The first time I talked to Christiaan, the coordinator of the TEC program, he mentioned as one of the features of the fellowship something called TEC Thursdays. I asked him what that meant, and he gave me a decently vague description of a combination of food, speakers and group activity that would excuse us from the office for half a day, every Thursday of the program. Now 8 weeks in, I want to share one of the best days I have had this summer: a TEC Thursday.
My alarm went off. I thought simultaneously “Why did I set this alarm?” and “Ughhh.” Then I remembered that today was the day; 6 weeks in with 0 blog posts completed, today was the day to, in the words of Peter Thiel, go from 0 to 1. Spent the next few hours writing, hit submit, and headed to the True office.
Work. Opened my laptop and started working on my project for about.me. Working in the True office is one of the coolest places I have found to work in the city, second only to our regular about.me office in Mission. Between the coffee machine, snacks and always-welcoming Amy, it is just a great place to be.
Meeting. One of my favorite parts of this program is how willing the True team is to help, and this morning I got the chance to meet with Om Malik (@om). With over 1.5 million Twitter followers, 20+ years as a journalist, and a strong affinity for coffee, Om found time to meet with me, and in the course of our chat across a coffee table in the blazing sun, gave me some very timely advice. He told me: the fastest way to find your path is to look back, identify the 6-8 month cycles in your life, and think hard about why those occur. Once you can figure that out, chase it. It is not easy, it is not fast, but it is essential. At this point in my life, to be able to pinpoint those areas of passion and craft my plan to pursue them is a huge advantage.
Lunch with the whole crew. Every Thursday all of the fellows come to True for an afternoon full of food, camaraderie and speakers. The good food and ice cream (thanks Will) prepared everyone for the afternoon of speakers ahead. And by prepared, I mean prepared with at least one coffee in hand to avoid the impending food coma.
“The Making of an IPO.” I study Computer Science and Finance, so getting to hear about the process from venture investment to IPO from someone who has been through the process 5 times is surreal to me. We learned about the entire process: who the players are, what the timeline looks like, why lawyers lick their chops at the chance to be a part, what forms are required, what rules and regulations to abide, and still afterwards it felt like we had just scratched the surface.
“Bitcoin 101.” Some would think that by studying Computer Science, a student would understand most technical things. Code is code right? Well I quickly came to understand how different Bitcoin truly is. The protocol is remarkable; powerful enough to replace the antiquated ownership system of paper deeds and titles, nimble enough to be spent anywhere around the world with a WiFi signal, and simple enough to secure billions of dollars using only two 64 character strings, one of which is publically available. While a one hour presentation did not make me an expert, it did infuse me with the desire to learn more.
“Crowdfunding a Story.” Entrepreneurship comes with many hills and valleys, and hearing candidly about someone’s journey through the process can simultaneously inspire awe and fear. I know that I want to be an entrepreneur, and stories like these give me a glimpse of the battles at the front lines. All of those victories and defeats, the daily decisions from which crowdfunding website to use to which manufacturing plant to choose, can make or break your entire company. These stories are some of the many things that excite me, and one of the many reasons I feel that I am in the right place.
“Going to jail.” Alcatraz, that is. Our group tried to book tickets to visit “The Rock” a month into the program, only to find them booked solid for the next three months. Little did we know, True had beat us to the punch. The ferry ride was beautiful, there and back it provided entirely different views of San Francisco, one of a bustling city in rush hour and the other of a skyline illuminated by those burning the midnight oil. When we were not politely bothering other tourists to take every possible combination of a 14 person group picture, we had a chance to take in the incredible view. The prison itself was no less impressive; hearing the history of inmates, riots, and prison breaks, seeing the grenade blast marks forever etched in the stone floor, and feeling the cold, relentless wind blowing across the small island. It left me with a daunting feeling of what it must have been like out on that rock in the bay and happy to (hopefully) never find out.
Dinner time. We got off the ferry and walked almost immediately into a nearby restaurant. With a group of 15 people stretched around a huge table, conversations cutting across, a hilarious waiter who happened to be a successful country farmer, and some of the best food I have had in SF, it was a great end to a long day.
If not yet made obvious by the consistently enthusiastic tone throughout my summary, I enjoyed this day immensely. Not every day this summer has been this jam-packed – nor started with a 5:30am alarm – but it is indicative of the experience I have had here: a dense amalgamation of unique experiences. So in response to my original question of “What is TEC Thursday?” the answer Christiaan gave me was as accurate as it could have been. It varies. But a blog post, partner meeting, IPO lesson, bitcoin lesson, entrepreneurial lesson, Alcatraz trip and group dinner later, I would describe it simply as one of the best days of the summer.