Skip to main content

The 2023 Silicon Valley Trip: Philanthropy-Driven Experiential Learning

And looking ahead to 2024, the 20th anniversary of the annual trip.

Students with visionary entrepreneurs and successful NC State alumni at cutting-edge startup
Greg Mulholland, right, welcomed the group at Citrine Informatics.

The Silicon Valley trip is an eye-opening experiential-learning opportunity that inspires students to launch new ventures and build their professional networks. Every year, NC State Innovation and Entrepreneurship takes a select group of entrepreneurial-minded students to Silicon Valley to meet with visionary entrepreneurs, leading executives and successful NC State alumni.

The group met with Joe Britt, the co-founder and CEO of Afero, and Scott Bartlett, director of hardware. Joe has hosted NC State student groups at his companies since the trip began, nearly 20 years ago. Joe graduated from NC State with an undergraduate degree in computer engineering in 1991 and has applied his knowledge and skills to his company by developing a simple and secure IoT platform to connect and manage smart devices in your home.

Joe Britt and office dog Luma beside NC State alumnus Scott Bartlett welcoming the group to Afero.

Greg Mulholland, a  computer and electrical engineering alumnus and Park Scholar who graduated in 2007, hosted the group at Citrine Informatics. Greg is the founder and CEO of the software company that accelerates product development in materials science and chemical engineering. At Citrine, the tour group got a behind-the-scenes look into the operation of a start-up including employee management, business operations and finance.

The group also visited Google where they met with Wilson White. Wilson is the vice president of government affairs and public policy at Google. Wilson is a Park Scholar and 2003 graduate of computer engineering at NC State. The group learned how global technology has vast implications on public safety, privacy and international relations. Google has about 85% of the world’s market share of search engines and disruptions can impact millions of people.

This year’s Silicon Valley trip coincided with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank providing students a firsthand opportunity to witness the effects on the entrepreneurship community. Startups operate in a high-risk financial environment and observing the effects of the bank failure provided valuable lessons for the students as they decide how much risk they are willing to take in their own careers.

Assistant Vice Provost Jennifer Capps models a Google-branded sock given to her by Wilson White, who is standing next to her.

Other highlights included visits to Tesla, Waymo, Netflix and an alumni meetup in Palo Alto.

These trips are high impact activities that provide life-changing experiences for many students, connecting them with a number of thought leaders and many NC State alumni across the country.

Next year is the 20th anniversary of the first trip to Silicon Valley, a tradition which began in 2004 with recently retired executive director Tom Miller. A celebration is planned to recognize the donors and alumni who make the trips possible. 

Like many high-impact learning opportunities, the Silicon Valley trip is donor funded. With continued philanthropic support we are able to offer this experiential learning opportunity that supports students who are considering careers in technology and entrepreneurship.