14 Floors – Fall 2018

October 15-18 will mark the 14 Floors spring visit to campus. Guests from California’s Bay Area, and SE Michigan are expected to take part in the activities at Michigan Tech. These include social and networking events with students, faculty, and staff, director updates on the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, a focus on entrepreneurial programs and strategies with the Pavlis Honors College, “Office Hours” mentoring sessions with entrepreneurial students, and a discussion with the Computing & Information Sciences advisory group. In addition, a small contingency of Detroit area alumni from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) will be participating in events, including the annual Bob Mark Elevator Pitch through the School of Business and Economics – for which the 14 Floors group will serve as judges. There will be multiple opportunities to meet with new leadership on campus, tour laboratories and learning spaces, and see students in action. A final wrap-up meeting will cap the week and serve as an advisory discussion for the overall program.

14 Floors – Spring 2018 Activities

Over twenty innovation and entrepreneurial-focused students traveled to Silicon Valley in mid-March as part of the 14 Floors Program. Approximately a hundred students compete for the opportunity to attend the annual Bay Area trip, and students represented the college of engineering, sciences and arts, the school of technology, and the school of business and economics. The week-long, thirteen-stop trip is enabled by friends and alumni of Michigan Tech, notably notably Dave House and the House Family Foundation, Kanwal Rekhi, Tom Porter and the Porter Family Foundation, and Charles and John Gates. The week kicked off with a 60-person alumni event at House Family Vineyards and tours of large, enterprise companies in the heart of Silicon Valley. The group moved north to the San Francisco and Oakland area, touring progressively smaller companies and startups, ending at the single-employee green technology startup run by tech alum Collin Stoner. Michigan Tech friends and alumni are critical to the tours, discussions, and hands-on activities at companies as most are in leadership positions and able to provide a diverse and often behind-the scenes view. HP executive Stuart Pann led leadership discussions and a tour through HP’s technology gallery, Alphabet Treasury VP Tony Altobelli showcased his mini-Wallstreet trading room deep within Google’s campus, and alum Alex Johnson walked the group through Facebook’s sprawling, city-like campus before a technical discussion. Other stops included the China-based, Germany-designed, California-engineered electric vehicle startup Byton, Distribute, nVidia, regulars like Clari, Handshake, Twilio, Netflix, and Ford’s new research facility called Dearborn Labs.

Student photos and videos from the trip are here.

In mid-April, the bi-annual Michigan Tech based component of the 14 Floors Program will see a small contingent of guests on campus, including regulars Dave House, Kanwal Rekhi, John Rockwell, and Shankar Mukherjee. These alumni will spend a number of days engaged in one-on-one advisory and technical discussions with staff and faculty, mentoring sessions with students, panelists for business plan pitches on and off campus, and networking opportunities with the campus community. Students on the Bay Area trip will have a chance to debrief with these guests and the campus community in the Pavlis Honors College’s ICE House which fosters and houses entrepreneurial students on campus.

14 Floors – Michigan Tech – April 2018

The 14 Floors spring visit to campus included a welcome social in downtown Houghton on the night of the group’s arrival and began the second day with a Sleep Research Lab tour, the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems report-out and director updates, and finished with a 14 Floors – Bay Area debrief and social with students and entrepreneurial staff and faculty at the ICE House. The following day kicked off with a “1 Million Cups” entrepreneurial presentation with KEDA, small business startups, and the SmartZone. Activities on campus followed with “Office Hours” mentoring sessions with students, the Computing & Information Sciences (CIS) Advisory Group discussion, recommendation and social, and a evening wrap-up with a presentation by the startup Orbion Space Technology followed by a large networking event at the Continental Fire Company. The final day started with mechanical engineering lab tours, student meetings on campus, and a final wrap-up meeting at the Keweenaw Brewing Company.

The detailed schedule follows.

14 Floors Campus Visit

April 9-12, 2018

14 Floors guests:  Dave House, Shankar Mukherjee, Kanwal Rekhi, and John Rockwell                              


7:30 pm NetJet arrives Hancock

8:15 – 10:00 pm

Casual get together at the Ambassador
Check-in at the Magnuson Franklin Square Inn, Houghton



9:00 – 10:30 am Breakfast at Magnuson – 7th floor, inside Terrace level
11:00 – 12:00 pm Dave House to meet with Bruce SeelyLocation:  Walker 201C (Bruce’s office)
11:00 – 12:00 pm Kanwal Rekhi, John Rockwell, and Shankar Mukherjee to tour Sleep Research Lab
Location:  SDC 235
Coordinator:  Jason Carter
1:00 – 3:00 pm Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) – Directors updatesLocation:  Rekhi Hall 101

Coordinator: Min Song
Lunch will be served

4:00 – 5:00 pm Bay Area Debrief – students share experiences from CA tripLocation:  ICE House

               21610 Woodland Road, Houghton

5:00 – 6:00 pm Social at ICE HouseHors d’oeuves and refreshments served



8:00 – 9:00 am Breakfast at Magnuson – 7th floor, inside Terrace level
9:00 – 10:30 am 1 Million Cups entrepreneurial presentation: this is a weekly meeting where local entrepreneurs present their startup companies and learn how their community can help support their business to flourish. 

Based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation developed 1 Million Cups in 2012—a free program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities.
Location:  Finlandia Finnish American Heritage Center
               437 Quincy Street, Hancock

9:30 – 11:00 am Dave House to meet with Dan Fuhrmann
Location:  EERC 118
11:15 – 12:45 pm Dave House to meet with Min SongLocation:  Rekhi Hall 223
1:00 – 2:00 pm Dave House to meet with President Glenn MrozLocation:  Administration Bldg. 500A (Glenn’s office)
12:30 – 2:30 pm 14 Floors Office HoursLocation:  M&M 718

Coordinator: Jim Baker

3:00 – 5:00 pm Computing and Information Sciences (CIS) Advisory Group: The CIS Working Group will present its draft recommendation, and solicit the feedback of the CIS Advisory Group prior to submitting its final recommendation to Provost Huntoon. Members of 14 Floors, our advisory group of entrepreneurs

and business leaders from Silicon Valley, will be in attendance.  Social event to follow in the lobby.

Location:  GLRC 202

Coordinator:  Dan Fuhrmann

Light refreshments will be served

5:00 – 6:00 pm Kanwal Rekhi & John Rockwell to attend Orbion Space Board Mtg. Location:  Continental Fire Company – upper level

                408 E. Montezuma Ave., Houghton

Coordinator: Brad King

6:00 – 8:00 pm Orbion Space Technology Social Everyone is invited to this networking social to celebrate all the great developments since we began our journey to the stars.
Location:  Continental Fire Company
Hors d’oeuves and refreshments served               




9:00 – 10:00 am Breakfast at Magnuson – 7th floor, inside Terrace level
10:00 – 11:00 am Meet with Adam Weber & Cedric Kennedy
10:30 – 12:00 pm Dave House to meet with Provost Jackie HuntoonLocation:  Administration Bldg. 503A (Jackie’s office)
11:00 – 12:30 pm Open time
1:00 pm Lunch
Location:  Keweenaw Brewing Company
                408 Shelden Avenue, Houghton
2:00 pm Informal Wrap-up

Location:  Keweenaw Brewing Company
                408 Shelden Avenue, Houghton

3:30 pm Depart for the airport
4:15 pm NetJet departs Hancock


If you have questions regarding this itinerary, please contact Adam Johnson directly at adam@mtu.edu or 906-281-6983.




14 Floors – Bay Area – March 2018

This year’s trip is made possible by friends and alumni of Michigan Tech – notably Dave House and the House Family Foundation, Kanwal Rekhi, Tom Porter and the Porter Family Foundation, and Charles and John Gates. Thank you to them and to everyone that makes this event such a success!

The schedule for March 12-15 is as follows, with all times Pacific.

Monday March 12

10AM – BYTON 4201 Burton Dr, Santa Clara
1:30PM – Clari Inc. 1154 Sonora Ct, Sunnyvale
3PM – Netflix (Lobby E) 121 Albright Way, Los Gatos
6PM – House Family Vineyards (alumni event) 13336 Old Oak Way, Saratoga (RSVP here)

Tuesday March 13

8AM – Google 222 Caspian Drive, Sunnyvale
10:30AM – HP (Bldg. 3) 1501 Page Mill Rd, Palo Alto
1:30PM – nVidia 2788 San Tomas Expy, Santa Clara
4PM – Facebook 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park

Wednesday March 14

9AM – Ford 3251 Hillview Ave, Palo Alto
12PM – (bus to Napa)
2PM – Porter Family Vineyard  1189 Green Valley Rd, Napa

Thursday March 15

11AM – Handshake 2601 (Suite 900) Mission St, San Francisco
1PM – Twilio 375 Beale St, San Francisco
3:15PM – Distribute 345 Ritch St. (parking is at : 336 Ritch St.)
5:30PM – San Leandro Ind. park startups 10950 Bigge St. San Leandro (24 min over bridge in Oakland)

14 Floors Houghton

October 9-12, 2017 Agenda

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

9:00 AM

(60 min)

Breakfast Shelden Grill (7th floor of hotel)
10:00 AM
(120 min)
CIS roundtable with ICC / CS / ECE 112 EERC
12:00 PM
(60 min)
Lunch TBD
12:40 PM

(~60 min)

SBE Strategy Class – guest Fisher 129 Share your CEO experiences with students 30 students
2:00 PM Campus Forum with President MUB A Formal state of the state Campus
3:00 PM
(30 min)
Maker Space tour & Pavlis Honors College (PHC) & Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE) ecosystem updates MUB Pavlis
3:30 PM

(30 min x 3)

Classroom / Mentor Sessions B01 MUB Adam Weber Pavlis
3:30 PM (concurrent, 60 min) SBE Entrepreneurship Class
(2 min pitches or gp-arounds)
MEEM 302 Coach eight startup teams seeking to crowdfund their ventures. 26 students
5:00 PM
(60 min)
Pavlis Honors College social GLRC atrium Informal networking  to precede business pitches. Heavy hors d’oeuvres. Qty. 50 – high-tops in atrium. Beth & Carol.
6:00 PM
(~90 min)
Business Plan Pitches – (Idea / Seed Stage) GLRC 202 PHC and SmartZone advanced business plan pitches. Classroom style setup. 30-50.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

9:00 AM

(60 min)

Breakfast Shelden Grill (7th floor of hotel) Informal. Private Buffet.
10:00 AM

(60 min)

Research, Corporate, Michigan Tech Entrepreneurial Support Corporation Lakeshore 123 Baker
11:00 AM
(60 min)
SmartZone overview Lakeshore 123 SmartZone
12:30 PM
(~90 min)
Lunch CFCO
2:00 PM
(60 min)
CS current and future research, CS faculty and graduate students Rekhi 101
3:00 PM SBE strategic plan discussion–with Dean Johnson AOB 101 The business school will share its strategic plan
5:00 PM
(60 min)
ICE House tour & student discussion ICE House
21610 Woodland Rd, Houghton
6:00 PM Exec. Reception at ICE House ICE House
21610 Woodland Rd, Houghton
Annual social event with students, staff, faculty, execs. Julie cater



Thursday, October 12, 2017

9:00 AM

(60 min)

Breakfast Shelden Grill (7th floor of hotel) Informal. Private Buffet.
10:30 AM
(60 min)
Keweenaw Research Center / APS LABS (tent.) KRC / APSRC Geoff & APS
12:30 PM
(60 min)
Working Lunch (& Jim Fish present) GLRC 202 (Adam get Rodeo?) U-Shape for 10
2:00 PM Wrap-up / Next Steps GLRC 202 Open invite for discussion U-Shape for 10
3:30 PM Depart to CMX for NetJet flight

TiECon 2017: Motivate. Network. Lead.

TiECon Summary: May 2017

By Aaron Kostrzewa

tiecon2From my impressions at TiECon, I gathered that entrepreneurship is more of a group effort than an individual endeavor. I saw the hard work of hundreds of Indian-Americans come to fruition through the efforts of networking and collaborating. The camaraderie amongst the leaders of the event was a reminder of how entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and one to be enjoyed at that! I observed humility, generosity, frugality, and perseverance in the prominent leaders of TiECon. My biggest takeaways were to motivation to succeed and a new network of acquaintances.

The different tracks offered at TiECon allowed for customizable experience for each attendee. I was able to choose which tracks interested me and while I wasn’t always able to attend one relevant to my business, I gained general knowledge from all of them. The keynote speakers provided their life endeavors which I found fascinating. Specifically, Patrick Soon-Shiong recounted his life-long pursuit of curing cancer, which he informed us that he had just done so. Vinod Khosla recalled his successes with Sun Microsystems, leaving out the part that he had become a billionaire in the process. He instead commented on the results of his charitable giving, a trait a greatly admired in him. TiECon reinforced my view of what the ideal entrepreneur looks like: extremely hard-working, philanthropic, and persistent.

In order to bring such a mentality to Michigan Tech, we must devise a way to implant the idea that engineers can be entrepreneurs. From day one at Tech for me I was inundated with the “Tech Dream”: get good grades, get an internship each summer, get a good job. The possibility of becoming an entrepreneur would never have crossed my mind had it not been for my intrinsic desire to be one. As such, we can improve the entrepreneurial environment at Tech by reminding students that they can have an amazing career starting their own business. Perhaps having a Tech alum entrepreneur come during O-Week to talk about their career would act as a catalyst to encourage entrepreneurship on campus. Further, informing students of the Pavlis Honors College and The Alley will show them some of the resources they have available to them.

While TiECon as a whole was beneficial for me — it allowed me to go on my first real “business trip” — I was disappointed by the content of the tracks. Most of the talks were panels of a few experts on the topic where the conversation was loosely regulated and not always relevant. The drone track that I was most excited for wasn’t about new ventures in drone technology but rather about current regulations, so I was disappointed.

Overall, I enjoyed my experiences at TiECon and I am very grateful for the experience!

TiECon 2017: Entrepreneurship. Innovation. Lessons Learned.

TiECon Experience May 5-6, 2017

By Rachel Kolb

tiecon4TiECon was an amazing experience where I was able to learn more in two days about entrepreneurship than I have over the course of last year. I met some remarkable people and the energy of the conference was what I will take away the most. I believe that the energy I felt at the conference was also the energy of Silicon Valley itself. It was new and it was exciting. Everyone I met was proud of their work but instead of just boasting of their work, they wanted to learn more about their colleagues’ work and the products they were creating.

I believe the Michigan Tech campus shares a small part of this culture which means there is a foundation in which we can build an entrepreneurial mindset on campus. Students at Michigan Tech are ready to create and share their work with others. The campus body is very inclusive and welcoming which provides the perfect campus culture to the discovery and implementation of new ideas. These two aspects of campus show that a Silicon Valley culture has the possibility of forming on the campus of Michigan Tech. This fall, several of the University Innovation Fellows, including myself, are working toward building an Innovation Week around the timeframe in which the Silicon Valley guests will be visiting. If this event proves successful and reaches a large portion of the student body, I believe it will be a good stepping stone in pushing the Silicon Valley culture on campus. It will introduce students to the mindset of an innovator and entrepreneur.

The TiECon experience gave me such good takeaways that I would like to bring to campus and that will help me in my future career path. The most valuable thing I got from the conference was the insight I gained from all of those around me. Through the numerous panels, I was able to discover many of the setbacks as well as advantages of running a start-up. Many of the panelists touched on the most effective way to form a start-up company and how to lay the groundwork as you build the company. This insight hinted at the structure of the team needed at a startup, the amount of knowledge you needed to have about your products and the various markets, the story you have to portray to potential partners, and so much more. I was able to take more away from this conference in one day, than I have been at previous conferences twice as long as this one.

Other Key Takeaways

  • Being a CEO can be lonely because you cannot show your doubts or fears when you lead the team.
  • For small markets, performance tends to matter more than brand.
  • The delivery of the idea, not the idea, makes the money.
  • Silicon Valley is a place where rich people want to meet poor people (description of investors’ relationship with up and coming entrepreneurs).
  • Need to have the ability to adapt and follow market trends.
  • A business model needs to show the clarity of thought—you cannot boil the ocean.
  • Data is an asset and a liability.
  • Your first customer will take a lot of your time.
  • Take more shots on goal; gives you more of a possibility of getting lucky.
  • A company becomes the people it hires, not the business plan it makes.
  • Good partners can be inflection points for you.

I came to this conference with very few expectations except to gain information about entrepreneurship. I walked away with more knowledge than I had hoped and experiences that I did not dream of having. The moment Dr. Soon-Shiong stated he had found a way to cure cancer early Saturday morning of the conference, I knew this experience was one of the most impactful experiences I have had since beginning my college career. I am thankful I was given the opportunity to attend.

Next year, I would like to help with the promotion of the conference and possibly promote it in the fall semester during innovation week. I believe that if the activities taking place that week can get students excited about entrepreneurship, then it will be an excellent time to promote the conference and it would allow us to reach a larger portion of the student body.

14 Floors Houghton, Michigan: October 9-12, 2017

Silicon Valley friends and friends of Michigan Tech, 

dave_houseYou are invited to join me for a trip to Michigan Tech in October. This trip part is of our long-standing, bi-annual campus trips which have evolved over time and are now named “14 Floors.”

We will arrive in Houghton the evening of October 9 and depart on the afternoon of October 12. I’ll supply the customary private jet transportation directly from Minneapolis to Houghton and back again, taking care of the most unpredictable leg of the trip.

Think of it as a mini-conference, with the ability to pick and choose from the departments of your choice, one-on-ones with faculty and staff, student mentoring, lab and facility tours, etc. The remainder of the time will consist of group activities including panel discussions, business plan competitions, social gatherings, etc.

Student-focused activities are key during the visit, and both the School of Business and Economics and the Pavlis Honors College provide opportunities with entrepreneurship-focused students. We would love to have you be role models for these future leaders and help shape the programs that foster their growth. Finally, the social activities, including an annual event that allows networking between students, staff, faculty, and alumni will allow for more informal interaction.

I hope you can join us. Detailed flight information will follow.

Dave House ’65

14 Floors Bay Area Day 1: Autodesk. Handshake. Skymind.

Autodesk is located across the street from Ferry Building, one of the most iconic locations in San Francisco. A few of the Autodesk highlights:
  • A life-sized styrofoam concept car from Mercedes-Benz that was referred to as the “seed concept” because the design was inspired by the idea of injecting car DNA into a seed and letting it grow into an automobile.
  • Models of several architectural products, including three towers in Beijing, one of which was just completed.
  • A portable incubator for premature babies that has saved countless lives in India, in part because of its affordability.
  • A “smart stake” that can be bought at nearly any home improvement store that analyzes the soil and the surrounding conditions to identify when the grass needs to be watered or the best time to grow crops.
  • A soccer ball that can generate enough electricity to keep a light bulb lit overnight using the stored kinetic energy from kicking it around during the day.

Autodesk has a workshop area that is open to employees and visitors. They offer classes on how to use Autodesk software and then output those designs through CNC machines and 3-D printers. -Tommy Stuart

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-175434Autodesk creates software that is used for many different types of design. We got to go through the gallery and see some of the things their products are used for in terms of designing. One of the cool things that was designed was a soccer ball that people can play with for 30 minutes or more and after that it has the ability to keep a light on for about 3 hours. We also got to see how their software incorporates with 3-D printing technology. One of the cool things that we learned is that Autodesk’s software was used to send the first email file, which was of a wrench, into space for it to be 3-D printed. This was done as a result of one of the crew members losing their favorite wrench and asking for a new one to be sent to them.  – Marcia Drabek

To get to Handshake we rode a San Francisco electric zero-emission bus. Within Michigan Tech’s social sphere, Handshake has a mighty reputation. The co-founder, Garrett Lord, is infamous around campus. Handshake was founded by Michigan Tech students.

The company includes 50 employees, and they serve 170 schools as of fall 2016, with an expected growth of up to 400 this coming school year. Almost the entire office space is windows. There were at least three dozen developers clacking away at their MacBooks while we walked around, and we were led into a conference room where we learned the timeline of the company from Michigan Tech to Silicon Valley. -Tommy Stuart

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-190657-2Adam Gibson, the founder and a Michigan Tech alumnus, explained that Skymind is a B2B company, selling artificial intelligence primarily to banks, telecommunications, and governments. Maybe because I knew very little about Skymind, this was the most enjoyable company to visit of the day. Adam is magnetic, energetic, passionate, and a little quirky. His sense of humor is unique and he often chuckles at his own jokes.  I found that to be endearing.

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-190539I was constantly jotting notes down as Adam fired off facts, figures, names, and a detailed history of Skymind. For instance, Skymind has 20 employees, planning to expand to 50 by the end of 2017. They are a remote-first company with employees in China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia/Singapore, Australia, Russia, and Montreal.

While at Michigan Tech, and living in Houghton, Adam explained that he was involved with forming startups, and he worked in IT Oxygen at Michigan Tech. Perhaps the most inspiring quote from Adam that I heard was, “You have to be able to stomach the rejections.”   – Tommy Stuart

14 Floors Bay Area Day 2: Twilio. Porter Family Vineyard.

Twilio does cloud communications and operates as a platform as a service (“PaaS”) company. It was founded in 2007 and has about 1,250 employees worldwide, about 550 in San Francisco. We toured the facility, learned about the company’s values , attended a question and answer session.

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-142333-1The energy and enthusiasm was palpable throughout the entirety of our visit there. It was a pleasure to visit this company, and I think many of the students on this Silicon Valley trip will be applying to work there in the future. And, should any of us get a job at Twilio, one of the rites of passage for new hires is to use Twilio’s API to create an app or experience. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more welcoming atmosphere in Silicon Valley. -Tommy Stuart

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-192055michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-202942Porter Family Vineyards
Tim Porter walked us through the inner workings of the Porter Vineyards and the operation left us all with a sense of awe. After a short above ground tour we made our way down into the cave. At its deepest the cave is about 60 feet underground and the temperature is 58 degrees. The carbon footprint is near zero, with much of the electricity powered by solar energy. One of the cooler aspects is that the cave is run from the cloud. If the temperature ever gets too high, it automatically regulates itself. -Tommy Stuart