Kai Wesleyan Takes on Silicon Valley [Thursday]

Thursday's reflections are written by: Alex Garcia '17, Amy Zhang '15, Mateusz Burgunder '15, Mia Deng '17. Students visited Box, Machine Zone, and Quid.

Alex’s Reflection [Overview, Quid]

Alex is a member of the class of 2017 from San Diego, CA majoring in Political Economy in the College of East Asian Studies. He's a founding member of WeStudee, and education startup in Hartford, and the Co-President of Kai Entrepreneurship Wesleyan. 

I started the morning off waking up at 6:45 AM in the hopes I’d go for a morning jog. Despite my excitement for the upcoming day, I rolled back into bed. Exhaustion from yesterday’s back-to-back schedule gave me easy excuse for getting some extra shut-eye. I took comfort in the fact that we ran—yes ran—four miles yesterday, dashing from meeting to meeting. 


Initially, I was worried Wednesday would be a tough act to follow. It didn’t take long for those worries to fade away. Today was incredible and overwhelming, another jam packed schedule that brought us to Box, Machine Zone, Quid, and then dinner with a venture capitalist and author of The Entrepreneurial Bible of Venture Capital, a lawyer from Google, and the whole DiNucci family.

Quid was an especially meaningful visit for me. I reunited with CEO Bob Goodson, who I interned for five years ago when Quid was still shifting to its current product of data analytics. Since then, Quid has grown to 45 employees, with big companies like Microsoft and Samsung as clients. Bob shared his excitement for the big problems that are 

now being solved faster and easier than ever before, and also his entrepreneurship journey. From founding a popular Yoga student group at Oxford University to an Oxford equivalent of Kai Entrepreneurship Wesleyan, we learned how a Medieval History Major became a dedicated and involved entrepreneur. One of the career milestones that made the group star-struck was his big role in creating popular restaurant review site Yelp, a site we’ve been using the extensively on the trip to find great local restaurants and cafes.

I’m extremely grateful for all the alumni and friends of Wesleyan that have stepped up to make this trip possible, and I’m looking forward to hearing from even more people in the next few days.

Mateusz Reflection [Machine Zone]

Mateusz Burgunder '15 is only a few months away from graduating with majors in the Molecular Sciences and Mathematical Economics. He is very much interested in improving medical care by helping medical systems adapt more quickly to good innovations. He expects to start medical school next year and continue thinking about entrepreneurship in science and technology.

Shortly after seeing David DiNucci at Box, we are informed by text that Victoria Valenzuela from the gaming company Machine Zone, Inc. has time to meet with us.

Tory is General Counsel of Machine Zone. Although she sometimes jokingly talked about legal issues, she is a visionary at the forefront: she had lots to tell us about the mobile app gaming industry and uses psychology to understand the personal feelings that gamers experience. It’s amazing to know that in the building, Machine Zone employees were building a virtual economy that players around the world are plugged into. What strikes me most about the “Game of War,” their highest grossing game and the third highest grossing mobile game ever, is the sophistication of the language processor. Apparently, this technology can almost instantaneously translate languages in its chat function, which includes gaming-lingo. Ultimately, this enhances the gaming experience for everyone by eliminating any language barriers. It’s hard to imagine a place where this technology wouldn’t be useful.  

From a professional standpoint, Tory gives very clear advice. “Build your own network” and “Do not take relationships for granted” are both phrases she used to emphasize how tight-knit the technological industry can be.  The most important skill she looks for in employees? Their ability to execute tasks and get stuff done. Regardless of how bright or visionary, a successful employee needs to drive any project forward.

Amy’s Reflection [Quid]

Amy Zhang is a senior double majoring in anthropology and environmental studies. Originally from Hong Kong, she's interested in creative ways to get involved with social and political issues, from writing to tech. On campus, she is the co editor-in-chief of Stethoscope Press, Wesleyan's student run publishing press. 

Today was my first real day traveling with the Kai Wesleyan crew, as I only flew into SFO Wednesday night after a long four days of thesis writing. Bleary eyed, I was still super excited to meet with entrepreneurs doing innovative things outside of textbook land. And the California sunshine certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Hearing Bob Goodson from Quid talk about his entrepreneurial journey was extremely fascinating. One of the myths he debunked was the way a brilliant idea comes into being--it’s not just one person’s moment of eureka, it’s a team of fifty people working hard together to make a great product over many iterations. His background in art history and aesthetics has also greatly influenced his company--he told us about the lengths he went to for the perfect “Q” in Quid, reaching out to the legendary S.B. Master for advice on the swash (the squiggly line). Bob’s clearly a visionary with great managerial skills, but also fixates on small and important details—a very inspiring leader to learn from.

Bob stressed the importance of knowledge of history. When the trend forecast of tech companies is at most a couple of decades, it’s essential to understand how they fit in the larger framework of historical and cultural trends that have existed for hundreds and even thousands of years. As a medieval studies major, Bob really seemed to understand how historical connections help us understand what matters to people. He even told us that the majority of workers at Intel, the ones figuring out product design and the ways to innovate for the future, are anthropologists. For me, that really hit home--I study anthropology because the discipline asks for a deep and complex look into people’s social desires. It’s great to know that the time I’ve spent buried in social theory books can be used for “real life” problems, and I’m excited to discover how I can utilize my anthropological perspective for future products and projects.

Mia’s Reflection [Box, Quid]

Mia is a member of the class of 2017 from Beijing, China majoring in Computer Science and Psychology. She is a Kai Fellow and co-teaches the student forum "Innovation Through Design Thinking" 

We saw our first slide today—right in the middle of the offices of Box! A huge yellow slide that connects the first and second floor stands in the very entrance of the company. The company space was huge - the whole second floor was filled with engineers. David DiNucci, who works in customer relations, took us on a tour of the company space. David is widely experienced in the tech scene here - he worked at Google back when it only had less than 100 employees, and witnessed its rapid market growth over the past decade. He’s a very personable guy and gave us some very blunt advice—everyone in Silicon Valley is very intertwined, so during your next job you might run into people who you’ve worked with before far in the past.

It’s truly amazing how Quid combines forefront technology with a great sense of design to benefit businesses. Bob demonstrated how Quid uses data analytics and visualization to help businesses to eliminate time in doing market research. As a test, we typed in ‘wearables’ and then the software generated beautifully designed 

infographics (including multi-colored webs and bar graphs) that displayed some of the most popular themes around ‘wearables’. We also did this for ‘Taylor Swift’.  

Meeting Bob reminded me of why I chose to study at a school like Wesleyan, rather than going to business school. He emphasized the importance of studying anthropology, history, and even art history, to understand how aesthetics develop over time. It made remember to hold strongly about having a strong humanistic foundation for my entrepreneurial journey.