Students presented their final projects to Mainsail Partners before heading to IDEO, a cutting-edge design and innovation consulting firm, to learn more about design thinking.

Today was one heck of a whirlwind for us #SVTommies.

After an incredibly long day yesterday of perfecting our presentations and stories, this morning we walked bleary eyed into our white cargo van (which Kate deemed the “Fun Bus”) and set off to present the research we collected and developed over the course of this j-term, to Nicole Naidoo and Ryan Kruizenga at Mainsail Partners. Nicole Naidoo is an associate at MainSail who is responsible for sourcing and executing new investments and Ryan Kruizenga, a Schulze School alumnus, is the vice president there. It is an understatement to say that in the land of Silicon Valley, we were presenting to giants.

Slightly nervous, yet well trained by Anna Love-Michelson from Stoked and our very own Dr. Johnson, we were ready to present. Presentations as a whole went fantastic. Everyone brought their “A-Game.” Naidoo and Kruizenga had very insightful comments for everyone. Each team received excellent and thought provoking advice and recommendations. The huge sigh of relief for all of the students was that no one was laughed out of the room or told to give up on their project. Not that either Naidoo or Kruizenga would have laughed at us, but being given the chance to dream and told to keep sculpting that dream is not advice you receive every day.

After our presentations at MainSail, we were whisked off to IDEO in Palo Alto where we were shown around by Dana Cho, a partner there. Cho discussed the design thinking process that takes place at IDEO as well as a variety of their projects. We also met Vinh Pho, an industrial designer at IDEO who was kind enough to answer a variety of our questions including some general ones about his past and current projects. Schulze School alumnus, Mason Thelen ’04, who arranged for us to meet Pho and tour IDEO was there as well. Tommies are some well-connected people!

After our visit at IDEO, we drove through the beautiful foothills of California at dusk, back into San Francisco for a dinner of great food and even better conversation with some Schulze School alumni, including Thelen (CEO of Ellicit); Kamal Mohammad ’11, LJ Stead ’11, and Eric Ploeger ’11 (all co-founders of Juice Cold Pressed); Ben Anderson ’05 and BreAnna Fisher ‘13 (AutoMotion). Overall, it was a fantastically crazy day, where we were all given hope to dream and reach for our futures.

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About The Author

Clark Gregor has more than a decade of business marketing, communication and public relations experience, primarily in higher education, with shorter stints in corporate public relations and the federal government. At the University of St. Thomas he manages communications at the Opus College of Business and edits the university blog for graduate business programs, Opus Magnum along with other marketing efforts.

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