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.