#SVtommies at Mainsail Partners

A group of entrepreneurship students are in Silicon Valley this J-term and they'll start in the same place they'll finish: Mainsail Partners, a growth equity firm where Schulze School alumnus Ryan Kruizenga works. They'll learn what it takes to grow a company on the West Coast. Students also spent time randomly interviewing local resident to get feedback for projects they're working on. Completed projects will be presented to Mainsail Partners at the conclusion of the trip.

When given the opportunity to write the first blog post of the trip, I experienced a bit of mixed emotions. At first I was worried and felt a lot of pressure; I mean what was I going to write? I have to write a whole post on one day! However, at the end of the day as I sat down to write, the issue changed from, “What am I going to write?” to, “What will I have to leave out?” Let’s dive in.

After some good morning conversation we jumped in our “entrepreneurial shuttle” and were off to Mainsail Partners, a very important site visit for us all. As we arrived at the building we realized that this was the real deal. We entered the massive glass doors then walked to the second row of elevators, which took us to the 30th floor. The conference room had massive windows and an amazing view. The foggy and expansive skyline made us feel like we were in a movie. We had been told that the Golden Gate Bridge was in the distance however it wasn’t visible at the time.

Ryan Kruizenga, the VP of Mainsail, who happens to be an elite alumnus of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at St. Thomas, gave a presentation on what Mainsail looks for in a company it invests in. After hearing about various valuation methods Mainsail uses we had some intense Q&A touching on everything from ideal sustainable advantages to supreme bootstrapping techniques. As Ryan spoke the fog began to clear, not only in our minds, but also from the bay, revealing both the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge. It was an impactful morning that left us feeling optimistic about the rest of our time here.

Overall, the experience and knowledge gained was priceless. Feeling humbled but still excited, we left Mainsail and headed to the Ferry building to do some empathy interviews for our projects we’re working on.

As the teams scattered, the learning began. There were interviews being conducted everywhere you looked. Through the information we gather, we discovered the root of peoples’ problems and why our proposed solutions do or do not create a desirable business.

Let me be clear, this is just the beginning. Interviews are not a step, but a tool for businesses that can be used wherever and whenever to better gain consumer perspective. We all got some great responses, and more importantly stories, so we headed back to unpack and dive into our findings. Time to relax and prepare for an equally informative and exciting day tomorrow. Stay tuned!