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Trek to New York lets students learn about startups and innovations

April 19, 2016

Derick Maggard (fourth from right) leads students on an entrepreneur trek to New York in April 2015. The Brooklyn Bridge is in the background.
Derick Maggard (fourth from right) led students on an entrepreneur trek to New York in April 2015. The Brooklyn Bridge is in the background.

Eighteen students, 78 hours, one fast and furious trip to the Big Apple.

That’s what awaits the Virginia Tech students going on the latest “entrepreneur trek” on Monday, April 25.

In New York City, they will visit companies, meet successful entrepreneurs and tour the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, April 26, when President Tim Sands, Pamplin College of Business Dean Robert Sumichrast, advisory board members of the Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and other alumni ring the closing bell.

The following evening, the students will attend the Hokies on Wall Street reception, where they will get an opportunity to meet and network with more than 200 alumni living and working in the New York area.

The students include majors in marketing, finance, business information technology, computer science, electrical engineering, and industrial design.

They are members of the Innovate living-learning community, Entrepreneur Club, and other student groups such as BASIS (which manages 1 percent of Virginia Tech’s endowment through bond and securities investing), PRISM (which manages Pamplin’s social media channels), and Collegiate Women in Business.

Derick Maggard, executive director of the Apex Systems Center, will lead the trip and travel with the students. They will leave Blacksburg in two vans at 1 p.m. and return three days later at about 7 p.m.

“It will be a fast and furious trip,” he says.

The companies on their schedule are ESPN; Google; venture capital firm Venrock; youth media company Vice; Betaworks, an Internet start-up studio; General Assembly, a global educational company; and Centre for Social Innovation, which provides a co-working space and community for individuals and organizations with a social mission.

“I hope to gain insight about what these companies do, which will help me decide my major within Pamplin and, ultimately, my career,” says freshman Annie Karta of Germantown, Maryland, who is studying business and Spanish.

Karta, the incoming president of the Innovate living-learning community, said she would like the experience to enhance her leadership abilities. “I’m also excited to connect with Virginia Tech alumni at the great companies on our agenda, and that I can start building this professional network as a freshman.”

David Evans of Groton, Massachusetts, a junior in electrical engineering, said he is optimistic the trek will offer insights into the life of a startup.

“I'm currently founding my own company called Yard Mapper,” Evan says. “We track semi-truck trailers in distribution center trailer yards. While starting this business, I am constantly looking for connections and different perspectives to help us take our idea to the next level. By going to New York, I hope to meet other startups and learn from their founders.”

It will be the first entrepreneur trek for finance senior Christine Smith of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Smith, who serves as BASIS co-CEO, has a job lined up as a sales and trading analyst with RBC Capital Markets in Manhattan when she graduates in May.

Aside from the chance to meet “interesting and motivated people,” Smith says the trek experience will be useful for her own entrepreneurial endeavors. “I would eventually like to start my own company focused on education reform in the U.S.”

These kinds of plans are among the reasons for the treks. “We organize these entrepreneur treks every semester to technology and innovation hotbeds around the nation,” Maggard says, “to give students a chance to interact with venture capitalists and other business movers and shakers and learn about different innovative and startup communities.”

He and other center staff have led previous treks to New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

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