The SVB Trek: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Silicon Valley

Priya Rajan, Director of Early Stage Banking and Leader of University Engagement Strategy at Silicon Valley Bank

So, what does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur? Two ingredients at the top are connections and guts. With that in mind, three years ago Silicon Valley Bank launched The SVB Trek.

We are inspired daily by the ingenuity and passion of the entrepreneurs and investors we work with at SVB. And by banking half of U.S. venture capital-backed companies and a growing global clientele, we gain killer insights early on. To champion the next generation of innovators, we open our doors each year to connect ambitious, entrepreneurially minded college students with creative minds, world-class investors and industry leaders. During the four-day Trek, we dive headlong into the innovation ecosystem through an immersive learning experience featuring salon-style events, interviews with industry luminaries and hands-on workshops, plus iconic tours throughout San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

Gaining Early Access to a Uniquely Diverse Network

SVB and our partners believe when you’re solving the world’s most difficult problems, access to forward-thinking problem solvers is critical. So The Trek aims to be an opportunity for students from across the world to build a network of peers and advisors, while gaining unique insights to propel them to the next stage of their career development.

Jake Mendel’s career path was transformed after joining the 2016 Trek class a year ago. An Ohio State MBA student with two startups under his belt, Jake was toying with a career in investment banking. But then he did a gut-check. Today, he and fellow Trek alum Zeenia Kaul have raised enough capital to launch a company focused on nutriceutical supplements for cancer patients in remission. Their partnership took root at The Trek.

Meet the SVB Trek Class of 2017

The Trek selection process is rigorous, and we work side by side with leading universities to find a small group of students each year who reflect diverse backgrounds, academic experiences and career pursuits.

The trailblazers in the Trek Class of 2017 have already achieved impressive feats. They include: the inventor of gloves that translate sign language to English; the co-founder of an app that measures air quality to determine when to stay inside; a developer of an educational program to help autistic students communicate; a developer of an alternative source of protein in the form of crickets, the CEO of a platform to mobilize individuals to invest collaboratively and the developer of a “lawyer” bot that appeals parking tickets for free.

Our “guides” at The Trek are in the trenches and have lived through the ups and downs of startup life. We encourage these technology leaders to candidly recount their startup journey, including their failures.

Some of the guides for this year’s Trek include Peter Boyce II, Co-Founder of Rough Draft Ventures and VC at General Catalyst, Jess Lee, Partner at Sequoia Capital, Mike Maples, Jr., Partner at Floodgate, and Clara Shih, Co-Founder and CEO of Hearsay Social.

Here are the 2017 Trek student participants:

Eric Blondeel, Alexander Brewster, Ben Brook, Joshua Browder, Morgan Cheatham (left to right)

Eric Blondeel
* Co-Founder/CTO ExVivo, a Waterloo-based startup building next generation medical diagnostic tools
* PhD, Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo

Alexander Brewster
* Desai Accelerator participant
* BS, Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan

Ben Brook
* Founder, Stealth startup
* BS, Computer Science, Harvard University

Joshua Browder
* Founder, DoNotPay, “the world’s first robot lawyer”
* BS, Computer Science, Stanford University

Morgan Cheatham
* CEO of Lasso Investing, a platform targeted toward Gen-Z and millennial investors by mobilizing individuals to invest collaboratively and share investing strategies with others in their professional and social networks
* BS, Computer Science, Brown University

Jaclyn Daily, Fernanda Delgado Rumayor, Vruti Desai, John Draikiwicz, Kaitlyn Gayvert (left to right)

Jaclyn Daily
* Intern, Innovation Park Notre Dame
* BS, Finance, University of Notre Dame

Fernanda Delgado Rumayor
* Co-Founder, Sustainable Energy Startup
* BS, Sustainable Development Engineering, Tecnológico de Monterrey

Vruti Desai
* Founder, Expression for Autism, educational program to help students with autism improve communication skills, build confidence, and spur creativity
* BS, Business Administration, University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

John Draikiwicz
* Engineering and Kessler Fellow at Starsky Robotics
* BS, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Cornell University

Kaitlyn Gayvert
* PhD, Computational Medicine, Cornell University
* Named to Forbes’ 2016 30 under 30 List

Peter Gebhard, Jenny Liu, April Lovelady, Nathaniel Medina, Charlie Maynard (left to right)

Peter Gebhard
* Senior Embedded Systems Research Programmer at PRECISE research center
* MS, Embedded Systems, University of Pennsylvania

Jenny Liu
* Finance whiz and startup consultant
* MS, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

April Lovelady
* Biomedical Engineering Post Doctoral & Entrepreneurial Lead, Texas A&M University

Nathaniel Medina
* Co-Founder, Impulse Labs — “a quick way to find someone to do something with”
* BS, Business Administration, University of California, Berkeley

Charlie Maynard
* Co-Founder, BookMyShow Indonesia, a cinema and event ticketing e-commerce platform
* MBA, Stanford University, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Zuhayeer Musa, Thomas Pryor, Reem Qawasmi, Éire Smith, Kyle Walden (left to right)

Zuhayeer Musa
* Co-Founder, Bash, a simple way to arrange activities with friends
* BS, Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley

Thomas Pryor
* Inventor, Gloves which translate sign language to English (hand gesture interpretation apparatus for translating hand gestures)
* BS, Aerospace Engineering, University of Washington

Reem Qawasmi
* Ibtikar Fund, an investment fund focused on Palestinian startups
* MBA, Texas A&M University, Mays Business School

Éire Smith
* Co-Founder, Small Farms, an alternative source of protein in the form of crickets.
* BS, Business & Economics, Trinity College, Dublin

Kyle Walden
* Co-Founder, KrafftIT/INHALE, an app to allow you to learn about the air around you and help you organize your day based on when it’s best for you to be outside
* BS, Business, University of Southern California

Lynn Wang, Daniel Wu, Venkata Yelleswarapu, Yidan Zhang, Kimberli Zhong (left to right)

Lynn Wang
* Founder, Xbootcamp
* MBA, Harvard University, Harvard Business School

Daniel Wu
* Co-Founder, Welcome Home, a real estate startup
* JD/PhD student, Harvard University, Harvard Law School

Venkata Yelleswarapu
* Fellow at the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI)
* PhD, Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania

Yidan Zhang
* Co-founder, Delivice, Ann Arbor’s next day grocery delivery service
* BS, Computer Science, University of Michigan

Kimberli Zhong
* Student Partner at Rough Draft Ventures, powered by General Catalyst
* KPCB Engineering Fellow
* BS, Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

To learn more about The Trek, please contact us at and take a look at our ViewFind on last year’s Trek experience here.