Students Explore Tech Firms In San Francisco
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 00:03
As Boston College students unpacked their bathing suits and sunglasses from Spring Break, 24 students were tucking away Apple sweatshirts and WePay t-shirts—merchandise from their TechTrek trip to San Francisco.
The 24 BC students joined John Gallaugher, associate professor of information systems, and Gerald Kane, assistant chairperson and associate professor of information systems, on a week-long trip to Silicon Valley. Students visited 22 firms and met with over 75 employees and executives, many of whom are BC alumni. The firms included Google, Cisco, and Highland Capital.
TechTrek is a course offered yearly to all BC undergraduates. Those accepted to the highly competitive program attend an intensive class once a week for two and a half hours until Spring Break. Taught by Gallaugher, the class focuses on tech industry strategy and competition, entrepreneurship, and venture finance. Students analyze case studies of prominent companies, learn the difficulties businesses face in a modernizing world, and interact with visiting alumni.
“The point [of the program] is to get an inside perspective on the application of technology to business,” Erin Cullen, TechTrek participant and CSOM ’15, said in an email. “In addition, we learn how a startup company is funded by venture capital firms and how they are able to grow from a startup to a huge company.”
Gallaugher, recognized for excellence and innovation in teaching by The Heights, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur Magazine, the Decision Sciences Institute, and BostInno, led the students through both the TechTrek class and the trip to Silicon Valley. Cullen praised Gallaugher’s leadership.
“Professor G always says that BC alumni entrepreneurs, such as WePay’s Bill Clerico, are the match that are inspiring student entrepreneurs to set the Heights aflame and do great things,” Cullen said. “However, I would like to add that without the passion and dedication of Professor Gallaugher, it would be very hard to keep that flame going. He is a match for every student at Boston College.”
After 22 weeks of intensive training, Gallaugher, Kane, and the students flew out to San Francisco for a series of master classes. Within each master class, companies presented their experience and personal insight to starting and running a business. Even more inspiring, students met and spoke with BC alumni who have launched their own startups. The alums offered experience for BC students and provided connections for those looking to make their way into the startup world. TechTrek participants tweeted their thanks and appreciation for the alum’s support during the trip.
The 24 students visited and spoke with executives from a total of 22 firms, including Sequoia Capital, Highland Capital, WePay, Kiwi, True Ventures, Cisco, and Google. For Cullen, Leap Motion, a company that develops advanced motion sensing technology, thredUP, an online-based children consignment store, and Google were the highlights of the trip.
Students who have participated in the TechTrek program in the past have achieved significant entrepreneurial success. Students have won competitions at MIT, achieved slots in Y-Combinator, an American seed accelerator, Summer@Highland, a summer program for prospective company founders, and MassChallenge, a $1 million global startup competition and accelerator program. Students have also launched several successful products and services, raising millions in capital, and some have even been named BusinessWeek’s Young Technology Entrepreneurs of the Year.
Upon return from this year’s Spring Break trip, TechTrek participants praised the experience they gained from the program.
“Students are expected to learn not only about the companies,” Cullen said. “They are given an insider perspective about the company’s culture and the characteristics necessary to succeed at their particular firm. The personal conversations with employees and executives are by far the most valuable aspect of the trip.”