Category Archives: Shawn Wadia

The Journey Continues

Week two has been pretty special. It was one of those weeks where everything seemed to fit seamlessly into place. I made stellar progress at work, listened to phenomenally insightful speakers, and witnessed sporting history being made.

Although the week started off rather sedately, it got progressively more exciting. I was particularly looking forward to making my presentation about life at Jellyfish Art, at our weekly meeting at Dogpatch Labs. My presentation was focused primarily on the biology of the jellyfish life cycle while Veronica spoke briefly about the business and its conception. However, we were both more than willing to chime in with our insights on unfamiliar aspects of the business. I rather enjoy learning about the nuts and bolts of running a business, and I am sure that Veronica has a hidden penchant for marine biology. All in all, our presentation seemed to strike all the right chords, and we were more than happy to answer pointed questions pertaining to the viability of our business and our company’s future course of action.

The speakers this week continued to exceed my expectations. They demonstrated a tremendous amount of insight into the world of venture capital, and were able to effectively transmit much of their wisdom unto us. All of them were keen to dispel some of the oft-perpetuated myths surrounding the process of acquiring venture funding. Jay Jamison, in particular, stood out for his candor and charisma. Reid Lewis enthralled us with a few anecdotes, and David Heaney meticulously described his own foray into the exhilarating world of venture capital. Lauren Cooks Levitan, our first female speaker, more than lived up to our lofty expectations. I have yet to come across someone with a more in-depth understanding of the customer’s needs and wants.

The book that we were assigned to read for this week was also very informative. It served to reiterate some of the concepts that our speakers emphasized in their talks. The writing was lucid and accessible, and several of the book’s suggestions struck me as being of great practical importance. I have no hesitation in saying that this week’s activities have given me the confidence to pitch my ideas to potential investors without any trepidation whatsoever.  I learned the importance of creating a network, and voicing my ideas without succumbing to any inhibitions. But most of all, I learned the importance of flexibility, teamwork and efficient execution.

Now, if this were any ordinary summer program, this week would already have been heralded as being exceptional. However, DukeGEN is making a career out of outdoing itself and exceeding expectations, and the Giants baseball game that we attended last Wednesday was no exception. The DukeGEN team managed to get us some incredible seats for a hotly contested baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros. Although I used to be a big fan of Cricket (the sport on which baseball is based), I can’t say that I was really looking forward to attending the game. In fact, I must confess to being bored out of my mind for the first few innings (my fellow budding entrepreneurs will gladly attest to this fact). That is until Jacob stepped in and did a great job of explaining America’s pass time to me in immense detail. Now that I knew what the fuss was all about, I soon became enraptured by the spectacle that Matt Cain was presenting to us (his newly minted fans). By the time the sixth innings rolled around, I wagered that he would pitch a perfect game. However, my suggestion was quickly dismissed (after all, I was a baseball greenhorn).

By the time the final innings rolled around, the entire stadium was holding its breathe in anticipation. It was a surreal experience, especially for me, because of my rapid transition from not caring about the action on the pitch to being deeply involved in it. Soon, the last batter made his way to the pavilion and the crowd burst out in rapturous applause. People were embracing strangers, and I am certain that I noticed a few glistening eyes. It appeared as though everyone in the stadium shared an unspoken bond, and indeed they did. They had all been privy to history being made.

Meeting Bill Schlough of the San Francisco Giants was the perfect way to end the day. He spoke to us about several innovations that he had helped the franchise incorporate into its business model. He told us about his lifelong passion for the sport of baseball, and also touched upon his involvement with the Olympics. Bill’s passion for his work was plainly evident. There was a twinkle in his eyes when he spoke about his immense love for his job, and the franchise itself. It was amazing to hear him impart so much wisdom about innovation, business relationships and passion. He exhorted us to do something we love and do it well, and that was very sound advice indeed. After he had finished speaking, he was kind enough to permit us to step onto the pitch and take a few pictures of the imposing stadium. This was undoubtedly the perfect climax to a great day.

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Launch Pad: First Week at Jellyfishart

Working with Alex and the team at jellyfish art has been a revelation. The unique nature of the company ensures that I have the opportunity to cultivate a varied skill set and break out of my comfort zone. I have done everything from packing boxes of jellyfish to learning about their complicated life cycles. It has been an incredible experience thus far.

Alex is a great boss. He has a tremendous eye for detail, and possesses the coveted ability to motivate his team. He is approachable and understanding, and is always open to radical new ideas. He gives his employees the freedom to execute their tasks in their own unique styles, and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Although he takes a keen interest in all aspects of his business, he refrains from micromanaging his employees. He has been a valuable resource, and it is a pleasure to work along side him.

Veronica, my fellow Duke intern at jellyfish art has also been great to work with. She is chirpy and fun, and is always willing to give me feedback on my (sometimes ludicrous) start up ideas. She has made working at jellyfish art infinitely more enjoyable than it would have been in her absence.

My current job profile includes performing various kinds of experiments on jellyfish to measure their responses to different kinds of external stimuli. I have also been assigned the task of contacting suppliers and negotiating new deals. Although these two tasks may seem incompatible at first glance, I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of executing them simultaneously. My goal at jellyfish art is to establish a production line for breeding jellyfish. This sounds deceptively simple, but I can assure you it isn’t. However, it is definitely not an ordeal. I love being given the freedom to try new things and hammer together a unique plan of action. All in all, my work is stimulating and educational, and allows me to tread the fine line between experimentation and execution.

I have also had the good fortune of accompanying Alex to an informal get together with some other entrepreneurs. I was privy to some absolutely fascinating conversations that covered a wide array of entrepreneurial topics. We discussed everything from technological singularity to freelancing for the FBI. These conversations helped me to better understand how entrepreneurs think, and I am certain that this understanding will hold me in good stead as I continue my entrepreneurial journey.

Listening to proven entrepreneurs speak about their companies at Dogpatch Labs was also very informative. We were exposed to a variety of entrepreneurial viewpoints, some of which were in direct conflict with each other. However, all the speakers encouraged us to chart out an individual course of action, taking our own circumstances into account. They spoke about the general character traits that successful entrepreneurs often possess, and it was interesting to note the overlap in many of their criteria.

The angel pitch event held in San Francisco was an exceptional networking event. I am sure that the connections I made there will prove to be immensely valuable somewhere along the road.

I am very grateful to the team from DEC for giving me the opportunity to experience Silicon Valley’s unique entrepreneurial culture. I hope that the remainder of the program will continue to exceed expectations in a similar fashion.