Skip to main content
Cornell University


Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Silicon Valley Trek 2017

The Silicon Valley trek is a collaboration between the BEST Program and College of Engineering. Michael Roach, the Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management organized the October 25-28 trip to offer eight graduate students the opportunity to visit various companies and expose them to a variety of industry and entrepreneurial careers. 

Selected to participate were (pictured l to r) Mincong Liu (MEng); Ariah Klages-Mundt, PhD student in Applied Math; David Agyeman-Budu, PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering; Catherine Wong (MEng); Jessica Elmore, PhD student in Immunology; Rick Wang, Mitch Pender and Madhur Srivastava, all PhD students in Biomedical Engineering (BESTies in bold). See the summary article on the Nancy E. and Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering website. Read on to see what the participants thought of the trek.

"This was a fantastic networking event to understand the process of entrepreneurship and commercialization of university technology."-Mitch Pender 

"The Silicon Valley trek was an invaluable learning and networking experience. It was great meeting like-minded individuals fellow trek members, alumni, founders, facilitators who all share a passion for entrepreneurship and startups.

Overall, the Silicon Valley trek is a great experience for PhD students considering either founding or joining a startup. It is quite inspirational to hear from Cornell PhD alumni who have made the transition from academia to entrepreneurship through commercialization of university research. Prof. Mike Roach did an excellent job organizing and coordinating the trek, which was made possible through generous support from the BEST program and the College of Engineering."Rick Wang

"The Silicon Valley trek was an amazing opportunity to explore an entrepreneurial side of research. The startup ecosystem around San Francisco is different from anything you can find in Ithaca. I've worked in New York, and it's comparable to that in the level and sophistication of activity, but unique in a sort of communal mindset of helping to get a wide range of ideas off the ground. This mindset came across at each of the companies we visited and, after the trek, in meeting up with friends at Stanford and in SF.

I am thinking about starting a technology business in the future. The experiences and connections that I made through this trek will be invaluable along the way."-Ariah Klages-Mundt

"I would like to thank Michael Roach, the College of Engineering and the BEST Program for organizing and sponsoring the Cornell PhD Silicon Valley Trek. This trip provided an excellent opportunity for me to interact with different stakeholders involved in a start-up and entrepreneurship. In the two-day trek, we visited start-ups working in different technologies, such as artificial intelligence based, biotechnology based Applied Molecular Transport and material science based TeraPore Technologies, where we interacted with co-founders and scientists about their experience, career path and challenges."-Madhur Srivastava

"I am honored to be one of the 8 Ph.D. students selected to go on the Cornell Silicon Valley Trek. The trek consisted of a two-day visit to the Bay Area and it connected us with some early-stage Cornellian companies and startup resources in the area.

In this trek, we met with some recent Ph.D. graduates from Cornell who have started their own companies with licensed technologies from Cornell. Through talking with them, I understood more about the challenges to start a company. I met with founders of one-person companies to more established start-ups with venture capital funding. I saw how a company progresses and learnt about the pitfalls as a company grows. These conversations are going to help me a lot when I start my own with an intellectual property later on."-Catherine Wong

"Overall, what resonated with me on interacting with the entrepreneurs and early employees at the various startups was the common drive to take the technology that they have invented and are working on to create opportunities and significant impact in the real world. All were candid about the challenges they have faced and currently going through. They also gladly shared how they found solutions to the challenges and learning opportunities that complemented those experiences. In all, this humanizes the experience having had the face interaction and hearing their stories. 

I will like to thank the College of Engineering and BEST for making such opportunities available for PhD students to take advantage of. This experience has been eye opening and helped me craft a perspective of what to expect in pursuing a career in building a company, and I have also had the opportunity to expand my network in getting to know more Cornell Alumni. I will also like to express gratitude to Prof. Mike Roach for leading the trek and putting together such a great itinerary which included the necessary background and preparatory materials of interest in the field of entrepreneurship and startups. The information was extremely helpful and helped put things in context during the trek." David Agyeman-Budu

Read complete participants' feedback, tips and takeaways from this experience here.