At the Technology Management Program’s (TMP) final Distinguished Speaker Series of the quarter, Marc Randolph, entrepreneur, Angel investor and co-founder of Netflix, spoke at Embarcadero Hall to a packed auditorium of University of California, Santa Barbara students.
TMP lecturer Dr. Ken Sterling hosted the event and is to thank for bringing Randolph to UCSB through his work as senior vice president and chief marketing director at BigSpeak, a local speakers bureau.
While the topic at the TMP Speaker Series was business, startups and entrepreneurship, the discussion was both accessible and motivational to students from all majors. Randolph spoke candidly about his personal experiences as an entrepreneur, investor and mentor, as well as the work that went into starting Netflix. He stressed three tools that every entrepreneur should possess: a tolerance for risk, an idea and confidence.
According to Randolph, the idea does not have to be big or even original. “I think people are too choked up on their big ideas, and the lifting is too heavy … so I am always pushing people to think small,” he said. “One of the skills of picking out a good idea is not just how it will fit in the market and the technology, but is it appropriate to the entrepreneur?”
What an idea should be, though, is personal and relative to the entrepreneur. He stated that entrepreneurs should have some personal experience, interest and above all some skill in the problem that they are trying to take on.
Finally, Randolph says, it is important for all university students — regardless of their career goals — to understand that, “whatever you decide you want to do, you need to learn the language. It’s not that you need to learn what to say but how to say it.” This allows them to not only to establish credibility, but also be able to communicate and collaborate with the group they are working with.
Randolph’s third take-away point was about confidence. “For example,” he said, “I think that anybody who wants to work in tech should absolutely learn programming language. Not because they are going to program but because everything is about understanding how difficult one thing is for the other. How to set up reasonable time tables? How to establish credibility with the technical team? You should learn accounting skills for the same reason, even if you’re not going to work in finance. Because so much of it involves how money moves around.”
It is a motivating message to future entrepreneurs and one that also reflects TMP’s diverse student body. TMP is not just for “techies” or engineering majors, but is open to UCSB students from all majors. Dr. Ken Sterling noted that “40 percent of TMP students come out of the school of engineering, and the other 60 percent come from other schools on campus.”
When asked if incoming TMP students should have any prior knowledge of business, technology or entrepreneurship, Sterling unequivocally said, “No. We provide very practical, applicable tools to understand business … it’s almost like the GE’s of business.” Students at the undergraduate level are not expected to have this knowledge before entering into the program.
According to Dr. Sterling, “TMP was created with the intention to provide students with knowledge and experience in marketing, finance and leadership,” skills that may not be available through their major’s university coursework.
The program also provides students with networking and mentorship opportunities, as well as opportunities to practice interview and sales pitch skills. This is all done through lectures from TMP faculty (who are all local Santa Barbara businessmen and women), the New Venture competition and events like the Distinguished Speaker Series.
“The Speaker Series is a great way to expose students to the broad ideas and things that they didn’t know about, so it’s great when we bring in people like Marc [Randolph], who can share their story, because it gives the students a look under the hood of what really happens in business,” Dr. Sterling explained.
As an R1 research institute, the University encourages and fosters new ideas from its students in all departments. Students are not required to have a specific business idea prior to entering the Technology Management Program. If they do, the program can help them take that idea from the classroom to the business world by providing marketing, finance, networking and leadership skills.
TMP students may also choose to participate in the New Venture competition in the spring, where they have the opportunity to create a business model with a group and later pitch their model to representatives from local businesses.
The TMP Speaker Series will begin again during spring quarter. It is open to all UCSB students and admission is free of charge. The New Venture competition fair will begin on Apr. 28 and finals take place on May 19.
This article originally appeared in The Bottom Line newspaper on March 10th, 2016
Tasha Harris is the Content Associate at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau. She graduated with honors and a degree in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She also holds a certificate in Publishing from the Denver Publishing Institute at the University of Denver. Contact her at TashaH@BigSpeak.com