East Coast Trekkers

Intersession 2024 featured two Tech and Entrepreneurship treks, which covered significant ground in a few short weeks. The two classes and separate trips to the East and West coasts were planned by FastForward U in collaboration with the Life Design Lab and Development and Alumni Relations for student entrepreneurs.

The classroom part of East Coast section at FastForward U was taught by Margaret Roth Falzon, COO of Squadra Ventures, and Chloe Terrell, assistant director of Life Design. The week featured a dynamic blend of alumni speakers, interactive life-design classwork and industry expertise. Participants lending their time to the students included Guy Filippelli, managing partner at Squadra Ventures; Jonathan Luff, co-founder of CyLon Ventures; and Smitha Gopal, former CEO of Rendia and current COO of EcoMap.

The first day of travel was to include a train trip to Washington, D.C., but wintry weather led to a quick shift of plans. Zoom panels were quickly arranged to take the place of in-person meetings in D.C., along with a virtual meet-and-greet with the Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Center. The snow day also gave the trekkers extra time to connect virtually with Serene Al-Momen, co-founder and CEO at Attune; Olivia Puleo, former staff engineer, Shift5; Jon Kling, founder and CEO of Municipal Acquisitions; and Yair Flicker, president of SmartLogic. The snowy conditions cleared by the evening, and the day concluded at Guilford Hall Brewery, where UpSurge hosts Equitech Tuesday, an opportunity for the trekkers to meet others in the local startup ecosystem. 

The day in Baltimore featured a tour of Under Armour, Early Charm (a venture capital and private equity group) and a visit to Spark Coworking’s space to connect with many local leaders in the tech and entrepreneurship space. In addition to visiting these sites, students also enjoyed lunch in Federal Hill, a neighborhood many students had not ventured to yet.  

East Coast Trek making body wash under the direction of a chemist at Harry’s.

Next on the East Coast itinerary was New York, beginning at Harry’s, where students had the entertaining chance to meet with Founder and CEO Jeff Raider (also known for Warby Parker). Here, they engaged in a hands-on activity, making body wash alongside one of the company’s chemists. A standout experience was the lunch hosted by Bloomberg LP, held at their remarkable headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, where students connected with alumni currently employed there. Additionally, the group visited Gutter Capital, a venture capital firm specializing in early-stage companies, and Newlab, an incubator for startups, ensuring a well-rounded exploration of New York’s entrepreneurial landscape. 

A second trek of students headed to the West Coast for a series of engaging activities led by staff from the JHU Life Design Lab, including visits and interactions with industry professionals and entrepreneurs at Pendulum Therapeutics, Sapphire Ventures, Founders Inc, AppLovin, Mixt, and more. The group also visited alumni at Meta and Google, participated in a tour of the Stanford Life Design Lab and, during a networking night for Whiting students, connected with Chuck Wu, vice president of engineering at Google.  

East Coast Trek visiting Newlab.

In response to a session at Pendulum Therapeutics in San Francisco with FFU mentor/Founders’ Pledge member Colleen Cutcliffe, a Johns Hopkins staff member said, “We could not have asked for better mentorship in what it means to build a company and community.”  

  Undergraduate students from both Krieger Arts & Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, as well as graduate students from the Carey Business School, offered testimonials and LinkedIn posts that captured their excitement and the transformative nature of both treks, emphasizing the educational, inspirational and practical aspects of the experiences.  

“Just got back from my first trip to New York City! I spent the past two weeks taking the intersession class Tech and Entrepreneurship on the East Coast, hosted by The Life Design Lab at Homewood – Johns Hopkins University and Fast Forward U. Last week, my classmates and I participated in a classroom portion, taught by Margaret Roth Falzon and Chloe Terrell, which involved listening to guest speakers, envisioning our possible lives and making vision boards out of magazine pages. This week, we met with Hopkins alumni, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists along the East Coast in Baltimore, D.C., and NYC to learn from the wisdom they’ve developed over the years.”

 “Through this truly incredible course, my understanding of personal responsibility, how I relate to my work and procrastination fundamentally changed. In addition to learning about how running a business works, I was inspired by the entrepreneurial mindset I was exposed to these past couple weeks to reassess how I approach obstacles and opportunities in my own life.”

” Witnessing the dynamic tech and entrepreneurship ecosystems in New York and Baltimore was inspiring, and the class has provided me with valuable insights and a renewed perspective on my future endeavors. I look forward to staying connected and continuing my exploration in the field of entrepreneurship and getting involved with FFU. Thank you for making this my favorite class I’ve ever taken at Hopkins.”

East Coast Trek visiting Under Armour.

A representative from one of the companies that the trekkers visited commented, “It was such a joy to see the excitement on the students’ faces as they explored Newlab. I hope to see some of them back one day as startup founders!”  

The treks not only provided insights into the tech and entrepreneurship ecosystems, but also fostered connections and a sense of community among the students, alumni and industry founders involved.

More information from the Life Design Lab about the West Coast Trek.