Bringing a Little Silicon Valley to Bloomington
Ben Flor MBA'10
“I have learned firsthand about startup companies, real estate, venture capital, and angel investors.”
Sunnyvale, California, is the self-proclaimed “heart of Silicon Valley,” and with 6 of the 10 top IT companies in the world located within 10 miles (think Google, Facebook, Cisco Systems), the name holds true.
Ben Flor, a Kelley MBA entrepreneurship student, spent the summer soaking up Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation as an intern with Plug and Play Tech Center, the leading high-tech startup accelerator in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“My number one priority at Plug and Play was exposure,” says Flor. “I wanted to learn everything and meet everyone. At Plug and Play, I saw entrepreneurship at its finest. I became friends with the CEO, who said he liked my drive, which was great because he was very much dialed into forming a relationship with Indiana University.”
Plug and Play’s clients have included Google, PayPal, Logitech, and Danger. Flor’s role centered on business development. He created the corporate PowerPoint presentation given to potential tenants and investors. He also wrote the business plan for the company’s expansion in Southern California with three new facilities and organized the grand opening party. Additionally, he assisted a tenant start-up company with its marketing materials and venture capital pitch.
Most important, though, was Flor’s responsibility for facilitating a partnership between the Plug and Play Tech Center and the Indiana University Innovation Center, IU’s newest business incubator.
Right before heading home to Bloomington, the company asked if Flor would like to extend his internship into the school year—and they printed 1,000 business cards to get him on his way. Now back at IU, Flor is continuing to pave the way for a partnership between Plug and Play and the IU Innovation Center.
Things are going well: Plug and Play has committed to actively assist up to 10 IU technology startups per year in an effort to give them the opportunity to have a Silicon Valley presence for fundraising, expansion, collaboration, and business development. Plug and Play will also host three summer interns from Kelley. Additionally, the company will partner with the IU Innovation Center and the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to host a campuswide Idea Competition to engage student inventors and entrepreneurs.
“My internship has provided invaluable exposure to the Silicon Valley ecosystem, which has been very inspirational,” Flor says. “People out there have an unabated entrepreneurial mindset. I have learned firsthand about startup companies, real estate, venture capital, and angel investors.” His goal is to help bring that same entrepreneurial mindset to Bloomington—and to his own career as he pursues his dream of one day working for himself.
Like many entrepreneurship students at IU, Flor has relied upon the mentorship and business world connections of Professor Donald F. Kuratko, executive director of the Johnson Center. “Dr. K encourages his students to follow their entrepreneurial ambitions while providing exposure to many successful entrepreneurs and companies,” he says. “He makes time for us, and you know he really cares about you.”
Flor is making the most of his time at the Johnson Center. He is a member of its Entrepreneurial Management Academy, which he says provided him with the business plan writing skills that helped him excel at his internship. He also serves as vice president of finance for the Graduate Entrepreneurship Club and regularly attends the Distinguished Entrepreneur-in-Residence speaker series. Most recently, he was a recipient of the John T. Chambers Fellowship through JCEI, which makes him the IU Innovation Center Fellow.
Not bad for a former mechanical engineer who had never taken a business class before stepping on the Bloomington campus! In fact, Flor earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin and spent a few years working as an engineer before deciding to pursue an MBA.
With a new career path, impending graduation, and the allure of Sunnyvale fresh in his mind, Flor has some big decisions to make. There’s one decision he’s pretty happy about, though. “The entrepreneurship program at Kelley has been an excellent experience for me—I would definitely do it all over again!”