Translating Passion and Mission into Purpose and Accomplishments
2019 Ignite Conference

Ignite is an exciting annual program that is brought to life through a partnership between UC Davis and Rice University. The Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship collaborated to bring me and 74 other graduate students of diverse backgrounds to the frontlines in Silicon Valley.

The four-day immersive and experiential conference consists of a full day of business tours in the Bay Area, two days’ close interactions with 10 outstanding entrepreneurs, and numerous networking events. The 75 students attending had opportunities to visit iconic startups, tech and cryptocurrency companies, including Tesla, Coinbase and Helix. We obtained exposure and understandings of live, ongoing business cases demonstrated by founding entrepreneurs. The site visits also presented valuable networking opportunities for students to connect with pioneers in the industry of their interest.

It was very exciting to feel connected to the vivid front lines of Silicon Valley—an experience not attainable by browsing online or sitting in classrooms.

My most memorable experiences were the visits to Coinbase and Ripple. From the insights and expertise of the leadership speakers of these two leading cryptocurrency companies, I was able to understand and buy into the concept of blockchain and its cutting-edge application and implications for the future of our daily lives. It was very exciting to feel connected to the vivid front lines of Silicon Valley—an experience not attainable by browsing online or sitting in classrooms.


The Ignite cohort consisted of 75 MBA, Ph.D. and MD students from UC Davis, Rice University, the Texas Medical Center, University of Houston and Lamar University. This diversity fostered abundant interdisciplinary communication and connections between peers as well as between students and speakers.

Fishermans Wharf, SF

I was surprised to learn that Rice has significant connections with the largest medical complex in the world, the Texas Medical Center. As part of a startup in the healthcare industry, I was thrilled with the opportunity to connect with consultants, MDs, Ph.D.s and experienced investors in this field to discuss potential collaboration and funding opportunities.

Back on the UC Davis campus, over the following two days, 10 guest speakers passionately shared their life journeys and lessons learned from their entrepreneurial experiences. Listening to presentations given by successful and knowledgeable founders and investors, we  learned valuable insights into topics ranging from leadership and entrepreneurship to practical management of new ventures, ongoing economic trend and cutting-edge technologies.

As Mark Randall, chief strategist and vice president of creativity at Adobe, well put, entrepreneurs constantly look to “Amply your unique talents with the skills of a great team to change the world, creating value for others and meaningful for you.”

Mark Randall

Ignite delivered important messages with regard to living a meaningful life and achieving success. Brad Chisum, founding CEO of Lumedyne Technologies, and Brittany Barreto, co-founder and CEO of Pheramor, among other speakers emphasized that integrity to be a good person is essential to succeed as an entrepreneur. The inspiring stories of success and failures also presented the journey of founding a company as full of unexpected twists and plots. “Being mentally prepared and thinking about the ups and downs as a process in life is the first step to perseverance through the paramount hardship”, summarized by Joe DiNunzio, executive director of the UC Davis Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Brittany Barreto with Jack Gill

Ignite is an unique occasion to connect with brilliant and successful entrepreneurs. As a young fresh graduate standing at the crossroads, I value the opportunity to reflect upon how to translate passion and mission into purposes and accomplishments. Both the speakers and my fellow participants generously provided constructive and hands-on suggestions. Through the connections and lectures, I built a clear vision on how to develop a career in business based on my passion for healthcare and informatics. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.