Day 1 in the Valley

Author: Chardee Allee

With all the excitement leading up to Spring Break, it was hard to believe that it was finally here. We were all in Silicon Valley ready for our first full day. After a quick breakfast in the morning we were off to GSV Labs for our first presentation of the day from Aisling MacRunnels currently with Synack & Jive Software. With a rich and colorful backstory, Ms. MacRunnels shared with us her experiences of moving from Ireland to America for college and following opportunity wherever it appeared. Currently a senior member of these cyber security firms, she shared with us many pieces of advice for how she arrived at where she is today but one piece stuck out in particular. It was about the importance of remaining authentic. She highlighted many times throughout her career where she was expected to smile, nod, and pretend she agreed with what was happening around her. Committed to authenticity she gained the reputation of asking provocative questions and challenging the status quo.


            The next presentation came from Tim Connors, a Venture Capitalist in The Valley and a Notre Dame Alum, on unit economics. In his presentation, he boiled down the fundamentals of a successful business through his lesson on unit economics. As an engaging presenter, the lecture became very interactive and turned into more of a conversation than anything else. Following Tim Connors, Pamela Contag, a serial entrepreneur in Biomedical Sciences, acted as our last presenter for the early afternoon. She discussed her journey through life and the importance of maintaining a close network of diverse and meaningful connections. Even with many members of our class in the life sciences and biomedical fields, her experiences were invaluable to all and left a strong message in everyone. Her message was one of perseverance, determination, and balance.


            With the first half of our day completed, we then headed to Stanford for our final presentations of the day. Here we had a multiple lectures from startups driving innovation that worked with the ESA (European Space Agency). We first heard from Harm Botter, Founder and CEO of EXXFire, a company focused on fire protection and suppression systems. The next startup was from Michael Asshauer from Familo which is a social media platform designed around families answering the question “Where are you?” With this application, which recently achieved 1 million users, families are able to keep in touch with each other and know that the members of their families are safe. Finally, the last startup we heard from was Mark Evans from Adaptix who created a system for 3D x-ray imaging which will be portable and provide higher quality x-rays all while decreasing the overall amount of radiation a patient is exposed to.


            Once the final presentations came to a close, the day was still not finished. Following the lectures, our class wandered through Stanford’s campus making quick stops in the bookstore and central areas on campus. Without much time to spend on campus, we headed back to the hotel for one final event: dinner with ESTEEM alums currently living in the Bay Area. Speaking with some familiar friends and networking with new ones, we were able to bring a fantastic first day to a close. With so much happening on the first day, it is hard to imagine what Tuesday will bring.