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Student innovators tour Silicon Valley 

22 September 2022

Budding entrepreneurs immersed themselves in start-up culture and took home valuable learnings from the experience. 

A group of 13 University of Auckland students recently enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime to have an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley, where they met with world-leading innovators and entrepreneurs.  

The week-long tour was part of the Vanguard programme developed by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The programme took many months to design and facilitate, leveraging the Kea business network, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and alumni and friends of the University. 

High-achieving entrepreneurial students – including selected Velocity $100K Challenge winners, Velocity student team members and others – were invited to take part in the trip, which had a profound impact for their future ambitions. 

Sione Roberts, a fourth-year student studying a conjoint Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Music degree, came away from the experience with a “new-found belief” in himself. 

“From learning how each CEO and business owner found their feet in the New Zealand and American market, I realised that creating a company is absolutely possible,” he says.  

Fellow Vanguard participant Michael Shaimerden also found the programme deeply rewarding.  

“I’ve already begun making changes in my life as a result of re-evaluation and a deeper understanding of the mindset in the US ecosystem, reflecting on what doesn’t work in the US and the advantages New Zealand has when it comes to building a more sustainable world,” he says. 

The trip was made possible thanks to the financial support of entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Falkenstein, who is passionate about supporting business education and the next generation of entrepreneurs.  

“Tony’s generosity made a life changing experience possible for the students and it is an experience they will always remember”, says CIE Director Darsel Keane.“They have had access to industry makers and shakers that many New Zealand business leaders would love to spend time with.” 

Highlights of the week included being hosted at Allbirds and spending an hour with CEO Tim Brown, hearing from CIE alumnus Bowen Pan about his experiences working at Facebook and digital payment firm Stripe, and touring Google’s research and innovation centre, X – the Moonshot Factory 

Through their trip, Vanguard participants were able to reflect on what they can learn from the global experience, as well as what the rest of the world can learn from our Kiwi ingenuity and values. The students have now taken a pledge to pay their experience forward and use the knowledge and contacts they gained from the trip to support others.  

“The programme brought me to the realisation that Aotearoa has a thriving business eco-system and that success is not necessarily measured by scale or capital, it’s measured by happiness and satisfaction,” says Sione. 

For Michael, the experience highlighted the importance of having a values-led business. 

“It’s about focusing on opportunities rather than money and choosing the option that will open up more doors.” 

Read the full Vanguard programme itinerary 

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

Students at Google Salesforce Park with alumnus Manu Sharma

University of Auckland wins international award for entrepreneurship education

Students at Google Salesforce Park with alumnus Manu Sharma

22 September 2022

Budding entrepreneurs immersed themselves in start-up culture and took home valuable learnings from the experience. 

A group of 13 University of Auckland students recently enjoyed the opportunity of a lifetime to have an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley, where they met with world-leading innovators and entrepreneurs.  

The week-long tour was part of the Vanguard programme developed by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The programme took many months to design and facilitate, leveraging the Kea business network, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and alumni and friends of the University. 

High-achieving entrepreneurial students – including selected Velocity $100K Challenge winners, Velocity student team members and others – were invited to take part in the trip, which had a profound impact for their future ambitions. 

Sione Roberts, a fourth-year student studying a conjoint Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Music degree, came away from the experience with a “new-found belief” in himself. 

“From learning how each CEO and business owner found their feet in the New Zealand and American market, I realised that creating a company is absolutely possible,” he says.  

Fellow Vanguard participant Michael Shaimerden also found the programme deeply rewarding.  

“I’ve already begun making changes in my life as a result of re-evaluation and a deeper understanding of the mindset in the US ecosystem, reflecting on what doesn’t work in the US and the advantages New Zealand has when it comes to building a more sustainable world,” he says. 

The trip was made possible thanks to the financial support of entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Falkenstein, who is passionate about supporting business education and the next generation of entrepreneurs.  

“Tony’s generosity made a life changing experience possible for the students and it is an experience they will always remember”, says CIE Director Darsel Keane.“They have had access to industry makers and shakers that many New Zealand business leaders would love to spend time with.” 

Highlights of the week included being hosted at Allbirds and spending an hour with CEO Tim Brown, hearing from CIE alumnus Bowen Pan about his experiences working at Facebook and digital payment firm Stripe, and touring Google’s research and innovation centre, X – the Moonshot Factory 

Through their trip, Vanguard participants were able to reflect on what they can learn from the global experience, as well as what the rest of the world can learn from our Kiwi ingenuity and values. The students have now taken a pledge to pay their experience forward and use the knowledge and contacts they gained from the trip to support others.  

“The programme brought me to the realisation that Aotearoa has a thriving business eco-system and that success is not necessarily measured by scale or capital, it’s measured by happiness and satisfaction,” says Sione. 

For Michael, the experience highlighted the importance of having a values-led business. 

“It’s about focusing on opportunities rather than money and choosing the option that will open up more doors.” 

Read the full Vanguard programme itinerary 


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