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In early 2022, Aalto Ventures Program enabled three students to participate in an intense learning experience in Berkeley, California. The students came back with not only new skills but also with a different way of looking at entrepreneurship. AVP asked them to write about their experience and share some of the most important lessons.

About the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

The Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship Bootcamp was a 4.5-day workshop at UC Berkeley. The program included guest speakers, game-based learning as well as group activities.

Lectures provided insights into the venture ideation process of successful startups in Silicon Valley, pearls of startup wisdom, and insights into most important legal issues, among many other topics surrounding entrepreneurship.

Taking your own ideas to Berkeley

At the bootcamp we had the choice of either joining someone’s idea in their team or recruiting a team for our own idea. I chose to take my startup idea that I already had at Aalto to UC Berkeley, and see how it could improve and potentially change during the course of the program. Before the bootcamp, we had to submit a short description of our idea, which was shared with all the students attending the bootcamp in advance. This way, students were able to familiarize themselves with the ideas that would be pursued at the bootcamp. On the first day, each idea had to be pitched for 1 minute in front of everyone, after which we were given the afternoon to chat with interested participants and recruit a team.

View of California from a car window

This experience in particular was very valuable, as I got to see how pitching your own idea resonates differently with everyone, and how each and every one of us sees different value in an idea. With my dream team recruited, we set out to improve the initial idea and adapt it to succeed in the American market. Throughout the course of the week, we met mentors who helped us advance and pivot, and as the team lead, I had to guide my peers in our decisions and organization.

In the end, I can wholeheartedly recommend attending the bootcamp with your own idea: It gives you the first experience in recruiting, onboarding, and truly leading a team of multifaceted, international, and transdisciplinary students that all bring different viewpoints and thoughts towards the same idea. At times, this is challenging, as it forces you as a team lead to prioritize and make tough decisions. But in the end, being forced to jump into cold water and just try without fearing failure makes you grow much faster in a week than you ever would inside your comfort zone. In the end, you have nothing to lose — you are surrounded by supporting professors, peers, and mentors, who are there to help you succeed and learn along the way.

Being forced to jump into cold water and just try without fearing failure makes you grow much faster in a week than you ever would inside your comfort zone.

Lessons from the bootcamp

The bootcamp was an excellent opportunity to be exposed to a different teaching and learning approach. Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship is well-known for a game-based pedagogy framework that enables engineers to be more entrepreneurial. Besides working on the startup idea, we got to play different games with our team. Each team had to share their learnings in a debriefing session. Although we had played the marshmallow challenge and the value-exchange game before, the debrief helped us understand why we were doing it. Spending time with over 100 students from all over the world, we experience various motivations for entrepreneurship, communication culture, and teamwork style. Moreover, sharing what we learned among our AVP group compounded our learning outcome.

View of Golden Gate bridge

The bootcamp also emphasized the importance of teamwork. We had to support each other in the team to identify the big need and how we could make a profit. Many of us were surprised at how far the idea and business model had evolved from the first day. Also, Berkeley has a great entrepreneurial ecosystem. The university has a strong alumni network and grant programs, especially student-run startups. At the bootcamp, founders and investors from the community openly shared their stories of success and failures throughout their journey. We learned that resilience is crucial for building your own business. What we experienced here was just the beginning of a startup journey. Nonetheless, the bootcamp provided a great introduction to starting a company.

The bootcamp provided a great introduction to starting a company.

Shifts in mindset

Spending a week in the world’s perhaps greatest entrepreneurship hub made us see things differently. The world looks bigger now, and taking risks seems less daunting. Entrepreneurship doesn’t seem as intimidating as before, as the failure mindset in the US is so different, and people tend to just give it a try — why couldn’t we as well?

Another thing that is different in the US is that people seem to be more focused on money than making an impact, whereas we look a lot at the social and environmental value in Europe. It’s great to live in a society that is less driven by making money, but we can also learn from a more profit-oriented perspective. Focusing on making something work financially will not necessarily lead to a venture that disregards the value created for society and the environment, but it helps keep us realistic since, at end of the day, finances need to be solid for a company to stay alive and keep making that positive impact.

Overall, entrepreneurship seems like a more appealing career path after the bootcamp. With new skills and a new vision, there seem to be plenty of new opportunities to pursue.