Students, alumni hear from a venture-capital legend

From left, Sean O'Connor and Chase McQuillan being mentored by Don Valentine .

From left, Sean O’Connor and Chase McQuillan being mentored by Don Valentine .

During a quieter moment at Fordham’s Second Annual Entrepreneurship Dinner in California’s Silicon Valley, Don Valentine, the founder and CEO of Sequoia Capital, took time to offer up some advice to a young alumnus and a current student.

The moment proved to be inspirational for Sean O’Connor, BS ’12, and Chase McQuillan, BS ’17.

“In a few short minutes, Don proved to be a great teacher and mentor,” said McQuillan, a member of the Fordham Foundry and founder of a startup of his own.

This one-on-one time with Valentine was just one of the benefits from the dinner, held at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park, Calif., on June 17. Jointly sponsored by the Gabelli School of Business and Fordham Law School, the event provided networking opportunities for Fordham graduates and others.

The heft of Fordham’s presence on the West Coast impressed O’Connor.

“I’ve always had a positive view of Fordham, but this was the first time I really witnessed the power in Fordham’s entrepreneurial ecosystem that the Gabelli School of Business is pioneering,” O’Connor said. “There are a number of alumni working across Silicon Valley and Alley. It is great to see the university helping to connect them.”

From left, Don Valentine with Gabelli School Dean Donna Rapaccioli.

From left, Don Valentine with Gabelli School Dean Donna Rapaccioli.

Valentine spoke to the attendees, who included Gabelli School Dean Donna Rapaccioli, about his venture capital experiences in Silicon Valley. He was among the original investors in Apple, Oracle and Cisco, but his company did not rest on those successes. Sequoia has also invested in Uber and Airbnb, as well as a company, WhatsAPP, now worth $21 billion.

Rapaccioli gave an overview of the Gabelli School’s efforts to support young entrepreneurs, touting, for example, the success of Pumpstash. This startup run by Corinne Logan, BS ’17, creates athletic wear for people with Type 1 diabetes who need to carry an insulin pump while involved in sports activities. Logan just waged a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Pumpstash.

The lessons of Valentine and others at the dinner were transformative for McQuillan.

“My biggest takeaway from the evening was that founders of new ventures have to give everything – all of their blood, sweat and tears,” McQuillan said. “We have to be willing to do anything and everything in an ethical way to help our new venture succeed.”

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