Thirty-eight students developed business plans and pitched ideas to entrepreneurs during StartUp Scramble July 20-22.
Led by Nicholas Abouzeid ’15 with help from Chief Financial Officer Rob Levin, the program gave students an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, brainstorm ideas in groups, and discuss those ideas with a team of alumni entrepreneurs that included Natasha Case ’01, the founder of ice cream sandwich vendor Coolhaus, and Sameer Gupta ’99, Vice President of Business Development at Hollywood Electrics.
The weekend began with a speech from Joe Weinberger ’00, a music talent finder who performed as a disc jockey while at Harvard-Westlake and was in the artists and repertoire division of Capitol Records, where he worked with rappers Eminem and 50 Cent and facilitated Kanye West’s signing with the company.
Weinberger encouraged students to follow their interests and be themselves without fearing the judgment of others.
Students were also encouraged to embrace a “phoenix mentality;” even if their projects failed at first, they were told they should not give up.
“You’re going to have ideas that die,” Levin said. “You’re going to have frustrations. You’re going to run into problems.”
Students presented concepts on the first day and developed ideas and designs on the second. Groups shared their ideas with the alumni panel to end the weekend. Concepts ranged from a party-planning mobile app to a new cupcake design.
StartUp Scramble was based on an event held at the Harvard Innovation Lab. When Tarlin Ray ’92, who came up with the HW Works internship program, told Levin about Harvard’s program, Levin approached its founder, Stephen Douglass, who was skeptical at first, but after several conversations with students agreed to help.
Levin encouraged Abouzeid to participate, and assembled a team of students who would help lead the event.
“We had over 20 alumni participants, 10 faculty on staff who helped run the event, eight student leads and over 35 participants,” Abouzeid said.
Levin hopes that StartUp Scramble will eventually lead to a second Silicon Valley in the Los Angeles area.
“We’re all happy for Silicon Valley,” Levin said. “We’re all happy Stanford helped to spawn it. But people are working very hard to make Southern California a tech hub, and they’re asking, ‘Why not?’ And as long as people are asking, ‘Why not?’ why shouldn’t we ask, ‘Why not?’”
Levin said the Silicon Valley boom began with the founding of Hewlett-Packard, which took place not far from Stanford.
The rise of tech companies in the area was fueled by Stanford students with access to the same resources that Levin claims are available to Harvard-Westlake students: enthusiastic and capable teachers, a successful alumni base and capital to fund projects.
“This school could be the epicenter, and we’ve just now decided that’s how history is going to play out,” Levin said.
Molly Berger ’16 will lead the second StartUp Scramble, which will take place next summer and will last a week to afford students more time to learn.
“There is a huge pool of talent and potential among the students, alumni, parents, and faculty,” computer science teacher Jason Fieldman ’98 said.