Silicon Students is the academy of entrepreneurship for young talents from around the world operating between Europe and Silicon Valley.
“For the third summer in a row, we organized Startup Dream Team, a 2-month highly selective bootcamp for 15 aspiring entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 25 coming from all around the world,” said Pierre-Simon Ntiruhungwa, co-founder ad CEO. “They live in the same house in San Francisco, come up with startup ideas together, meet with mentors and present those ideas at the end of the program. Through this program we aim at rethinking entrepreneurship education. This year our 16 fellows came from 9 different countries.”
Pierre-Simon Ntiruhungwa and co-founder and VP of Community Edouard Foussier decided to take the students to visit downtown Vegas as part of Tech Cocktail’s Tech Week. Tech Cocktail Week is a retreat and mini-conference for founders, media, and investors to meet, learn, and be inspired from each other and their surroundings. Tech Week happens the second week of each month in downtown Las Vegas.
Pierre-Simon Ntiruhungwa said it’s the first reflex of entrepreneur-minded students is to try to go to Silicon Valley to start and grow their tech businesses, but more and more tech ecosystems are across the world are standing out as a dynamic place to build startups.
“Other ecosystems have a lot to offer for young entrepreneurs and also have unique touch, depending on the city,” explained Pierre-Simon Ntiruhungwa. “It doesn’t naturally come to student minds to go and explore other tech ecosystems so it’s important for us to have them discover different ecosystems so that they can have different perspectives and really know where they’d rather start their first business.”
“We partnered with Tech Cocktail to have a group of 35 students and young entrepreneurs as the entire attendee list,” Edouard Foussier said “We heard about the Downtown Project a bit more than 2 years ago when we met Will Young, director of Zappos Labs in San Francisco and a partner of VegasTechFund. He even presented about the Downtown Project in summer 2012 to our first cohort of Startup Dream Team fellows.”
When the community heard Silicon Students were visiting downtown Las Vegas, the team at ROCeteer joined forces with Tech Cocktail and Originate to hold a Mentor Day on August 8, 2014 at The Learning Village to bring together the visiting students with entrepreneurs, startup advisors, and mentors in the Las Vegas area.
“The event was inspired by an idea Originate Growth Hacker Jacqueline Jensen had to provide an opportunity for the Silicon Students to engage with the VegasTechFund and Downtown Project community,” said Kimberly Guiry, Happiness Astronaut at ROCeteer. “The workshop theme was speed dating with mentors. The 35 students were divided into small groups of 4-5 and were given 15 minutes to spend with a mentor. Co-learning is a fundamental mission for ROCeteer. By providing experienced mentors to young entrepreneurs, we are able to share valuable insights and experience in various spaces, such as technology, finance, operations, culture and marketing.”
Edouard Foussier said it was great to have 10 mentors for 2 hours for the group of fellows.
“We really loved the rhythm of the session. The fact that we had to rotate every 15 minutes gave enough time to have a good conversation and ask questions but kept the overall session really dynamic,” he said.
The team at Silicon Students provided ROCeteer an areas of expertise wish list with skill sets they felt may be valuable for the students. From there, the ROCeteer and Originate team sourced people within in the Las Vegas community to find entrepreneurs, mentors, and advisors that matched those skill sets.
- Mark Rowland – Founder & CEO, Roceteer
- Jeneen Minter – COO, Roceteer
- Heather Wilde – CTO, Roceteer
- Patrick Olson – Co-Founder/Product Lead, Shift
- Forrest Dwyer – Alex & Ani
- Dave Gould – Director of Imagination, Downtown Project
- Jacqueline Jensen – Originate, Growth Hacker
- Brady Dehn – Originate, VP Strategy
- Alex Peachey – Originate, Director of Engineering Las Vegas
- Sydney Sears – Originate, Business Coordinator
“The Originate Las Vegas office gathered a variety of mentors to participate in the mentor day with Silicon Students,” said Brady Dehn, VP of Strategy at Originate. “Alex Peachy, Director of Engineering for our Las Vegas office provided technical feedback to the entrepreneurs, as well as shared his knowledge from his own startup. Our Business Coordinator Sydney Sears and I gave feedback about fundraising, strategy, and business development. Growth Hacker Jacqueline Jensen gave perspective as a female founder and offered ideas for scaling startups.”
The 35 fellows had a great time at the Mentor Session. From advise on financial projections to tips on how to build a scalable product, the knowledge-share in the room was valuable.
“I really loved the fact that I have been able to have interesting conversations with so many mentors in such a short time,” said Adriana Vecchioli, Founder of Find.it, an app for Google Glass that acts as your visual memory. It remembers the location of your things, simply by taking a picture.
“I had a specific challenge with my startup and it was awesome to confront it to so many different expert and get their different opinions,” Ahraz Arifunddin, an entrepreneur who recently packed his bags in Canada and moved to the Silicon Valley to build his tech startup.
“I had some technical issues with my startups that Alex Peachey from Originate helped me approach in a way I didn’t thought about before,” added Jorge Arda.
Mark Rowland, Chief ROCeteer, said events like this will happen again in downtown Las Vegas.
“Mentoring is one of the pillars of the Roceteer mission,” he said. “By fueling entrepreneurs with experience, we hope to better prepare them for their journey and help them launch to success.”
“It’s important to our team here in Las Vegas to help grow the tech ecosystem in our own backyard,” said Alex Peachey, Director of Engineering, Las Vegas at Originate. “When we heard Silicon Students were visiting downtown Las Vegas, we wanted to be involved in any way we could.”