Santa Clara University


Educating for Entrepreneurship

Caption: Angel investors Marc van den Berg ’83, Christine Hertzog, and Spencer Johnson rate student pitches.

“If you’re not in Silicon Valley for entrepreneurship, you’re paying too much for rent,” said John Giddings ’91, SCU Engineering Management and Leadership adjunct professor, co-founder of The Silicon Valley Angels (now Tech Angel Group), and vice president of business development at TeleLumen, addressing a group of undergraduate and graduate students gathered for the first in a series of School of Engineering Lunch with an Entrepreneur programs.

“The engineering mind lends itself to the flexibility that is required for entrepreneurship,” he said, as he gave concrete guidance on how to turn ideas into reality while also holding down a job. “Take your ideas out and talk about them with your buddies; start a conversation; take the next step; that’s how entrepreneurship begins. We have an incredible community in Silicon Valley; tap into other people, get to know ‘yes’ or ‘no’ quickly—don’t sit on an idea for two years, if it’s not advancing within three to four months, move on with what you have learned.”

Aside from lending his expertise over lunch, Giddings also teaches a graduate course, Technology Entrepreneurship (EMGT 373). Ahmad Alghazi, an entrepreneurial graduate student who took the class last year, said “we basically learned all the factors we needed to get an idea launched, and it’s working for sure.”

“In the class, we talk about the entrepreneurial career path,” said Giddings, “how to recognize the other spices people can bring to the recipe, legal issues, business plan writing, financial planning, operations, the pitch, myths and realities, challenges and rewards.” At the end of the quarter Giddings brings in venture capitalists such as Marc van den Berg ’83, from Technology Partners, investors in cleantech and life sciences, to hear the students’ five-minute pitches and offer recommendations to the eager innovators.

Giddings, who was an Eagle Scout, advises the future entrepreneurs, “be prepared to do what’s never been done before; it’s up to you to cause lightning to strike instead of just waiting for it. This class is about going out and embracing adventures; share—take your skills out into the world. It’s the Santa Clara way.”