Startup School inspires budding entrepreneurs

Oct. 18, 2010, 2:27 a.m.

The annual Startup School, put on by the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES) and Y-Combinator, featured founders and investors in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Saturday. More than 800 prospective entrepreneurs attended.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, speaks at Startup School in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Saturday. (JUSTIN LAM/The Stanford Daily)

The day’s list of speakers included Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, Reid Hoffman ‘89, founder of LinkedIn, and angel investor Ron Conway, who was one of the early investors in companies such as Google, PayPal, Facebook and Twitter.

The annual event is a collaboration between BASES, a student organization focused on entrepreneurship on campus, and Y-Combinator, a startup incubator that identifies promising startups and helps them succeed. In its sixth year, the event attracted young entrepreneurs, including approximately 200 current Stanford students and recent alumni.

The day started with Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who discussed venture financing to the “too-young-to-know” crowd of twenty-something hackers and founders.

“The key to success [in the Internet space] isn’t to be the first,” Bechtolsheim said, using Google as an example. “It is who solved the right problem.”
Ron Conway spoke later, sharing his anecdotes of meeting the founders of Napster, Google, Facebook and Twitter for the first time. His behind-the-scene stories illustrated the evolution of each of these companies, and pointed out that even the founders themselves were surprised by their own incredulous success.

In an amusing moment of the day, a girl asked if it is possible to be too young to be an entrepreneur. Conway said no and asked how old is she. “Twelve,” she replied amid cheers and applause from the audience.

The day’s most anticipated event was Mark Zuckerberg’s on-stage interview with Jessica Livingston, co-founder of Y-Combinator.
When asked about the recent movie “The Social Network,” Zuckerberg said, “The people in Hollywood just don’t get the whole culture of Silicon Valley. They just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone would build something because they like building things.”

Though Zuckerberg said he didn’t foresee his success and admitted that he had “no grand plan” for Facebook when he started, his family is more perceptive of his capacity.

“Before I started college, my younger sister made a bet with me that she would finish college before me,” he said. “So I owe her $50.”

According to Yin Yin Wu ‘11, the co-president of BASES, the event attracted more than 2,000 applications from around the world, but the venue could only accommodate 1,000 people.

“We had people coming from even Japan, who flew in for this one-day event,” Wu said.

After the speakers finished, members in the audience said they were inspired.

Steve Wu ’11 meets entrepreneurs at other events, “but just nothing on a scale like this,” said the computer science major.

“If you really focus on the business, you will change the world for good, whether you want it or not,” he added.

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