Discovering the strength of the Carolina network

The sky is Carolina blue – even on the West Coast.

In April 2016, students from UNC Kenan-Flagler’s flagship Adams Apprenticeship program embarked on a trip to the Bay Area of San Francisco.

The trip consisted of several site visits to local start-ups and growth-stage companies across a variety of industries. But among all of their differences, the companies we visited all shared ties to a familiar shade of blue. From LinkedIn and Tilt to Moveloot and Carbon3D, we had the distinct honor of hearing from UNC alumni who chose to head west, changing area codes and time zones in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals. At every office, we were welcomed by our Tar Heel family. Their distinct Carolina charm made us instantly feel welcome.

At an evening networking reception held in a local WeWork studio, the room was filled with UNC students, alumni and friends who live and work in the area. We also shared the room with a group of social entrepreneurs from Stanford who were holding a similar meetup. The room quickly became a space of opportunity, with constant conversations about collaboration and networking, which helped unlock doors on the West Coast for all of us who were visiting, as well as those who live there. The event provided us with remarkable insights about how strong the Carolina network is across the U.S. and the accessibility this community affords us as students and alumni.

NETWORKING AT A WEWORK STUDIO IN SAN FRANCISCO

As a young entrepreneur, visiting the Bay Area – where it seems like everyone and their cousin has a startup – is a bit intimidating. But in an industry where your net worth is dependent on your network, the Tar Heel brand is a valuable one. It is comforting to know that should I choose to move to this city one day, there is a family of fellow Carolina alums waiting to welcome me into their community.

Entrepreneur Andy Ellwood wrote a piece for Forbes called “Defining Wealth In The Creative Economy,” in which he defined wealth as optionality. The more options you have, the wealthier you are. My Adams Apprenticeship experience taught me that Tar Heels are extremely wealthy when it comes to connections – particularly in the Bay Area – providing us with boundless opportunities to succeed in whatever our entrepreneurial or career pursuits may be.

By Sean Petersen (BA ’17)