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Tufts startups participate in California Roadshow

Students engaged in tech startups pose together

This month, winners from the 2017 $100k New Ventures Competition participated in the annual California Roadshow. The team of Tufts entrepreneurs met with partners from several venture capital firms, as well as angel investors, and dozens of Tufts alumni/ae. This was an amazing opportunity to pitch their business ideas and network with industry leaders.

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies program (ELS) was honored to introduce the teams to members of the Tufts community in the Bay Area. Members of the ELS Roadshow included Andre Newland, E17, of Tarseer, juniors, Eddie Futterman and Hermes Suen of PowerPlay Technologies, Paget Stanco, A16, EG17, of OnGuard, Peter Sacco, F17 of Adelante Shoe Co., Katie Sicinski of Velum, Inc., and Aaron Tartakovsky, A12, of Epic CleanTec.

Before leaving for their trip to Silicon Valley this year, teams got help preparing for the Roadshow from some special ELS alumni/ae, Phillip Ellison, Mimi Yen and Matt Merighi. In person and over Web-Ex, they gave this year’s group some important advice for presentations, shared how to stay refreshed, and advice for getting the most out of their experience on the West Coast.

At the Omidyar Network in Redwood City, they met with three outstanding partners, Stacy Donohue, Jenny Johnston, and Jill Macari. Jenny Johnston’s feedback says it best: “It was lovely to have you and the winners in our office. What a pleasure to learn about what they are building – we are wildly impressed!”

Partners at Wilson Sonsini, courtesy of Peter Eng, E88, heard two-minute micro-pitches from the group. In addition to generous hospitality, Peter and his colleagues gave a presentation to the group on term sheets and excellent insight into fee structures. Wilson Sonsini is a highly valued partner of the ELS Roadshow and to the ELS program.

Next stop was an evening event at the beautiful home of Lou Pelosi, E85, and Sue Pelosi J86, minutes away from downtown Palo Alto. The Roadshow cohort met with several alumni who were highly interested in the startups. Jonathan Tang, A99, CEO of Vastrm, David Hassell, E98, CEO of 15five, Josh and Judy Goldman, J88, and Gavin Finn, ELS Professor of the Practice, were just some of the guests who were there. Lou and Sue were gracious hosts and very kind to open up their home to the teams again. Both of them have supported the ELS Roadshow every year.

Day two, Steve McDermid, A01, F06, of Emerson Collective hosted the teams in their office in downtown Palo Alto. Steve has been highly involved with and philanthropically supportive of the ELS Roadshow since its inception. This year he saw some noticeable improvement in the pitches and stages of our ELS Roadshow cohort. He shared some very positive news that one of last year’s participants, BrainSpec, was being invited to pitch again at Andreesen Horowitz thanks to Steve.

Josh Goldman, A88, Norwest Venture Partners, hosted the group for lunch and invited a number of his colleagues to review the pitches. Josh is also seeing the level of quality elevated. Questions and feedback were excellent. Josh and Judy Goldman have been longstanding philanthropic supporters of the ELS Roadshow.

Matt Murphy, E89, Menlo Venture Partners, also saw pitches from the cohort in Menlo Park. Matt’s Tufts School of Engineering background informs his feedback and helped the Roadshow participants see things from his unique perspective. Matt has always been supportive of the ELS Roadshow.

Finally, the group had a special meeting at the home of Steve and Michele Kirsch, E18P, in Los Altos. Steve and Michele were kind enough to host not only the group but fellow Tufts parent, Jeff Rothschild, E18P, A20P. The ELS cohort presented without slides in a more informal experience. They asked the group some excellent questions and afterwards, the group asked them about their experience running startups in the heart of Silicon Valley. A special thanks to Steve and Michele Kirsch for hosting the group and to Jeff Rothschild for being part of the Roadshow!

After the Roadshow concluded, members of the cohort took the opportunity to meet with advisors and investors on their own.