My Week in ESTEEM: Semester Break and Beginning of Fall Semester

Author: Ryan Gross

Ryan GrossRyan Gross

After an intense summer class session, ESTEEM had two weeks off for summer break. Many students used this time to visit their thesis host company. For me, this meant I was able to fly out to San Francisco to meet the leadership team of CFO Plans. My four-day stay consisted of two work days and another two days to explore the Bay Area. Below you’ll learn more about my trip, my opinion on the innovative energy in the Bay and we’ll finish with a recap of the 2017-2018 Notre Dame football home opener.

Brian Flynn, Ryan Gross, Ted West (Brian and Ted are partners at FounderPartners)

Ryan Gross, Gary Hewamadduma (CEO of CFO Plans), Ted West

My thesis host company is CFO Plans, a start-up that provides outsourced financial back-office services. I flew into SFO to be picked up curbside by our CEO, Gary Hewamadduma, and CFO Plans’ venture capitalist advisor, Ted West. Our first interaction was very warm and welcoming, which was important because Gary and I would be staying the next few nights at Ted’s San Francisco based home. For many ESTEEM students, the story is similar where our interactions with host companies means working directly with the executives (many times the CEO).

The next two work days with Gary and Ted proved to be an eye opening experience. Our team of three (Gary, Ted and myself) met with multiple CEOs from Bay Area start-ups with the intent to sell our back office services. My role is evolving into the primary lead for business development thus, watching Gary and Ted sell the services first-hand allowed for me to form a sales narrative for when it’s my turn to give the pitch. Our final meeting was the main event of the weekend; we were going after the big fish! We had a sales pitch with Aman Verjee, the COO of 500 Start Ups which is one of the most prestigious start-up incubators in the world. I was able to participate and design the six slide presentation for the sales pitch that secured CFO Plans’ first key partner in our efforts to scale the company; this was an invaluable first experience in the innovation capital of the world.

I spent the next two days exploring the Bay Area from downtown San Francisco to Palo Alto and Stanford’s campus. In a single Uber ride, I drove past the headquarters of Tesla, Facebook, Google, Oracle, and NASA’s research laboratory. The opportunity the Bay Area offers is electrifying. As mentioned earlier, being exposed to these companies was an invaluable experience.

I’ve heard from multiple ESTEEM alumni that our program’s Silicon Valley spring break trip makes a large impact on the desired occupation of students. First-hand exposure to the most innovative companies in the world just isn’t something you get every day in the midwest. As a kid who was born and raised in Indiana, ESTEEM opened the door and allowed for me to get involved in the start-up world, an experience I highly doubt I would have had without the ESTEEM Program. The people founding companies in the Bay Area are changing the world whether that be Tesla, Airbnb, Reddit, Twitter, Google, Y Combinator or social impact companies such as HandUp. Silicon Valley has the perfect mix of highly talented entrepreneurs and investment savvy venture capitalists to fund start-ups. The combination of the two results in nearly 40 years of world changing technologies coming to market, the very process we’re learning through the ESTEEM curriculum. Coincidence? I think not.

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Finally, Notre Dame vs. Temple. The long awaited home opening finally arrived upon the ETSEEM class, and it did not fail! The Irish pulled off a big 49-16 win over the Owls meanwhile the ESTEEM class pulled off a big win on the tailgate fields. Our class of 44 continues to bond, and there may be nothing better to bond over than Notre Dame football (especially the tailgating). We’re already planning for a big win vs. Georgia next weekend; GO IRISH!