Sean Ammirati and I are active in our respective communities' entrepreneur mentoring programs, and we always enjoy seeing how other localities help nurture their budding startups. Probably nowhere else in the world is the idea of a startup happy place more entrenched than in Silicon Valley, where one electrical engineering professor, Frederick Terman, spawned an entire culture of new ventures back in the 1950s.
I was lucky to get an engineering degree from Stanford (let's not say which year but it was a while ago) and had a chance to sample a bit of this culture since then. And while I never have been to The Plug and Play Startup Camp, it sounds like just the kind of thing that other places should emulate. The camp is just one program from the Plug and Play Tech Center, which provides screening sessions, office space and networking events and other educational seminars. The camp is an intensive 10-week summer program designed to immerse university startups and entrepreneurs into the Silicon Valley environment. And by intensive, they aren't kidding: there are workshops with the VC heavyweights that line Sand Hill Road, business plan mentoring sessions, lots of coaching and expert speakers galore.
To participate in the camp, nascent ventures had to pitch their ideas in front of a live audience, and ten companies were selected to continue on with the seminars and mentoring. The 10 graduating companies include those in the consumer, Web, e-commerce, mobile and software space and comprise of teams from Stanford, MIT, UCLA, UC Irvine, Carnegie Melon, Santa Clara and UC Berkeley. The finalists include an online document marketplace for students to sell class notes, an online fitting room for eyeglasses, a product research survey tool, and other new ideas. And there is even one team that is composed of members from both Berkeley and Stanford, which given the extreme rivalries between both schools is a welcome sign.
Graduating from the camp, these ventures will today present their pitches to more than 50 investors and representatives from major businesses including General Motors, AT&T, and SAP, who will be listening and perhaps funding some of them. We hope the Stanford/Cal team wins.