Yale students now have a new outlet to engage their curiosities regarding entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Yale Entrepreneurs, Engineers & Innovators” is a lecture and discussion series led by co-founder of the California-based venture capital firm Floodgate Ann Miura-Ko ’98. The series invites Yale alumni guests with unique entrepreneurial experience every two weeks for a conversation. The series aims to provide insight into what exactly various entrepreneurial positions — such as CEO, project manager or venture capitalist — entail and to provide a glimpse into professional life in Silicon Valley. The series is slated to host discussions with founders and CEOs from Twitch, Honor and Atrium, among others, this semester.
“I hope that Yale undergraduates get to see a wide range of entry points into the tech world and that it piques their interest to get them engaged in what tech has to offer,” Miura-Ko wrote in an email to the News. “I also hope that it allows students to consider a varied set of career opportunities that goes well beyond the typical investment banking or management consulting careers I saw when I was young.”
Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science Jeffrey Brock agreed with Miura-Ko and added that the series could introduce students to “non-traditional” career paths that past Yale alums have taken.
The idea for the series originated, Miura-Ko said, when several of her colleagues indicated interest in engaging Yale students about potential career paths and their own experiences with the tech industry. With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in a switch to primarily virtual classes and events and scattering students across the country, Miura-Ko decided to seize the opportunity to launch the series. She also hoped it would allow her to interact regularly with students.
Thus far, the series has held three out of its six scheduled events for the semester, with discussions featuring Miura-Ko, Scott Wagner ’92 and Tod Sacerdoti ’99.
Wagner, who is the former CEO of the internet company GoDaddy, spoke mostly about the prospective regulations on tech giants. Sacerdoti is the CEO and founder of Pipedream, a computing platform that facilitates app connections and event-driven workflows, as well as the former CEO and founder of BrightRoll, a program-based video solutions firm. He spoke about his experiences as a founder and CEO for the companies, as well as the mental health of entrepreneurs in top positions.
During the discussion, Sacerdoti noted the importance of recognizing the inevitable mental health challenges that come with the journey of founding and pioneering a company. In tackling these obstacles, however, he said that the “brave thing to do is to get the help.” He continued to say that throughout his career, he learned that a lack of mental health resources for CEOs and founders can detract from their ability to use time efficiently and effectively.
“Because so much of the time they spend is stewing on these tough decisions and without these outlets to have like a mirror sometimes to talk out loud, share the struggle, lay everything out, vent in some cases, all that, in a weird way it actually makes them more efficient with their time,” Sacerdoti said. “I do think [it] enables them to run companies longer because there is a natural burnout. In a weird way, I feel like it’s completely to the benefit of every stakeholder for the CEO/founder to have that support system.”
Sacerdoti concluded with a word of advice drawn from his own prior experiences. He said that a common theme throughout his career was finding a “bull market” — a term he defines as “a rapidly growing industry where there are economic returns on ambition and work ethic.”
According to Brock, the series as a whole has the potential to influence current students’ career trajectories.
“I hope it gives them a sense of the models out there for thinking about similar paths, and for recognizing the value of being fearless and breaking a new trail,” Brock told the News. “I think it’s really thrilling for our students to have the opportunity to have such an intimate connection to Ann and her world, and to see challenges she confronts in the venture space, and I think they will take away a much more concrete sense of what it’s like and how they might try to build a career in that direction.”
Miura-Ko recognized the outsized impact of her time at Yale — from the friendships she formed to the classes she was able to take. She said she is grateful for the mentorship she received from contacts developed at Yale, including David Swensen, the Chief Investment Officer.
Her own experiences at Yale served as a source of motivation to return support to its community and to help current Yalies, through this speaker series.
“The reason I feel strongly about giving back to this institution is that it has given me so much,” Miura-Ko told the News. “I think if you had asked me what Yale had given me in the moment of my graduation, I would have recognized potentially half of these things but sometimes it takes a little bit of distance to realize the significance of the impact that this place has had on you.”
The next event in the series is to take place on Nov. 11.
Maya Geradi | firstname.lastname@example.org