to VCs! C.A. Webb, the Executive Director of the New England Venture Capital Association said, "I'm blown away by what an incredible and diverse crowd turned out for our first Urban Beach Bash - students, startups and investors all eager to connect with one another. We look forward to hosting this again next year in conjunction with the other programming we do to help educate and connect interns and startups."
Startups ranging from Dunwello to Acquia and ReferralMob to Toast came out to party and network. Sarah Castle and Cameron Olshansky, of Toast were scouring for talent at the event, introducing themselves to interns and telling them more about the all-in-one restaurant management company. Luke George, an intern at Dunwello (an internship he found through TechGen), said, "From playing baggo with fledgling companies to talking about the status of rising entrepreneurship in non-technical universities with City of Boston startup czar Rory Cuddyer, the rain could not keep Urban Beach from being a refreshing networking event - it was a blast!"
All in all, despite a few bursts of rain, the crowd’s spirit and want to party couldn’t be dampened. “These are true New Englander’s,” Sarah Sherburne noted as Acquia interns powered through a little rain to beat each other at baggo.
Thanks to all who came out to support the tech startup community, TechGen and the interns who are the next round of talent making a splash in Boston. Hopefully we’ll see you at the remainder of the events we have scheduled this summer and we can't wait for #UrbanBeach16!
This past Wednesday TechGen interns traveled to The Grommet’s headquarters, to meet with Jules Pieri the Co-Founder and CEO. Jules’ hosted the group of students for an intimate chat in The Grommet’s film/video studio.
She started off her talk giving a short background on her journey to The Grommet, from her schooling to working at Continuum, Zigg and following her mentor Meg Whitman (currently the CEO of Hewlett Packard) from Keds to Stride Rite and Playskool.
It was on that journey that Jules realized that big corporations had too much say in the products that succeeded in the market and alternately, failed in the market. Thus, The Grommet was born. Jules went on to explain, “One of the reasons we exist is I learned that retail is secretive… retailers hide product success, it’s the opposite of what startups need. The Grommet doesn’t accept that notion.” Over the past 8 years Jules and her team have worked to make that statement ring true. Being the original champions of companies such as Sodastream, Goldieblox, Fitbit, Cuppow and Cognitea, giving them their voice and letting consumers decide what products succeed.
“Makers are who we worry about all day long, how do we help them.” Jules said. But millennials, by nature, have helped this model work. “Millennials have a different way in thinking about their participation in the industry. You embrace capitalism and for-profit companies but you expect more from businesses. When you buy something there is a larger sense of ‘What am I supporting, what is it doing in the world?’ ” Jules explained.
Jules wrapped up her discussion, before opening up to questions, by talking about the difficulty of securing funding, 1) as a women and 2) in 2008 (during the recession) “I literally walked my shoes off trying to fund this business”, she laughed, clicking her slide deck to a picture of her shoes that had fallen apart while walking from one VC office to the next in Boston. But she received funding and The Grommet continues to grow.
Eric Paley hosted a fireside chat last Tuesday and 70+ interns, students and local talent packed the room. Eric talk about his journey as an entrepreneur and his current role as a venture capitalist in the Boston area.
Eric who co-founded Brontes Technologies, which produced digital dental impressions (which was later acquired by 3M), and then co-founded Founder Collective, talked about his journey, from building his first company to funding his most recent. He also talked about the seeking funding, what the process was like and then receiving funding from his now co-founder David Frankel.
He also talked about going through the process of Brontes Technologies’ acquisition by 3M, where part of the deal was that Eric would stay on the team. An opportunity that he jumped at willingly. “None of us really did it for the money, we just wanted to see the product through,” Eric said in response to an intern’s question about why he chose to stay on at 3M once Brontes was bought.
Eric’s talk highlighted three important messages and lessons for young entrepreneurs:
The lessons came from Eric’s own experiences growing and selling his companies, but are valuable to know before setting out to start your own.
Following the talk, students fired off questions for another 45 minutes, eager to learn from Eric and hear what he had to say. If this event excited you check out the TechGen calendar, because we’ve got a packed calendar with events just like this for you!
From cornhole to volleyball, TechGen took last week’s Entrepreneur Games, hosted by TUGG, by storm! Roxbury Community College’s Reggie Lewis Track was packed to the gills with entrepreneurs, interns and VCs, all vying for a spot at the top.
The teams were split into countries 10 of 50, competing in a wide range of games. We played everything from laser tag to running the track and limbo competitions to shaking it at dance revolution. The event all went to raise money for a great cause, supporting BUILD Boston...and support we did, raising over 120k for young student businesses. There were 700+ attendees participating in 20+ games supported by BUILD Boston representatives and spectators out to cheer on the games.
Though Team Greece didn’t ultimately end up winning the games, we fought valiantly in Basketball (losing in overtime), the Mile (coming in 1st and 2nd) and Volleyball. Our team was made up of interns and employees of MediaMath, Insightsquared and TechGen and competed in almost every game there was, showing our support for BUILD’s mission of accelerating young student businesses.
Thanks to the members of our team who made Greece a force to be reckoned with, to TUGG for putting on an amazing event and all of the other attendees for coming out to support BUILD and the young students of Boston!