I am positive that when I look back on my time at BC, TechTrek will be at the forefront of those thoughts. This class helped show me that you do not need to be an engineer to work in tech, but rather you are still able to have a substantial, impactful role working on the business end. From our in-class discussions, tweets, blog posts, and company visits, I feel as though I have gained an immensely diverse perspective on the tech industry. This form of experiential learning was an invaluable experience, and one that I will be recommending to all my fellow eagles!
Now, to dive in to the trip!!
While it is hard to choose a favorite company from the 20+ we visited, I am definitely able to say that I most enjoyed visits where we heard from founders of the companies. Since watching my first episodes of Shark Tank in middle school, entrepreneurship has always been on my radar. I have found that entrepreneurs always exude an energy and intensity that you are unable to find in other working individual. Hearing from the founders of Freshly, Ceros, JW Player, and Socure enabled us to hear the truth about starting a company, and how exactly you bring a start-up from zero to one hundred. All of the founders had different insights to offer, however there were also several reoccurring themes across the board.
For starters, CEO and cofounder of Freshly, Michael Wystrach, was the definition of passion. It was clear from the start that Michael believes whole-heartedly in the mission of Freshly, and genuinely wants to spread his love for health and nutrition across the country. In addition to his passion, a key insight Michael shared about entrepreneurship is that anyone can have a good idea, but not everyone will execute that idea. Execution is the differentiating factor between dreamers and doers, and while it can be relatively easy to come up with an idea, successfully executing that idea is by no means an easy feat. Another piece of advice that Michael offered was that when starting a company and beginning to hire employees, it is important to surround yourself with good people. Your company will undoubtedly face struggles throughout its lifetime, so it is important that the people you work with will continue to inspire and push you through tough times.
The next founder we had the privilege of hearing from was Simon Berg, co-founder and CEO of Ceros. Berg’s humor and honesty provided a lively visit that took place in the office pub. Berg opened up to us about the extreme up and downs he experienced as a founder, and shared with us some of the personal sacrifices he had to make. All of Berg’s experiences have lead him to believe that a successful entrepreneur will absolutely need to have a chip on their shoulder or motivations stemming from adversity in order to push them through the difficult times. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, but truly only the most determined and creative. Berg’s presentation truly opened my eyes to the hardships an entrepreneur faces, both in their professional and personal life.
Another founder we were able to hear from was CEO and cofounder of JW Player, Dave Otten. Like Michael Wystrach and Simon Berg, Dave Otten also cofounded his company, and spoke to this advantage. He shared how having a reliable and supportive partner helps you both push through the hard times, as well as celebrate the victories. Cofounders can help balance one another out, and provide strengths opposite their cofounder’s weaknesses. Throughout the startup process, Otten also emphasizes the importance of being adaptable, since the company rarely turns out how you expect. While it is important to keep your vision in mind, it is crucial to understand that this idea will evolve and change in order to survive in the market.
Lastly, another founder I felt offered tremendous insight, was Johnny Ayers, cofounder and SVP of Socure. As a two-season varsity athlete during his time at BC, Ayers’ strong work ethic and grit helped set him up to be a successful entrepreneur. Ayers spoke of the ever-changing tech industry, and that as a founder you will have moments of clarity where you realize you wasted time to come to a simple conclusion. While it can be frustrating to realize you wasted a substantial amount of time, it is important that you are able to pick up and move on, rather than dwell on a sunk cost. Ayers also shared with us obstacles his company has faced, one being developing a strong culture. While I often had thought of culture as being a buzzword and more of a luxury rather than a necessity of a company, Ayers highlighted the importance of culture in retaining staff.
In hearing from founders of companies that provide vastly different services, it was great to see underlying themes and commonalities in their advice. Across the board I have seen an importance in having a reliable team and partner, being adaptable, and being persistent. All of these founders made clear that the road of an entrepreneur is an extremely difficult one, and that this career path that is only meant for the bold.
So long TechTrek East!!