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From the Big Bang! to Silicon Valley
Big Bang! Business Competition Blog

The UC Davis Big Bang! is an annual business competition that calls on students and the public to bring their innovative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit to the bustling college town of Davis, Calif. Participants gain access to valuable resources, seasoned entrepreneurial mentors—and the chance to win big. This year, the prize money is upwards of $90,000 and growing.

The Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship kicked off the 2017/18 competition in October with a conversation between two UC Davis alumni: former GoFundMe president David Hahn and Chris Soderquist, founder and director of Davis-based New Energy Assets and RepowerYolo. Hahn shared his entrepreneurial experiences, from taking second place in the 2002 Big Bang! to his latest adventures with Greylock Partners and Accel as an executive-in-residence.

David Hahn and Chris Soderquist

He offered these take-aways for budding entrepreneurs:

Follow your passion and see where it leads.

Now is the perfect time to take risks and do things like launch the company of your dreams. As your career progresses, you become more risk averse, and it only gets tougher to take these kinds of risks.

If you cannot start a company, join an early-stage startup.

Although Hahn admitted that he “lucked” his way into LinkedIn during its nascent stages, he advised young graduates that joining an early-stage company is a smart life design. At a startup, your work is undefined, and you get much more responsibility than you deserve. The learning curve is immense, and you get to be a part of an awesome talent network.

Stay true to who you are, Aggie.

When asked what opportunities the Davis community should pursue, Hahn recommended that Davis play to its strengths in health, ag and tech, energy, veterinary advancements and more. He believes we should focus on solving the world’s next-generation problems—such as climate change and lack of water—instead of Silicon Valley’s latest productivity tool or social media platform.

Find the right complement.

Hahn reflected that in his 20s, he would have spent more time actively searching for a complement. He believes that the key to entrepreneurship is going on the journey with the right partner. While working at LinkedIn during its early stages, he learned the most from his technical partner.

Not all venture firms are created equal.

If you have already launched your startup and are now looking for funding, be targeted in your search. There is plenty of money out there. Find investors who are going to appreciate your discipline.

Big Bang! team registration will open on December 1, 2017. The early bird deadline—which includes the opportunity to receive a mentor—ends on December 6, 2017. Final registration closes on February 21, 2018.

Click here to learn more about the Big Bang! >  

Mary Serafin is majoring in design at UC Davis. She is a student ambassador with the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurshipand the founder and president of Davis Women in Business.

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