In 1994, Jerry Yang founded a company with the novel idea of organizing the web into directories -- hierarchies of websites -- as opposed to a flat index. The company later became Yahoo! Inc.

In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created a search engine in a garage in Menlo Park. This turned into Google, the most widely used search engine in the world and a technology that that would become the core product in a multi-billion dollar company.

These are some of the many prominent companies that are a part of the huge technology boom in the famous area in Northern California called Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is said to have been the incubator for many innovative technologies. Companies such as Google, Yahoo!, and Hewlett-Packard had their humble beginnings in garages in the Valley, while other notable companies, such as Facebook, now call it home. The boom and bustle of Silicon Valley did not happen overnight, however. Arguably, much of Silicon Valley today is a product of the innovation and creation that came from a prestigious university at the center of it all: Stanford University. Stanford has been the breeding ground for many entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers. More successful start-ups have come from Stanford graduates and drop-outs than from any other institution so it begs the question: what makes Stanford's entrepreneurial environment so unique? How much do Stanford's entrepreneurship resources add value for student entrepreneurs and their start-ups? With recent pushes to build a Stanford campus in New York to bring Silicon Valley to the east coast, it has become more important than ever to explore the answers to these questions.
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Many attribute the start of Silicon Valley to then Dean of Engineering at Stanford University, Frederick Emmons Terman in the early 1940s. During the 1940s and 1950s after World War II, Terman pushed both faculty and students to start their own companies. Considered the "Father of Silicon Valley," Terman mentored and invested in many early-stage start-ups, including Hewlett-Packard, to spur innovation in the area. Today Silicon Valley is home to thousands of high-tech start-ups and has become the central hub for entrepreneurship and new technologies. People and companies come to Silicon Valley for the vast amount of resources and like-minded people that have made start-ups so successful.

The resources available to entrepreneurs, especially at Stanford, have since grown exponentially. There has been a rise in the number of groups on campus that support entrepreneurship and the Stanford network has grown bigger than ever. Student groups like BASES (Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students) and ASES (Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society) serve to promote entrepreneurship and connect prospective entrepreneurs to each other as well as to venture capitalists. Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) Labs is a start-up accelerator designed to help Stanford entrepreneurs make their ideas a reality. Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) is dedicated to accelerating high-technology entrepreneurship education and creating scholarly research on technology-based firms that, in turn, provides new insights for students, scholars, and business leaders. STVP brings in weekly speakers, founders of successful start-ups and venture capitalists, to speak and network with students through its Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (ETL) seminar.

Even courses at Stanford have a slight entrepreneurial lean--particularly in the computer science department. Courses such as CS 210 (Software Projects with Corporate Partners) and CS 194 (Senior Project) encourage students to use their skills to create a piece of software that will add value to people's lives--a precursor to the next big start-up. Stanford professors are also more open to new ventures as evidenced by the number of professors who have started their own or mentored others in new companies.

Last, but certainly not least, are the Stanford students themselves. Stanford attracts a diverse bunch of students: many who come in with an entrepreneurial mindset and others without. Either way, being surrounded by great people who walk the walk is very conducive to starting new companies.

Through the resources, support, and environment at Stanford and its surrounding areas, the path of entrepreneurship is made much more accessible. By exploring the processes and resources used by Stanford entrepreneurs past and present through interviews and surveys, valuable insights can be found that will help determine why Stanford is so successful in cultivating an entrepreneurial environment.

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