“A lot of what I do is get people to try to understand what the potential of entrepreneurship’s all about, what’s special about this part of the world, what’s happening right now, the relevance of what’s happening here to large companies in different places,” Stuart says. “My goal is not to talk them into entrepreneurship; my goal is to get them to think about what they want to do with their lives and to find a professional match between their aspirations, their skills, and their interests. My interest is that they have prosperous, happy, professional lives.”
Heading up the Peninsula in December, the Haas executive trekkers hit Backblaze, a cloud storage venture in San Mateo; Innit, a food-tech enterprise in Atherton; Turn, a Redwood City software startup; and Oration, a healthcare venture in Foster City. In San Francisco, the EMBA candidates visited accommodations game-changer Airbnb and a host of new companies, from data security startup Identify3D, to connected-family venture Life360, to health-tech enterprise MyFitnessPal, to lending startups SoFi and LendUp, and even to Black Rock City LLC, otherwise known as Burning Man.
The students received high-level access at the companies they visited, meeting with founders and CEOs. They attended classes at Google and gaming giant Zynga. And they met Haas EMBA alums whose careers had been significantly influenced by their own Silicon Valley immersion trips.
In part, program administrators aim to dispel some of the mythology around the area’s tech industry, and provide students with a realistic look at the sector, and interesting and enlightening experiences within it. “It’s an understanding that this is something that applies more broadly than you might think about it, which is some 20-year-old kid in a hoodie hacking at his computer,” Breen says.
Haas EMBA students, in the accelerated, 19-month program, do five immersions. The program puts a heavy emphasis on experiential learning because it’s one of the key ways that adults learn, and the immersions allow students to put classroom learning into a real-business context, Breen says. “For EMBAs, given where they are in their careers as well as sort of if you will the accelerated nature of the program, it’s even more important,” Breen says. “Given their experience level they can more rapidly in my opinion translate theory into action. They’ve had more experience doing that. They’re going to get bored with just theory.”