Q & A

Will this program help me get a job at Google or Facebook?

SVIA is a learning experience focused on creative problem solving, entrepreneurship, and ideation. This program is not intended to support efforts to be hired by a large Silicon Valley tech company, although it will certainly not hurt your networking efforts.

How do I meet recruiters for start-ups and large tech companies this summer?

There are many opportunities to meet recruiters for start-ups and large tech companies while studying at Stanford University; however, the Silicon Valley Innovation Academy is not one of those. Instead this is an opportunity to understand the process of innovation through experiential learning by growing what starts as a concept into an early-stage product.  Although you will meet employees and leaders of local tech companies – from brand new start-ups to some of the previously mentioned tech giants – SVIA is an opportunity to build your network and ask questions about their work and insights on life in the Valley and as tech entrepreneurs, not specifically to meet recruiters to find job or internship openings..

What is the lean startup model and how does it apply to launching an idea?

The Lean Startup Model focuses on the hypotheses that make up your business concept. Instead of spending incredible effort constructing these untested hypotheses into a conventional business plan, the Lean Startup Model seeks to rapidly test these hypotheses to meet actual customer need. During the process, entrepreneurs build Minimal Viable Products (MVPs), give these to customers, measure reactions and behaviors, capture that learning, and use that knowledge to build a better product. This process is continually repeated as entrepreneurs learn how to iterate a better product, pivot to a better solution, or restart on a better path. The Lean Startup Model continues until entrepreneurs have something that their customers love and will buy.

What is design thinking and how does it apply to launching an idea?

Design thinking is a formal method for creative problem solving based around empathetic questioning to examine parameters, alternative solutions, and varied prototypes. The essential work is to be disciplined about how a diverse group of collaborators comes together and approaches problems, moving between divergent (creative exploration of many possible solutions) and convergent (finding the precise, correct answer) thinking. The specific exercises vary based on end goals – whether you’re attempting to design an app, a new unmanned undersea submarine, the new hotel lobby experience, or a corporate strategy – but the formal methodology remains similar.

If I am deeply interested in the lean startup methodology or design thinking, how do I learn more or take classes?

The best way to learn the Lean Startup Methodology or design thinking is to do it. The experience of doing Lean iteration or design thinking (versus reading about it) will challenge you and force you to adapt the processes to suit your unique strengths. Through SVIA Enterprise, program participants will be able to do just this: delving into the concepts while focusing on their projects, guided by experienced facilitators. This will be an excellent hands-on experience utilizing this powerful creative tool, and will help students consider if design thinking is something they want to continue to explore.

Of course, it is important to learn more as you explore these concepts. For those who want to learn more before SVIA, there are several options. If you want to learn more about the Lean Methodology, visit Steve Blank’s website and read his frequent postings. You can also take his Udacity course, “How to Build a Startup: The Lean LaunchPad.” For design thinking, IDEO.org has a free online course offered through Acumen. They focus on design thinking to address needs in the developing world. IDEO is offering a short online course called Insights for Innovation, and the Darden School at UVA offers an online course in design thinking.


What is the design lab like?

Design labs are unique to each company, but all possess the intentional design of space to support its inhabitants’ emotional, mental, social, and physical needs specifically regarding creativity. These environments do so by challenging many of the conventional office norms that inhibit creativity and communication. You will not find cubicles or traditional desks in a design lab. Instead, you might find walls treated to work as whiteboards (enabling better tracking and visualization of ideas), open work stations with ample table space (for teams to crowd around and consider concepts), post-it notes (a medium for ideas to be rapidly added, combined, and visually arranged), and simple building materials (such as modeling compounds or construction blocks that facilitate easy prototyping.) Depending on the challenge that each design space is trying to overcome, each will reflect a slightly different approach to their environment.

What is involved with the Ecosystem Visits?

The ecosystem of Silicon Valley is complex and layered with a range of entities involved in the start-up process: maker spaces, incubators, design spaces, fledgling companies, tech giants, and more. During these visits, SVIA participants will be able to meet people and see them work in their own piece of the broader ecosystem. By interacting with these professionals in these settings, participants will be able to engage with their perspectives in a different way than would occur through a panel discussion. This knowledge will help as students consider their own projects and their future interests in the entrepreneurial world. These visits will help develop a felt sense of the context and community that support early stage start-ups in the Bay Area.

How does the time commitment change week to week?

Students in Enterprise should should expect to spend 10-15 hours per week engaged in your team and project, including the visits and panel events. SVIA is all about hands-on learning, and the innovative process is an exercise in grit and determination. While there are a number of events to guide you through the process, the majority of the time will be up to you and your team to work and develop your concept and prepare for Stanford Sharks.

Should I participate in SVIA if I’m already in ENGR 145 Technology Entrepreneurship?

While both experiences will offer a hands-on experience on concept development in an entrepreneurial setting, the emphasis for each is different. SVIA is a not for credit program which is complementary to ENGR 145 and emphasizes the application of design thinking methodology to the creation and launching of a startup idea. It is structured as a competition and has program facilitators who guide students through topical events and workshops. ENGR 145 is for Stanford credit and is for undergraduates of all majors who seek to understand and apply the principles of formation, growth and fundraising of successful high-impact start-ups in areas such as information, energy, medical and consumer technologies. ENGR 145 is taught by Stanford Faculty and high profile guest speakers who provide organizational and personal tools for those who are interested in a career in entrepreneurship.

While it is possible to do both, and we appreciate your entrepreneurial spirit, it’s important to note that the two experiences bear certain similarities that may make dual participation difficult to balance. Both the course and the program involve small group work — not with the same small group — and require a considerable investment of time and energy. Although ENGR 145 is a college course that carries academic credit, SVIA is an exclusive extra-curricular opportunity that provides hands-on experience in developing innovative ideas. The focuses are similar, and the combined workload might be a bit overwhelming. We ask that you carefully weigh your options, and select one or the other of these entrepreneurial opportunities for Summer 2017.  That said, the teaching team of E145 is open to having a team taking both courses to use the same project for both, thereby reducing the overall workload compared to a team taking both courses and using different projects.

More information is available on ENGR 145 here: https://e145.stanford.edu/