Momchil Tomov, co-president of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, builds community at his home university with events like HackPrinceton and strives for inter-college collaboration around entrepreneurship.
Class of 2014
Major: Computer Science
I always get a rush when I build something and it works, from my first LEGO robots, to my first computer games written in Pascal, to my latest iPhone projects. But I never considered entrepreneurship as a viable career path until freshman year when I attended an Idea Factory, a Princeton Entrepreneurship Club (E Club) event where students share their startup ideas and receive constructive feedback. Then the actual turning point was a conference — the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp at Stanford — where the nuts and bolts of starting a company were revealed by seasoned entrepreneurs, and where I met some of the brightest, most inspiring and talented students in the country. They were all going to change the world. Finally, after spending a summer at Facebook — a truly magnificent place to work by the way — my decision was final. I couldn’t motivate myself to work for anyone but me. I’m doing a startup.
My first sort of entrepreneurial project was Princeton Startup Weekend. There was no proper hacking community at Princeton, so I figured a hackathon would be a good way to get things started. After all, those would be the people with whom I would eventually start a company. It was the first big hackathon on campus and it went really well — we had more than a hundred people demo, including students from Rutgers, Penn and Drexel. People got really excited about building things outside the classroom. This gave birth to HackPrinceton, the E Club program geared towards hackers on campus. Next we did Start Week, a week-long mini-accelerator program where teams attended workshops and worked on their projects over intersession. We also had our spring hackathon which included a hardware track with spectacular demos. Some of the startups went on to join Princeton’s first summer accelerator programs, TigerLabs and eLab. We added hacking classes, and this semester we’re launching weekly Hack Hours and Hack Workshops.
In the meantime, I helped out with organizing other E Club events, and eventually took over running the club together with my co-president, Taylor Francis. With over a thousand people on our mailing list, the E Club is the main student driving force of entrepreneurship on campus. Our goal is to empower students with the inspiration, knowledge, skills and community they need to cultivate their entrepreneurial talent, something we achieve through a number of high-quality programs.
TigerLaunch is our annual startup challenge which kick-started companies like SCVNGR, Art.sy, Pasand and Collections. At Princeton Pitch, contestants have 60 seconds to pitch their ideas in front of students, faculty, and investors. On our NY TigerTreks we visit leading startups and VCs in Silicon Alley. Over fall break, we take a selected group of students to our Silicon Valley TigerTrek, an exciting week-long immersion in the innovative culture of the Valley with visits to top startups, investors and entrepreneurs. The East Coast Startup Summit brings students from all over the country to meet and exchange ideas, all the while being coached by some of the most notable figures in the East Coast tech scene. Through our Speaker Series, leaders in the startup community like Fred Wilson, Peter Thiel, and Jack Dorsey come to Princeton to share their experiences of starting and running companies.
Another thing we’re striving for is inter-college collaboration. While competitive school spirit is always healthy, an important part of entrepreneurship is to avoid reinventing the wheel and instead build on top of others’ achievements. In curating our programs, we definitely borrowed ideas from schools with long-standing traditions in tech innovation such as MIT and Stanford. My friends from PennApps helped with organizing our first hackathons, and now we’re advising them on how to organize their treks. Kids from Penn, Rutgers and Drexel come to our events, and we bring people to theirs. This year we’re looking forward to organizing joint events with NYU, Penn and Harvard. It’s really exciting to observe this whole movement on a national scale.
As for me, I am a programmer by heart. A retired TopCoder, I represented Bulgaria at the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) in 2008 and 2009, and then Princeton at the ACM International Collegiate Programing Contest (ACM-ICPC) in 2012. This summer I was lucky enough to end up at MemSQL which probably has the highest concentration of brilliant coders per square foot in the Valley.
My plan for next year is to start working on an actual startup. Of course, I will also be working hard to enhance and expand the E Club programs. We have a magnificent team and we’re really excited to build upon the great work of our predecessors. We’ve gone a long way, but we’re still only 1 percent done.
Read more about me at about.me/tomov.
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