By Sidhart Krishnamurthi, grade 12
The Harker business and entrepreneurship department held its inaugural Harker BEcon2014. This business, economics and entrepreneurship conference introduced Harker students, non-Harker students and the Harker community at large to professionals in a variety of fields, including sales, venture capital and economics. The program comprised keynotes and roundtables in business and economics, workshops taught by professionals, student business venture competitions and student presentations.
The daylong event began with a poster session, in which students presented projects they developed during an entrepreneurship course taught by Juston Glass, director of the B.E. department. The adult attendees were very interested in and impressed by the facets of the projects, which ranged from business plans for innovative products to marketing proposals for companies.
Debbie Tranowski, parent of Logan Drazovich, grade 11, commented, “I want to thank you and the students for organizing a very interesting BEcon inaugural event yesterday. Logan, as well as my husband and I, enjoyed the entire event. It was very well organized. We are lucky to have access to so much parent talent within the Harker community. I hope this will be one of many such events in the future.”
Following student presentations, Stanford professor Ran Abramitzky gave a keynote about the economics of education and its effect on decision‐making in secondary education. The auditorium was filled with students eager to learn more about economics and its application to real-life scenarios. Claudia Medina, parent of Adriano Hernandez, grade 9, wrote to the team, “Noya Abramitzky, professor Ran Abramitzky’s wife, stopped by my office [at Stanford University] and told me that Ran was very impressed by the event, the level of service and the Harker school. He told her the event was organized and delivered at ‘Stanford level.’ I wanted to share this kudos with you and your team of students, who did such a wonderful job.”
Students then attended the economics roundtable, sHarker Tank or the resume/interview workshop. The economics roundtable was a Q&A with San Jose State University economics professor Tom Means; Lawrence Wu, president of NERA Economic Consulting; and Jordan Goheen, senior examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank. By far the biggest hit at the conference, sHarker Tank, based on the popular TV show Shark Tank, was designed to give students a mock opportunity to pitch their business ideas to authentic venture capitalists. The highest scoring participants out of 10 prequalified teams advanced to the second round, which involved a sales pitch of an undisclosed product. Neil Movva, grade 12, won the competition with his product, Pathfinder, which aids the blind by utilizing an infrared laser to provide feedback while out in public. Movva was awarded an exclusive mentor luncheon with successful entrepreneur Ashok Krishnamurthi, who participated in the conference. Coming in second place was Yash Narayan, grade 5, with BullyWatch, a product that helps deal with bullying in schools. Third place was given to the team of Vineet Kosaraju, grade 11, Andrew Jin, grade 12, and Rishabh Jain, grade 12, who created a product called InMaps to help large facilities cater to their guests by providing interactive maps of the interiors of their buildings. During the resume/interview workshop, successful businessmen and businesswomen involved in the CareerConnect mentorship and professionalism programs offered demonstrations on powerful interviews and resumes.
“The event was very well-organized and the speakers were great. I personally enjoyed the sHarker Tank the most,” Medina added.
A key aspect of the conference was the mentoring lunch. Attendees enjoyed a wonderful lunch with some of Silicon Valley’s finest. This was a great opportunity for attendees to hear inspirational stories of both success and failure from business professionals.
After lunch, there was a business roundtable with Ashok Krishnamurthi, co-founder of Xsigo Systems and Juniper Networks; Sanjay Sharma, CEO of Roambee Corp.; and Angie Krackeler, program manager at IBM. The participants discussed their paths to success, as well as their points of view on controversial topics in business today. In addition, students participated in economics games including Golden Balls, in which participants engaged in a battle of wits to develop game-theory strategies and defeat opponents, akin to a popular British game show by the same name. Also, students challenged their economics knowledge in a fun and interactive competition to determine the economic king on campus. The conference also featured a Startup 101 workshop, where Pradeep Aswani, founder of Securematics, discussed what it takes to launch a startup; a personal finance workshop, where Amanda Mathias, a certified financial planner and enrolled agent, discussed wealth management; and a sales workshop featuring Freddie Engineer, a regional sales manager for a large company, who taught the most effective methods to move the product from the seller to the consumer.
Jeremy King, CTO of global e-commerce for WalmartLabs, gave the final keynote. He has led the engineering and product aspects as well as the Web operation teams charged with developing Walmart Labs’ online business on a global scale. He talked about his job and his path to becoming an executive at one of the biggest companies on the planet.
Overall, the conference was a success, with nearly 200 attendees, and inspiring speakers and competitions. The BEcon2014 team looks forward to continuing the tradition and making annual improvements.