Experiencing Silicon Valley and what it takes to begin a start-up!

April 30, 2019

This year, the RIT Venture Capital Fund in cooperation with RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, chose 16 students through a highly competitive process to attend a 3-day workshop on venture capital investing in Sunnyvale, California. These students were chosen from across the entirety of the university, including students from RIT's global campuses in Dubai, Pristina, Weihai, and Zagreb. This event, hosted on March 11th-13th, provided each student with interesting presentations from a variety of guest speakers, panel discussions and company visits throughout the program. The program provided them with in-depth knowledge and understanding of entrepreneurs seeking funding as well as venture capitalists that provide investment capital. They also had a chance to experience the Silicon Valley start-up culture!

There were several RIT alumni that were present during the 3-day program which allowed students to understand that with hard work and perseverance, they can bring their ideas and dream to real life. 

"We’re extremely fortunate to have such a strong and committed alumni base in Silicon Valley. There’s tremendous value in getting advice from someone working on their third or fourth or even eighth start-up. However, when you know the person speaking started out sitting in many of the same classrooms as you, the connection becomes that much stronger and the lessons become that much more valuable. This event was uniquely RIT.”
- Gregory Van Laeken, Investment manager for RIT Venture Fund

Experiencing the start-up culture in Silicon Valley first-hand!

When Stefano Filimonović began pursuing his undergraduate degree in international business at RIT Croatia, he was interested in internships in big tech companies. Later on he realized that the topic personal genetics was what he wanted to pursue greater knowledge in.When he found out about the opportunity that RIT provides its students, he sent his application and within a month, received his acceptance letter and started to eagerly plan his trip to Silicon Valley!

Once he realized his true passion for personal genetics, he came up with the idea of using genetic information for the purpose of improving athletic performance. After conducting a vast amount of research, Stefano came up with a genetic test in which you receive a report explaining your genetic predispositions and similarities with athletes.

After attending the program in Silicon Valley, he knew there and then that he would be back, if not to visit, then to relocate. The work atmosphere was something that Stefano never witnessed before. When you walk into a Starbuck’s coffee shop, there isn’t one person that isn’t working hard on a project. In that same coffee shop where he witnessed that kind of work atmosphere, he met a variety of people working on projects involving neuroscience, efficient organ storing and programming. All projects being worked on in a coffee shop!

"The environment is full of energy and very productive as I expected so that’s the thing that I liked the most. Everyone is working on something, and the startup ecosystem is incredible over there.”
– Stefano Filimonović

Throughout the program, there were many opportunities that he had to further research his concept. Stefano worked with professional athletes (mainly focused on NFL players), received advice from a CLIA-certified genetic lab and venture capitalists on how to raise seed funding.


What’s next for Stefano?

Stefano is ready to put in the hard work and effort that it takes to begin his company and is planning on returning to Silicon Valley. From creating a website and getting to know potential users better to establishing the whole supply chain of the business, these are things that Stefano wishes to elaborate more in the near future and get his company up and running. Good luck on your endeavors Stefano, wishing you all the best! 


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