One of the key reasons behind choosing MIT as the place to pay thousand upon thousands of dollars receive my MBA from is because of the expertise here in Entrepreneurship.  Not just in the business school, but all over the campus you will find people trying to start the next Google/Facebook/Twitter.  There are few better places to go to if you really want to start your own company.

One key part of my entrepreneurial dreams (besides this blog) is the Entrepreneurship and Innovations program at MIT Sloan.  Through additional classes, treks (just organized group trips with a business purpose), and team building, the goal is to create a cohort of like-minded entrepreneurial individuals.  Is that 100% accomplished … I’ll leave that for another post … maybe after graduation.

A big part of the program is the well known Silicon Valley Trek.  Everyone in the program heads out to the Bay Area and gets to visit and interact with several tech start-ups.  It’s one of those good bonding and learning experiences.

Here is the recap of the companies I visited.  I’ll focus on interesting things … you can go to their websites for info.


Blippy (www.blippy.com)

I started off my trip with Blippy, a new system to monitor your purchases and allow you to share them and provide reviews.  We were greeted by Ashvin, the co-founder and led to a relatively empty room littered with exercise balls (yes … those big rubber balls you work your back out on).  Still had that start-up smell.

What stuck out to me about Blippy’s creation is that it came about after Ashvin and a friend decided to stop working.  They took a full year, without salary, got some free office space, and basically started hacking.  They launched idea after idea, seeing what worked and what they liked.  At the end of the year, the experiment was over.  Blippy was born and soon funding followed.  History is just starting.

One thing I liked about Ashvin is he is focused on more than just reviews.  He understands at the core of the company is creating a product graph, a concept similar to the social graph but focused on purchases and products.

Getaround (www.getaround.com)

Born out of Singularity University’s inaugural class, Getaround is aimed at changing the way people think about car ownership.  The simple explanation is imagine a company that allowed any single person to become their own Zipcar.  But really, it’s so much more than that.  Car ownership actually accounts for a great percentage of a household’s income and isn’t really structured efficiently.  Every person driving their own car isn’t good for the environment or economical.  By allowing people to rent your car when you aren’t using it will bring money to the car owner, better utilize resources, and is also a boost for building communities.

There are a lot of things to watch out for, especially when it comes to insuring the car’s safety, making sure the renter doesn’t trash the car, and the classical principal-agent problem talked about in economics (the driver has no real incentive to treat the car correctly).  Right now, Getaround is growing well and hasn’t reached the mass to worry about some of the ills that can happen, but with a smart team and a goal to change the world, I really enjoyed my time with Getaround.

Facebook (www.facebook.com)

I was overly excited to see Facebook for a number of reasons, and this visit was well anticipated.  As a start-up that is finally hitting puberty, I am very interested to see how things work out as the company is forced to mature and face more scrutiny.  When structure has to be implemented … things change.

I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say and not say because of something I signed … but all I will say is that … I saw Mark Zuckerberg.  I’m not a celebrity groupie at all, but I am a high-tech CEO groupie … sue me.

VMware (www.vmware.com)

So this doesn’t count as a start-up, but I have always been interested in VMware and the B2B market.  Since it was an option as a company I could visit, I decided to jump on it.  You should know VMware, so I won’t go into details.

Two things surprised me about VMware.  First, how much growth they have been seeing as of late.  I have known of VMware for years in terms of virtualization and enterprise software, but didn’t realize that they have grown their headcount by about 25% in the past year.  Business is great!  Secondly, their headquarters is really nice and modern.  After having interned for IBM, a B2B focused tech company, I just didn’t expect much.  Very nice.

Bump (http://bu.mp/)

Take two iPhones and bump them together and what do you get … broken iPhones? NO! You just got someone’s number, name, and address transferred to your phone.  The simple app has reached great fame after being featured on several of Apple’s commercials.

Did you know it was started by two MBA dropouts?  Yes, the founders left the Chicago Booth MBA Program after one year, with their technical co-founder, and entered into Y-Combinator.  The rest is history.

Few things I learned: they are apologetic about the fact that their Android App isn’t up to par with their iOS app.  The power of networks is key in the Bay.  When things need to get done, it really really helps to have the right person on your roledex.  There is no actual transferring of information from one phone to another, it all goes back to BUMP’s servers and there is an elegant matchmaking process that occurs.

So … I enjoyed my time in Silicon Valley.  In addition to getting to meet great companies, I got to chill with my classmates (remember … I love em).  I got exposed to a lot more of the area that I may end up living in than I had before.  Also, since entrepreneurship is hard to just teach … the more exposure I get to people who are out there really doing it is really the best way.

– Damien Peters