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Fridays from the Frontline: Seven Weeks in Silicon Valley

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In this edition from Fridays from the Frontline, Notre Dame Mendoza MBA student, Gautier Tonongbe, recounts the lessons he learned from his trip to Silicon Valley.

Seven Weeks in Silicon Valley: A Transformational Journey!

By: Gautier Tonongbe, Notre Dame Mendoza MBA Class of 2024

Immersing myself in classes led by Notre Dame professors Sarv Devaraj, Jan Poczobutt, Rebecca Tower and Nick Berente has been an unparalleled experience. These weeks have redefined my approach to innovation and entrepreneurship.

In this short span, I’ve delved deep into discussions with entrepreneurs, product managers and engineers from both tech giants and startups, and engaged with forward-thinking VC firms. It’s crystal clear: This place is a hotbed of innovation! The dynamic events and networking opportunities here are second to none. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend exploring the possibilities within Cerebral Valley.

Here are some key takeaways from what I’ve learned:

Find the bullseye: Leverage hard data analysis, both internal and external, to pinpoint high-potential niches, even if they seem counterintuitive. Ground your decisions in evidence, not assumptions.

Seize the window: Enter markets before the curve by anticipating technological, regulatory, and demographic shifts. Be vigilant for triggers (emerging technologies, changing regulations, or generation shifts) that create demand for new solutions.

Embrace failure: The entrepreneurial path is paved with both triumphs and setbacks. View these challenges as opportunities to learn and refine your approach. Don’t fear pivoting and adapting based on your experiences.

Start with the end: An unconventional but powerful approach – write the press release for your idea first. This forces you to envision the ultimate impact and paves the way for a successful roadmap.

Test and iterate: Rapidly design and test your ideas to gather crucial feedback and iterate quickly. A structured approach to testing and evaluation ensures you’re learning fast and adapting to market demands.

Invest in relationships: The bond between co-founders is a powerful force that can propel your venture forward. Nurture a strong and supportive relationship to unlock the full potential of your team.

‍Live on the edge: Entrepreneurship thrives on the edge, that space between success and failure. Embrace calculated risks, push boundaries, and maintain a positive, resilient attitude to navigate the uncertainties inherent in this journey.

These past seven weeks have been truly transformative, sparking a deep passion for innovation within me. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the University of Notre Dame – Mendoza College of Business, particularly Ben Wilson, associate director of experiential learning, and Joe Sweeney, academic director of the Notre Dame MBA, for providing this incredible opportunity to learn from industry leaders. I’m eagerly looking forward to leveraging these invaluable lessons to create something of significance and lasting impact.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.