When I came to Stanford as a young, foolish freshman, I knew next to nothing about what I wanted to do with my career or what options were available. I had heard about consulting and finance, but I did not have a clue about what entrepreneurship meant. Now that I am more than two years into my college career, my understanding of the startup world and entrepreneurship has flourished, and I have Stanford to thank for that.
As a student at a university in the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s hard to ignore the open opportunity to start your own company. Not only are Sand Hill Road’s venture capitalists right at our back door, but Stanford itself also holds a plethora of resources from entrepreneurship organizations like the Business Association for Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES) (full disclosure: I work for BASES) to classes like ENGR 145: Technology Entrepreneurship or the Stanford GSB version of ENGR 145, ENGR 245: Technology Entrepreneurship and Lean Startups.
For me, BASES is where I was first exposed to entrepreneurship. Programs like the BASES Challenge, Stanford’s premier entrepreneurship business plan competition, and E-Bootcamp, a global student entrepreneurship conference, give student entrepreneurs the opportunity to gain both financial backing and guidance from experienced mentors, but more than anything they allow students to be entrepreneurs with low risk without having to go to outside accelerators like Y Combinator or StartX — although both are great programs.
As I see more and more successful companies come out of the BASES Challenge, it has been a growing source of inspiration. BASES is the perfect opportunity for anyone who wants to give a shot at starting his or her own company.
Similarly, Stanford’s academic entrepreneurship scene includes classes like ENGR 145 and ENGR 245, which give students a first-hand experience with building their own startups from scratch. While these classes teach students valuable lessons like the lean startup theory or how to create a business model, they have one main goal: build a company in ten weeks. This environment challenges students to push their limits and to explore the world of entrepreneurship, whether that means going out and talking to customers or staying up all night to build a product.
For some like myself, it’s our first time building a company. For others, it’s another chance to implement another brilliant idea, but for everyone, it’s a space for nurturing ideas and practicing entrepreneurship. A few other classes in this arena are COMM 140: Digital Media Entrepreneurship; MS&E 273: Tech Venture Formations; MS&E 271: Global Entrepreneurial Marketing; and ME 206A/B: Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability. All these classes give students the opportunity to start a company or create a product from the ground up.
In addition, these classes have produced some real, successful startups like Pulse, which was sold to LinkedIn for $90 million last April.
My own experiences in ENGR 145 have shown me what it takes to start my own company. It is by no means easy, but the fact that I can take a class where my one assignment is to create a business is tremendous, because the mere exposure to entrepreneurship is what pushes students to create those billion-dollar companies like Snapchat or Instagram. It’s what makes Stanford the perfect breeding ground for young, budding entrepreneurs and the only university that fuels its students with resources while providing a prime location for entrepreneurs.
As Stanford continues to develop as a university, its entrepreneurship programs will surely develop as well, as I have already witnessed an increased interest in startups and been exposed to increasingly strong infrastructure in organizations like BASES. My prediction is that the entrepreneurship culture will grow so rapidly at Stanford that the rate of successful startups out of student groups and classes will rise significantly, resulting in even more of student-run companies. It’s something to look forward to, and with the growing presence of groups like BASES and entrepreneurship classes, more and more students will surely find that spark of inspiration to create something truly great.
Justin Wiguna is the Vice President of Branding at BASES. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.