by: David Potter, Co-Founder and CEO of Curu
Silicon Valley is constantly regarded as the ‘Innovation hub of the world’. With so many companies and successful startups headquartered in the area…. and even a TV show, it has become challenging to find someone who is oblivious to the reputation that Silicon Valley holds. For an entrepreneur, Silicon Valley could seem as New York did for immigrants—the land of opportunity. Due to the talent, funding, market reach and a history of performance, Silicon Valley to me seemed like a wonderland. This led me to believe the area was either over-glorified or truly the land of an innovator’s dream. This summer, I flew down there with my team to spend a month exploring the true environment of Silicon Valley.
I am David Potter, a junior Finance & Marketing student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and the CEO of Curu. Curu is an app that maximizes the user’s credit score with minimal effort on their end. This summer Curu was enrolled in the Dingman Center’s Terp Startup Accelerator where we received funding, mentorship, workspace and amazing support from a strong entrepreneurial network. Through Terp Startup we addressed critical areas of business development and set a stage for us to reach our market with a strong product. Following Terp Startup’s Demo Day, our team had our flights booked for the bay area with a mission to execute on Curu’s development to product launch.
In the land of entrepreneurial opportunity, it was hard to ignore that everything was so expensive. We lived in an Airbnb for the month (which was an RV) for $1,700. This was the cheapest deal we could find for our desired location in Redwood City, and considering prices for housing passed $5,000 we got a pretty good deal (although I think our bank accounts would disagree). Oh, and the 9% state tax didn’t help. We utilized the library and coffee shops as our primary workspace, free gym trials for working out and walked to the majority of our destinations. Thankfully our Airbnb was just a 10-minute walk from downtown, but all this goes to say, the area is expensive and planning ahead for travel, rent, food and a workspace is a necessity if you want to give all your focus to your entrepreneurial goals.
Once we mentally got over the hurdle of the expenses that we were going to face, we were greeted with perfect weather and palm trees. As we explored, it was easy to find a supportive and hard working entrepreneurial community. Coffee shops were lively with Macbooks open and nearly everyone wearing college/startup attire. Networking was a breeze as we connected with Apple employees, a General Partner at Greylock Ventures, and Y-Combinator graduates without ever needing to go out of our way. Our AirBnb host was also hosting another entrepreneur in a space near us, who was accepted into an accelerator from Intel. When it comes to the environment, Silicon Valley was incredibly powerful in its network for its concentration of talent, focus on innovation and the open vibe to communicate.
In this new environment, we reached our highest levels of productivity. Operating with purpose, we habitually worked from 8am-10pm without distractions or fatigue (although we did drink a lot of coffee). We placed an emphasis on getting things done and succeeded at doing just that, with no hurdle enduring more than a day. In our month of work, we finished the development of our algorithm to maximize the user’s credit score, began beta testing our service, opened up marketing channels, updated our website and earned credit consulting certifications.
The entrepreneurial ambition and pursuit of innovation is one that Silicon Valley epitomizes. The environment is rich in its resources and definitely is what it has been worked up to be. Although I do agree that an entrepreneur can be successful in several environments and that Silicon Valley may not be right for everyone, I believe the power of the environment has an effect on everyone in the area. Simply the act of moving yourself to a new and ideal environment is that step beyond developing the right mindset; it is surrounding yourself in your dreams, and that had a profound impact on me. I’m a workaholic but the grind felt a lot more natural there, like I was where I should be. If you are an entrepreneur in a position where you can visit or sustain living in the bay area, it is an opportunity I would strongly encourage.
For my team and I, our next steps are to continue to execute on development and maintain our peak momentum throughout the school year. We will soon launch Curu and establish our product-market-fit, which has been a goal long in the making. And although there is that love/hate relationship between school and liberation that many student entrepreneurs have, we value the opportunities in both, and have our eyes set on the upcoming Pitch Dingman Competition!
David Potter is a Finance & Marketing double major at the University of Maryland. In David’s senior year of high school he earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship and spent the following summer working with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Through this summer of self-awareness, David identified entrepreneurship as the vehicle to best channel his ambition and create value. David sees a world where the average person is not controlled by their finances but empowered. Now in his junior year of college, he is a member of the Hinman CEO’s living and learning Entrepreneurship program where he engages with his entrepreneurship focused peers of all majors to innovate and create impact.