From Employee to Entrepreneur

Woman presenting her ideas to small group.

“If it’s viable, it will grow.”

The natural tension between holding a corporate day job and pursuing individual entrepreneurship has radically shifted as companies increasingly look within their own ranks for the next great idea.

“Big corporations are encouraging their employees to take funding and think like entrepreneurs,” says Alakh Verma, Oracle tech leader, evangelist, business mentor, author, and an entrepreneurship instructor at UCSC Silicon Valley Extension. “That is the culture we’re moving to.”

Verma points to Cisco and Amazon—global giants that have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into venture capital for new ideas. They’ve both launched aggressive initiatives to encourage employees to actively pursue their own great ideas and launch businesses.

“These companies are breaking barriers everywhere and now they’re also funding the entrepreneurship mindset,” he says.

Fostering In-House Innovation

In May, Amazon announced Amazon Flex—a program offering employees $10,000 and three months of their salary to set up their own product delivery service. Cisco’s four-year-old award-winning Innovate Everywhere Challenge is a four-phase, eight-month employee innovation competition that gives teams time and funding to pursue great ideas.

“Employees from all job roles and levels are encouraged to form teams and pitch their innovative ideas for everything from business process improvements to new digital solutions,” writes Alex Goryachev, senior director, Innovation Strategy & Programs, Corporate Strategic Innovation Group in the Cisco Innovation Blog. “Teams with the best ideas are given funding, mentorship and time off from their regular job functions to make their ideas a reality.”

Growing Corporate Venture Capital

It’s one kind of corporate venture capital (CVC) that provides much needed early funding and entrepreneurship support. Crunchbase recently described 2018 as a banner year for corporate venture funding.

The internal programs give employees a minimum payment for a stake in the company, training, support and access to corporate know-how, and the chance to run a business for themselves.

“If it’s viable, it will grow,” Verma says. “The whole idea is that it becomes a reality within the company.”

Launching a Startup Course

This month, Verma is gearing up to help the next generation of entrepreneurs prepare for the growing wave of corporate venture funding with a free, one-hour presentation—Meetup-style—on Monday, June 17, and a new, two-Saturday course, Creating a Tech Startup: A Silicon Valley WorkshopJune 22 and 29.

He hopes to help usher the next great business ideas forward by immersing students into a classroom-based startup culture where he can guide them from inception to market.

“There is a template, a process, tools, and a way to set it up,” he says. “People all come together so you can become successful in your venture.”

Toward the end of the last day of the course, students will have the opportunity to pitch their idea to a panel of venture capitalists and angel funders

About Alakh Verma

ALAKH VERMA, M.S., a pioneer in cloud, social, mobile, Big Data and real-time analytics, has over 20 years’ experience in software technologies. He is the co-author of Creating Business Agility (Wiley 2014) and mentors and supports startups in the San Francisco Bay area. He is also an instructor in our Technology Department and is gearing up to teach a two-Saturday hands-on startup workshop, Creating a Tech Startup: A Silicon Valley WorkshopJune 22 & 29.

Creating a Tech Startup: A Silicon Valley Workshop

2 Saturdays, June 22 & 29
Santa Clara Campus
See course description. Register now.

Idea to Executable Business Plan—A Meetup

June 17, 6–8 p.m.
Santa Clara Campus

To get a taste of Alakh Verma teaching style, join us for a free on-campus Meetup on Monday, June 17, 6–8 p.m. Verma will run through the startup basics and leave a short time for Q&A. Please sign up to let us know you’re coming!

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