Fall Break: Penn Tech Trek

Penn Tech Trek members visit Tesla Motors
Penn Tech Trek members visit Tesla Motors

Over Fall Break, I went on the Penn Tech Trek with a group of 20 students to Silicon Valley. I was so excited for this opportunity to visit top startups and venture capital firms from Andreessen Horowitz to Tesla to Khan Academy to Y-Combinator’s Startup School.

Each day we visited at least five companies and spoke directly with the founders or chief officers. What I found most surprising was every person we met had an entirely unique background, from a history major in university to a self-taught coder. One story I remember in particular was Jack Abraham’s, founder of Milo, a shopping engine acquired by eBay. He explained that in high school, he was a salesperson for Rosetta Stone in the local mall. Jack discovered that if he could induce a potential customer to raise his/her eyebrow three times while speaking to him, they would purchase the language-learning software. From this experience and the sales tactics he developed, he became the 2nd best salesperson for the company in the US.

During the trip, I also found that majority of the ideas and advice from these legendary entrepreneurs and investors overlapped. Some key takeaways:

  1. If you’re starting a company, get to know your users early.

Your users make up your business so communicate well with your first customers and build a product that they love. Having a passionate user base is absolutely essential.

  1. Have a strong network of advisors.

Starting a company requires a lot of trial and error. However, having a group of advisors to trust and provide guidance goes a long way. They often can provide the first connections to expanding your business.

  1. Understand startup lingo.

Hypergrowth: a phase of extremely rapid growth

“Our company experienced hypergrowth in 2013 when market penetration reached 18%”

Product-market fit: the degree in which a product meets a strong market demand

PayPal Mafia: former PayPal employees who have developed technology companies such as YouTube, SpaceX, and Tesla

  1. Read these books!

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

Getting to know these companies and touring their office space was priceless. What I enjoyed the most, however, was going on a trip with 20 fun, motivated students interested in exploring startups and tech. Bonding on late night trips to In-N-Out and night hikes to the Golden Gate Bridge are definitely experiences I will never forget.

Penn Tech Trek members hike up to see an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Penn Tech Trek members hike up to see an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

My name is Nikita Patel and I am a member of the Wharton Undergraduate Class of 2017. I was born in London but I currently live in Los Angeles. I am concentrating in Entrepreneurship and Marketing & Operations Management and am minoring in Fine Arts. I am working on my own startup I founded in Southern California and hope to continue my entrepreneurship journey after Penn. I am involved in Wharton Ambassadors, Wharton Small Business Development Center, Penn Outdoors, and Penn Latin and Ballroom Dance. I love outdoor activities, especially white-water rafting, skydiving, and kayaking!