ASU entrepreneurs rise and thrive in Silicon Valley

Spend a summer living and learning in Silicon Valley — emerge ready to change the world. That’s the goal of the ASU-Draper Entrepreneurship Incubator program, which champions student visionaries with changemaking ideas. Lofty? Yes. Achievable? Very much so, according to ASU student Connor Stephens (BS Innovation in Society ’19). We caught up with him to discuss his entrepreneurial path and experience in the program, including lessons learned and expectations for the future.

Going into the program, Connor had no idea how its nontraditional approach to learning — a headfirst dive into becoming a true entrepreneur — would play out in real life. “It sounded too good to be true,” he laughs. “Little did I know that it was actually going to be a life-changing experience.”

In traditional school, Connor was accustomed to learning about the past: what happened and how it happened. The ASU-Draper Entrepreneurship Incubator program challenged him to adopt a new perspective. “We learned about the future,” he says, “in terms of not just what we want to happen — but also how we can make it happen.”

In-class visits from local leaders quickly solidified the value of that mindset. “We learned from entrepreneurs and experts who are in the process of transforming humanity,” Connor says. “We were taught about emerging technology and how it’s currently being used to solve problems, which in turn sparked ideas as to how we can implement that same technology to solve different problems.”

In addition to providing Connor with new ways of thinking, and new ideas to think about, the residential experience pushed him outside of his comfort zone. “I’ve had a lifelong fear of public speaking,” he says. “I never thought I would be the kind of person that would have enough confidence on stage to come in first place at a pitch competition in front of hundreds of investors, or be selected to give a talk at a technology conference.” Through this program, Connor gained the practice, confidence, and skills he needs to thrive on stage. “Presenting at events in front of hundreds of people now excites me,” he adds.

Moving forward, Connor is excited to see the ASU-Draper Entrepreneurship Incubator program continue to shape his future. “I think the connections I have made during my time at Draper will have the greatest impact,” he says. “I have been introduced to many great people who have opened new doors, full of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Beyond teaching him to launch, run, and scale a business, Connor further credits the experience for sparking personal and professional growth. His biggest takeaway? Dare to think differently. “No idea is too big or outlandish,” he says. “What may seem impossible, certainly can be possible.”

The right tools and support redefine what’s possible. See how the ASU-Draper Entrepreneurship Incubator program can take your ideas and talent to the next level.

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