Experiencing Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley

Shannon Beeman
July 27, 2022

Executive leaders of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club at Michigan Ross, George Okpamen and Austin Sivik, share their views on the Silicon Valley Experience with the Zell Lurie Institute.  

Traveling during business school with fellow Wolverines is an adventure. Traveling with fellow entrepreneurial students to meet University of Michigan innovators and investors is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – the Silicon Valley Experience. 

Silicon Valley Zell Lurie Institute University of Michigan RossIn late May, the Zell Lurie institute connected eleven students with leading founders, CEOs, executives, and investors, all of whom hail from the University of Michigan. Throughout the week-long program, students engaged with some of the most innovative organizations and venture capital firms on the West Coast including LineLeap, Founders Circle Capital, Google, Meta, and others. 

“For anybody with any inkling of being a founder or a funder, getting to Silicon Valley is like the super bowl of your entrepreneurship journey,” said George Okpamen, MBA ‘23.

“The access and exposure to people within the Valley was outstanding. When you’re in Ann Arbor you don’t really get those same opportunities day in and day out. When we got to Silicon Valley, you feel the buzz and the energy and all entrepreneurs are extremely passionate about their businesses” added Austin Sivik, MBA ‘23.   

Navigating the network

With over 550,000 living alumni, one of the largest alumni bases of any university in the world, it should not be surprising many U-M business leaders call the Bay Area home. Connecting these alumni entrepreneurs and investors with current U-M students is a different challenge. 

“The intentionality of the Zell Lurie Institute around making sure that the Michigan ties were clear was outstanding. Nearly 100% of the people we saw across all levels of the entrepreneurship ecosystem were from the Michigan network. It is one thing to go to Silicon Valley, it is another to showcase the impact of the University of Michigan on it’s ecosystem,” said Okpamen.

“You hear all of these alumni founder stories and companies that have gone on to change the world, this trip was an amazing opportunity to connect and be a part of that,” added Sivik.

Connecting off campus

With the demands of classes, clubs, and more it can be difficult to engage with students outside of the MBA cohort – especially for a first-of-its-kind opportunity. Through careful planning and applicant reviews by the Zell Lurie team, the Silicon Valley Experience brought together graduate and undergraduate students from across campus – all with an entrepreneurial drive. 

“Zell Lurie was very intentional about including undergrads, MBAs, part-time MBAs, JDs all in the same trip. During that time, we definitely came to the realization that we’re kind of fragmented like we don’t really interact very much with the law school, nor do the MBAs really interact with undergrads,” noted Sivik, incoming Chief Financial Officer of the Ross Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club. “We want to grow and cultivate a community where all the schools on campus are interacting and engaging with entrepreneurship,” added Okpamen, incoming President of the Ross Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club. 

Valley views

Students leave the trip with increased exposure to the types of career opportunities within the tech sector and concrete ways to market their valuable skills in Silicon Valley. Many are inspired to move to the area, while others view this as connecting to another piece of the global U-M network. 

“The energy and engagement is like nowhere else. I now fully understand what makes the Valley special. Everyone is networking in a positive way and just being in that ecosystem it’s really exciting and very invigorating. I could definitely see myself in Silicon Valley after school,” said Sivik.

“I will be a future founder and funder, so having these relationships is priceless. An experience like this continues to solidify the reason I chose to come to Ross, specifically, and the University of Michigan, more broadly. All U-M students, at any school, who are even slightly curious about entrepreneurship or venture capital should consider applying. The program is transformational and fully paid – making it literally, priceless,” shared Okpamen.

The Silicon Valley experience, offered through the Zell Lurie Institute, is open to graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus. Applications for the week-long program open in February 2023.

George Okpamen Zell Lurie Institute Michigan Ross MBAGeorge Okpamen is the first of three boys, born to Nigerian immigrants, Pastors Mike and Christy. At Michigan Ross, George is focusing his learning and experiences at the intersections of Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. He is currently an HBCUvc Fellow completing his summer internship at Bloomberg Beta, an early-stage firm investing in machine intelligence and the future of work.

 

 Austin Sivik Zell Lurie Institute Michigan Ross MBAAustin Sivik is a second year MBA from Kapolei, Hawaii. He is heavily engaged in the Ross entrepreneurship and venture capital ecosystem where he is actively working on his own startup and is a member of the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund (ZLCF). This summer, Austin is interning at Touchdown Ventures, a venture capital firm that partners with leading corporations to establish and manage their venture capital programs.