Nick Meronyk is an MBA ’23 candidate who has a deeply-rooted passion for travel and entertainment. Meronyk completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Alberta with a focus on professional sports and entertainment, tourism, and economic development. After planning and executing all elements of broadcasted and non-broadcasted regional to international-scale events, Meronyk moved into a public sector internal strategy consulting role overseeing cross-functional and cross-industry projects. In his blog below, Meronyk reflects on his experience in Silicon Valley and San Francisco while on Ivey’s Silicon Valley study trip.
"If you're alive, you can't be bored in San Francisco. If you're not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life." — Armenian-American novelist William Saroyan
The words of William Saroyan couldn’t be truer as I observed the tremendous energy, creativity, and community-mindedness of the region’s entrepreneurs. Here are some of my observations.
Bay-area entrepreneurs know how to pitch – and so do Ivey students
Throughout the week, we were fortunate to meet with and learn from both Ivey and non-Ivey entrepreneurs and partners, including angel investors and venture capitalists. Through these interactions, my classmates and I discerned two key learnings:
- Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are more open and generous with their thoughts and time than seemingly anywhere else; and,
- Ivey students have what it takes to compete on any stage, including against other startups in Silicon Valley for funding.
While my confidence in the quality of Ivey students is purely anecdotal, a summary of research from The Founder Institute suggests entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley are, “nearly 10 per cent more social, energetic, and assertive,” than entrepreneurs from other geographies. It’s a valuable lesson on the need for entrepreneurs to be confident and communicate effectively.
Code Tenderloin: An entrepreneurial pursuit that’s making a difference
As a firm believer that personal growth stems from being comfortable with being uncomfortable, I have appreciated the entrepreneurial-inclined opportunities and challenges that Ivey has intentionally structured into the curriculum. Just like in the classroom, our Tenderloin walking tour was no exception.
San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighbourhood is home to the vast majority of the city’s most impoverished residents. Approximately 25,000 individuals live in a densely populated area that lacks both the comforts and necessities (i.e. food, shelter, heat, a bed, and running water) we often take for granted. Thousands of people make their home in damaged tents on the cold sidewalk and dirty cardboard boxes that are always exposed to the elements. Those fortunate enough to have a roof over their head often share a “single person” supportive housing room. Such rooms typically have only one bed used by up to five family members and a bathroom shared by 50-70 other people, which is often out of order.
After experiencing the Tenderloin firsthand, 30-year resident Del Seymour decided to become an entrepreneur and founded Code Tenderloin to tackle “unsolvable” issues in the community. The organization was created to support the impoverished through sourcing monetary and value-in-kind donations, in addition to providing individualized supports such as learning programs. Following the old adage, “give a person a fish and they’ll be full for a meal, teach a person to fish and they’ll be full for a lifetime,” the Code Tenderloin team offers residents skill development and highly-desired employment opportunities with leading technology firms, including LinkedIn and Twitter. I was shocked to learn that it isn’t unusual for Code Tenderloin staff to bring many services directly to residents – this includes teaching them how to code in their tent!
This is a great example of how entrepreneurial leaders can create societal change.
Social entrepreneurship matters more than ever
Our Tenderloin tour starkly contrasted with the incredibly comfortable experience we had at Napa Valley’s Jacuzzi winery just one day prior, and forced many on the trip, including me, to reflect internally. The Tenderloin served as a reminder of the many unresolved problems, including poverty, homelessness, and addictions, that we have back home – not only in London, but also in every other large Canadian city. Internal reflections led to discussions about whether we as individuals and leaders are doing enough to support the less fortunate within our own communities. Not only did our Tenderloin experience leave me wanting to better integrate social considerations in the development of future strategies and initiatives, it also made me much more appreciative of the supports and comforts that I have around me daily.
While Del Seymour and the Code Tenderloin team are all-stars for the progress they’ve made to help more than 10,000 people to date, there is a critical need for others to follow their lead. For every one person that Code Tenderloin helps get out of poverty, three more enter into it. Although this wicked problem is getting worse, and recessionary issues aren’t helping, I am bullish on the long-term impact that Code Tenderloin and other organizations can have. Particularly if they continue to be led by highly respected community leaders who have a knack for generating awareness among government officials and executives in heavily-endowed corporations.
Personal growth as a result of the Ivey study trip
While I began the Ivey experience focused on personal development, networking, and securing a position at a leading strategy consulting firm, I have grown through discomfort to appreciate the nuances that exist outside of classroom, in other regions/markets, and in other career paths, such as entrepreneurship. I’d like to echo the opinion of many classmates in saying that the Silicon Valley trip was truly an eye-opening, inspiring, and rewarding experience in every way!
Below are more photos from the trip.
Group photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge
Photo on Alcatraz Island
San Francisco Cable Car
Colourful tree artwork in The Tenderloin
Group photo of the MBA students on the Silicon Valley Study Trip