April 6, 2012
At your service: Stanford's entrepreneurship concierge
The Stanford Entrepreneurship Network now offers a concierge to help connect students with business resources across campus and in the larger Silicon Valley community.
By Matt Harvey
Senior computer science major Patrick Ward talks with Entrepreneurship Concierge Angela Hayward about his idea for innovative technical consulting. (Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)
Stanford junior Aditya "Adi" Singh had a problem. Struggling to form effective teams to work on projects, and weary of being approached by fellow students mainly searching for a technical "code monkey," Singh wanted something different.
"There was no platform where students could gather teams effectively," Singh said. "At social gatherings, people are under such social pressures to put the best foot forward, it can cause people to be misleading, sometimes even verging on lies."
So Singh and fellow classmate Pukar Hamal began developing farmGeni.us, a platform for connecting members of the Stanford community who have specialized skills.
But after initial development, Singh didn't know what to do with his budding venture. Enter the entrepreneurship concierge.
The concierge, a new position in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program in the Huang Engineering Center, is charged with developing programs and building Silicon Valley relationships that serve Stanford's entrepreneurship community.
The first person to hold the title is Angela Hayward, who comes to the university from Khosla Ventures.
"Entrepreneurship thrives at Stanford, but entrepreneurship means different things to different people," said Hayward. "Each student has unique needs, experiences, and appetite for risk. Therefore, there's no such thing as a 'standard' entrepreneurship inquiry. Listening and staying connected to students from all over campus is key to the success of this role."
When Singh reached out for guidance, Hayward met with him to learn about his interests and the new venture. She told Singh about all of the resources available for students on campus and she was able to make connections for Singh with external mentors.
"A large part of what I'm doing is front-line engagement with the wider Silicon Valley community because, even with the extensive resources available at Stanford, there are still times when it's necessary for students to reach beyond the campus," said Hayward.
The entrepreneurship concierge, perhaps a one-of-a-kind role in higher education, is supported by Citi Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of Citi.
Debra Brackeen, head of incubation for Citi Ventures, works from the unit's headquarters in downtown Palo Alto. The group will be providing industry mentors and coaches to students.
"Anything we can do to promote the entrepreneurial spirit at Stanford ultimately benefits all of us in the venture community," said Brackeen. "Citi Ventures works with internal and external partners to develop the highest new growth opportunities that are relevant to Citi customers and businesses. Supporting the next wave of Stanford entrepreneurs through our work with the concierge and the Stanford Technology Ventures Program is a perfect fit for us."
As well as serving as the entrepreneurship concierge to all Stanford students, Hayward is charged with managing the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network (SEN), a federation of more than two dozen campus entrepreneurship programs and student groups. Hayward's work in growing this organization is a critical component to expanding the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Stanford.
"Participating in SEN is extremely important to our group," said Keren Ziv, co-president of the Association of Industry-Minded Stanford Professionals, an organization supporting post-doctoral scholars. "We are slowly changing the current view of post-docs as 'scientists only.'"
The entrepreneurship network is expanding what it has to offer through a renewed customer orientation to serving students, a focus on increasing cross-disciplinary connections and a deeper engagement with student groups developing their own Silicon Valley resources.
Mary McCann, president of BASES, the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students, said she believes students would be interested in working with Hayward to "see what niches can be filled at Stanford in the entrepreneurship scene."
"We are currently doing a field test to see what is missing as an entrepreneurship resource at Stanford, and we hope to share this information with Angela so that she and the rest of SEN can help us fill those gaps," McCann said.
While the work to build network resources continues, Singh said he already is encouraging fellow students to take advantage of having access to the concierge.
"Every time we meet, Angela's approach lets us know where we stand," said Singh. "Just knowing all the options we have is extremely helpful."
Matt Harvey is the content and communications editor for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program.