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A passion for technology and social entrepreneurship leads to Silicon Valley


13 June 2017

Ana was chosen as one of the top 35 collegiate entrepreneurs and innovators from across the globe
Ana was chosen as one of the top 35 collegiate entrepreneurs and innovators from across the globe

Arts/Commerce student, Ana Musson recently took part in the Stanford ASES Summit, held over 9 - 14 April at Stanford University, California.

The Summit selects the top 35 collegiate entrepreneurs and innovators from across the globe to develop, foster and build on their current and prospective contributions to emerging technologies and disruptive enterprise.

The ASES organisation itself, and ASES Summit, has hosted members such as Elon Musk (founder of Telsa/SpaceX), Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal) and Konstantin Guericke (founder of LinkedIn).

Ana's team - featuring Derek Lieu, Temir Barakov, Hari Ramachandran, Timothy Cui, Ana Musson and Mark Jeyaraj
Ana's team - featuring Derek Lieu, Temir Barakov, Hari Ramachandran, Timothy Cui, Ana Musson and Mark Jeyaraj

Delegates are sourced from across the world, and face an intensely competitive application and interview process in order to be selected. Students are required to showcase their current or prospective contributions to creating disruptive or innovative technologies that provide solutions to current processes, services and/or products.

Tapping into her passion for technology and social entrepreneurship, Ana was able to secure a place in the program and participate in the week-long events of mentoring, design thinking and skills workshops led by leaders in innovative and disruptive enterprises, alongside networking opportunities with like-minded colleagues and Silicon Valley’s top players.

Outside Googleplex, in Mountain View
Outside Googleplex, in Mountain View

In addition to a 7:30am-11:30pm daily schedule of workshops, students were required to form groups and develop a company (in the space of a week) to pitch to a panel of Silicon Valley executives.

Ana was selected due to her experience and demonstrated contributions to social entrepreneurship initiatives - ranging from solving an environmental crises in Vanuatu at the age of 15 (for which she received a citizenship award from the Order of Australia) to creating self-sustaining funding models for charities to become less reliant on external donations.

Delegates from around the world
Delegates from around the world

She currently completes a full time university load alongside a part-time internship at Ernst & Young, whilst volunteering as a mentor for recently arrived refugees and pursuing her own start-up ventures and interests in FinTech and AgriTech.

“Although the schedule was demanding, the Summit was so enriching,” she said.

“It’s the most incredible experience I’ve ever had, and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. We would be up until 4:30 in the morning working on our pitches, and despite the sleep deprivation, we still managed to have a lot of fun.

“Everyone was so proactive, efficient and perceptive - and it made working on tasks not only really enjoyable, but also really insightful.”

Placed on a team with representatives from Russia, New Zealand, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Australia, Ana and her team developed a peer-to-peer item lending app called Lendr, which allows individuals to share one or few-time use items.

“Silicon Valley has this incredible environment of opportunity combined with vision and drive,” she added.

Aerial shot of Stanford's campus
Aerial shot of Stanford's campus

“The most successful people see a problem, and a way to fix it. They don’t sit down, say ‘I want to start a business’ and then try and come up with an idea.

“They are not motivated by profit or status: they are motivated by fixing the gap or the problem they perceive. Monetisation and profits are incidental.”

The students were able to tour local firms, such as IDEO: one of the world’s leading design and innovation firms, where they enjoyed exclusive access to seeing the brainstorming, design and prototypes of some of the world’s most used and well-designed products.

The program also gave students the ability to interact with emerging technologies at the forefront of their development: such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Students received advice from founders, venture capitalists and developers, such as Brian Action (Founder of WhatsApp, just recently sold to Facebook for $21.8b), Garry Tan (Ex-Partner, Y-Combinator), Mike Maples (Founder, Floodgate) and Ashwin Ram (Senior Management, Amazon Alexa).

“The small intake meant that we weren’t just attending structured lectures and tours, but having intimate conversations with some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley,” she said.

“They were unbelievably candid, and incredibly insightful. Words genuinely fail to describe the experience, because you walk away with your ideas, perspectives and mind completely shifted.

“I’m excited to apply everything I’ve learnt, and I can’t recommend it enough to any students who are genuinely interested in exploring entrepreneurship.”