The Value of Duke in Silicon Valley 

Abigail Grubbs/ June 14, 2023/ 2023

I have only ever heard great things about the Duke in Silicon Valley program, so I signed up. With little prior knowledge of what to expect, I embarked on this adventure with the hope of gaining interesting insights from an entrepreneurship course and the chance to explore San Francisco. Little did I know that the four-week program would not only provide me with valuable takeaways but also introduce me to an incredible network of friends, Duke alumni, and a deeper motivation to build a startup.

Unveiling the Silicon Valley Culture:

The Silicon Valley culture fosters an environment of active learning, and each site visit left me astounded by the warm and relatable nature of our hosts. It was difficult to imagine that the role models we admire were once in our shoes, facing uncertainties and grappling with imposter syndrome. Deb Liu’s candid admission of questioning “why me?” when offered the title of CEO of resonated deeply. Even with extensive experience, she had moments of self-doubt, highlighting the shared human experience. This made me realize that us Duke students often place excessive pressure on ourselves to be perfect. Instead, we must embrace failure as a stepping stone for growth and learning. The speakers in our group provided valuable insights on dealing with doubt and unlocking our potential. Here are some of the most impactful pieces of advice:

  1. Seek mentors and teachers to guide you along your journey.
  2. Never hesitate to ask questions.
  3. Success lies in the willingness to speak up.
  4. There will always be someone smarter than you, but don’t let that limit your aspirations.
  5. Find your niche and leverage it to add value.

Embracing Entrepreneurship:

One of the key lessons learned during the program was the significance of being scrappy in entrepreneurship. By embracing failure and letting go of the fear associated with it, we open ourselves up to a world of innovative ideas. Not all ideas may lead to immediate success, but allowing our minds to wander in unique ways can bring forth a wealth of concepts that, when combined, can result in something extraordinary. Tim Hyer’s emphasis on finding a co-founder for his company, Trusty, resonated deeply with this notion. Collaboration allows for a diverse range of ideas to emerge. Despite facing initial rejections and being deemed “uninvestable” by VCs, Tim’s determination, persistence, and exceptional communication skills enabled him to build an unstoppable team and bring his company to life. It is stories like Tim’s that make the Duke in Silicon Valley program so invaluable. We learned that no idea can succeed on its own; instead, it takes a creative, risk-taking founder to bring it to fruition.

My advice:

To those considering this program in the future, I urge you to seize every moment and embrace both the professional and social aspects. While the classroom sessions and brilliant speakers provide immense knowledge, I underestimated the wealth of knowledge I would gain from my peers. With a diverse group from distinct backgrounds and majors, we collectively brought out the best in one another. The strong bonds we forged through games of psych on every bus ride, an improv session full of inside jokes, and a lifetime’s worth of Just Dance, fostered an environment of camaraderie and growth. I am certain that these connections will last throughout our time at Duke and beyond.

I could not recommend this program enough.

Amelia is a rising sophomore from Scarsdale, NY. She is pursuing a computer science major with a minor in psychology and certificate in innovation and entrepreneurship. She has always loved the challenges of problem solving and yearns to use these skills throughout her time in Silicon Valley as she develops her entrepreneurial mindset. Through this program, she hopes to learn the steps to launching a successful startup and how to sustain it. On campus Amelia is part of HackDuke, Business Oriented Women, and a pre-professional and social tech organization called Catalyst. Outside of school, Amelia loves to bake, watch New Girl, and spend time with friends.

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