group photo of full and part-time MBET students
Think Bigger and Bolder  MBET student recap of San Fransisco trip
Friday, May 3, 2024

Think Bigger and Bolder 

by Ryan Brouwer, PT MBET candidate 2026

San Francisco welcomed me and fellow MBET students s from the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business for an eye-opening trip to the heart of global tech innovation from April 9-11, 2024. We met with inspiring startup founders, learned directly from industry experts, and explored renowned tech giants. Here are a few of my main takeaways. 

The Skills and People You Need

Building a great product is hard. Building a successful business is even harder. Engineering, design, marketing, sales, finance, and leadership are some of the key skills. So before launching a business idea, it’s crucial to ask questions like:

  • “Do I have the necessary skills to succeed?”  

If not, ask yourself:

  • “How can I acquire the skills I need to succeed?"
  • “What kind of partner(s) could I bring on to complement my skillset?”

If you don’t have the skills or the co-founder(s), what should you do? 

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Build in a Simulated Environment First

One proven strategy advocated by successful founders (including some we talked to in SF) is to begin by building products at a growing start-up. That way you can develop the skills you need to launch your start-up later within a simulated environment first.  

For example, if you’re a technically skilled engineer but don’t know how to market a product, you could work at a startup to learn how to talk to and empathize with users, bring products to market and do sales. Or say you’re highly skilled in finance and leadership but don’t know how digital products are developed. Then it might be a good idea to work at a startup (as a product manager, for example) to learn how to work with engineers and designers and build something great. In addition to developing the skills you need, you’ll put yourself in an ideal environment to meet potential co-founders and early employees for your start-up. 

People and Positioning Over Ideas

Success hinges on a team's capabilities more than just a great idea. Understanding why you as founders are uniquely positioned to bring a particular vision to life is critical. Ideas change, plans pivot—it's your team's strength that drives execution and steers outcomes.

The strength and relevancy of a founder’s track record is also (understandably) a deciding factor for investors. Positioning the right team on the right idea in the right market can dramatically boost the probability of success.  

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Final Thoughts

Being in the heart of Silicon Valley opened our eyes to dramatic possibilities. We took home a new set of start-up tools and knowledge; we experienced firsthand the benefit of the UWaterloo tech network in SF; and, most importantly, we found ourselves back at home thinking bigger and bolder.