Silicon Valley – A Mindset, Not a Location

Brendan Quinlan/ June 15, 2017/ 2017

…..Don’t be afraid to fail…..

….There are 2 steps to success: 1. write it down 2. go do it….

….100% intention, only then will you have execution…..

….I wanted to love what I do, and so I followed my passion….

 Sounds inspirational? Motivating? Well, safe to say this is what has been ringing in every student’s ear at DSV this week as we meet and speak with visionaries who have transformed challenging ideas into reality.

The week started with a visit to an uncommon company, not one that is usually associated with ‘startups.’ ThirdLove is a startup founded by a Duke Alum, Heidi Zak, and aims to transform the way bras and underwear our bought and perceived. Being a girl myself, the mission of ThirdLove resonated with me – lingerie’s sole purpose is not to make others happy or to make a woman look appealing, it’s to offer comfort. The minute we stepped into the beautiful office, I could sense I was part of a busy and bustling startup – exposed brick walls, clear windows all around you, a kitchen stocked with brew fountains and numerous snacks to a team that screamed innovation, hard work and a love for their brand. I found this visit helpful for we not only heard how the founder spotted a problem, thought of a novel solution and began to execute it, but we got to speak to professionals in her company from different sectors, understanding what kind of roles do each sphere have to offer.

On the following day, we kicked off our morning with a truly inspirational and refreshing talk given by Sanyin Siang, Executive Director of Coach K Leadership and Ethics Center. She had a lot of advice and insights to offer to help us be our own super heroes, and what reverberated inside me most was her rule of “failing.” “Don’t be afraid to fail,” I remember her saying. It’s easier said than done, I thought, and considering us Duke students are known to possess this “effortless perfection” attribute, how does one deal with failure? In a world of innovation, entrepreneurs all around are trying to be the next Snapchat or Facebook, how do they deal with constant failure? Sayin, being a Duke alum herself, clearly stated that no one is effortlessly perfect, simply, no one is perfect. And success doesn’t only mean making a lot of money, getting an A+ or landing that coveted job at Google. It means knowing why you failed, and learning from your mistake, and starting again. If you didn’t learn, then it is a failure. Other than that, everything is a success in life for it allows you to constantly improve and be the best version of yourself. These are important lessons to keep in mind when stepping into the professional, especially entrepreneurial world, and understanding that things go wrong for a reason.


Following this inspiring talk, we drove up to PayPal, attempted to take a creatively funny Boomerang in front of the logo, realized we looked ridiculous, and continued to take more. PayPal blew my mind and continued to constantly surprise me with the services they had to offer and planned to offer. With beautiful and interactive displays that helped showcase their products (a burger restaurant setup, an ice-cream parlor set up and a mini boutique with an interactive mirror in the trial room was only the tip of the iceberg at PayPal). Steve Fusco, a duke alum working at PayPal, gave us a powerful talk on the realities of life post college, with some funny and some eye-opening anecdotes from his personal. PayPal, on the surface is another fin-tech company, but as you go deeper, creativity, innovation and novelty seem to be their core components. They have implanted QR code scanning to pay for your burger order, sharing the bill for online purchases with peers to touch screen mirrors in some of their partner clothing brands. The list is long, and from the looks of it, never ending!

While a lot of moments during this trip have been mind-opening, mouth gaping, and eye catching, our visit to Zume Pizza has made it to my top favorites.


Not only did we get to see ROBOTS make PIZZA (a culmination of the two great things in life) that are healthy for you, half the calories than a Dominos’ pizza and have no chemicals, we got to speak to the CEO who moved every student to realize that even “impossible” spells out “i m possible.” Even though he dropped out of high school at 14, nothing stopped his learning curve. He has had multiple successful startups and successful jobs in every sphere imaginable. Why? He wants to experience new things. He does not want to stop. He gave us one very important advice as future innovators – people will tell you something cannot be done, they are wrong. You are wrong. Think about that problem in a different way, for if there is a problem, there is a solution. And there are no hard or easy problems, a problem is simply a problem and needs a solution.

Overall, this week had showers of inspiration while we DSV students happily got drenched in it. In class, we began design thinking to create a game for our final project. This was highly fruitful because it allowed to use everything we learned in class and finally apply it to a tangible project, in a very similar fashion to how entrepreneurs use design thinking for their startups. The week was a massive success and I cannot wait to soak every bit of the last week!


Adiva Shah is a rising junior at Duke University pursuing a major in Physics, minor in Computer Science and a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and wants to work in the business/finance world.

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