DSV Week 1: No Right Way to Succeed

Abigail Grubbs/ May 22, 2023/ 2023

This first week in Silicon Valley has been a very new and exciting experience. With different site visits and speakers each day, we have received so much helpful advice about how to build a startup or make meaning in your job at a large company.

On our first day, guest speaker Michelle Addison, CEO of the startup Allergood, spoke to us about her entrepreneurial endeavor and how we could provide help. While talking to us, Michelle made clear how passionate she is about helping people with allergies. I was inspired by Michelle’s story and motivation for starting her company and am excited to continue helping to research and prototype for Allergood over the next few weeks. We also had the privilege of visiting Duke alumni and Sprinter Health co-founders Max Cohen and Cameran Behar on the first day. It was very interesting to learn about their experience working on the Oculus VR headset and how their paths led them to starting Sprinter Health. The main takeaway I had from their talk was the importance in finding people you trust and can rely on when founding a company.

On our second day, we visited Fred Ehrsam at Paradigm, a crypto-focused venture firm. Fred talked to us about his story of how he got where he is, from being a Computer Science major at Duke to working at Goldman Sachs to co-founding Coinbase, and most recently, co-founding Paradigm. What I loved about Fred is that he was brutally honest with us, giving us genuine advice based on his experience founding a company from a young age. Fred emphasized the importance of taking risks and pursuing your interests after you graduate college.

Group photo of students in front of a sign that says LinkedIn

At the site visit to LinkedIn

Our third day was marked by an incredible experience visiting LinkedIn. Caleb Getahun, a ’22 Duke grad talked to us about his recent transition from graduating to working at LinkedIn and gave us a tour of the headquarters. In addition, Thamina Stoll, Sarah Ali, and Nils Albertsen all provided us insightful advice about their jobs and what they enjoyed most about working at LinkedIn. The LinkedIn headquarters was nicer than I could have imagined, with breathtaking views of San Francisco, complimentary food, state-of-the-art gym, music room, game room, and beautiful paintings throughout the building. It seems like an incredible place to work.

Finally, on the last day, guest speaker Rana DiOrio came to our class and spoke about the numerous projects she has going on, including being the founder and CEO of Creative Mint. I was greatly impressed by Rana’s multitude of skills, including being a lawyer, investment banker, angel investor, author, and startup founder. The thirteen pieces of advice she provided us were invaluable. Furthermore, our visit to OpenAI on last day gave us a glimpse into the people behind the artificial intelligence that is becoming such as big part of our lives. I liked the nature and mindfulness orientated OpenAI office. Duke Alumni Shyamal Hitesh, Brad Lightcap, and Boris Power spoke to us about their experience working on groundbreaking products including DALL-E and ChatGPT and their opinions on AI and plans for the future of OpenAI. Overall, the experiences from this week made me realize that there is no definitive path to becoming an innovator and entrepreneur and creating a lasting impact.

Chris is a rising junior from Bedford, NY. At, Duke he is studying economics while pursuing a minor in computer science. In his free time, Chris enjoys playing spikeball, 3D modeling and printing, watching movies, and playing poker with his friends. He is interested in new technologies and investment opportunities, as seen in his involvement with the Investment Club and Duke Blockchain Club. In Silicon Valley, Chris is looking forward to learning about innovative ideas, meeting exciting people, and gaining the skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur.

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