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14 November, 2011 - 12:04 By News Desk

Entrepreneurship driven into classrooms

Suranga Chandratillake

Silicon Valley technology gurus visiting the UK are helping to drive the spirit of entrepreneurship into Cambridge schools.

Keynote speakers in town for the Silicon Valley Comes 2UK (SVC2UK) initiative at the end of this week will be spreading the gospel at Perse Coed, Perse Girls Senior School and Hills Road 6th Form College on Friday, November 18.

The initiative has been facilitated by Cambridge Angels, who have youngsters at the schools.

SVC2UK co-organiser Sherry Coutu said: “We are sending our speakers to schools to underline the impact students might have on the world if they studied STEM subjects and then pursued entrepreneurship.”

STEM is a US Government acronym for fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

A mixture of keynotes and panels will take place throughout the day in Cambridge University’ Computer Lab and the Judge Business School. These sessions are designed to inspire the audience to work for or start a fast-growing innovative company (or not-for-profit) after they finish with university. The audience will be MBA students, PhD students and Master’s students from across all departments in the University.

Coutu said: “Attendees will learn why Silicon Valley’s iconic entrepreneurs trod this path after university and why they should too: What does it feel like to create a company that has 100 million customers in five years? Come and ask!”

Andy Hopper, the Computer Lab director, will introduce one of the most stimulating sessions of the whole event involving what SVC2UK call “the hottest icons.”

They include Megan Smith (Vice President, New Business Development, Google), Joi Ito (CEO of Creative Commons & Head of MIT Media Lab) and Suranga Chandratillake (CEO and founder of Blinkx).

Ito runs the media lab at MIT, Smith studied at MIT and is responsible for all the acquisitions made at Google for the past few years, and Chandratillake got a double first in Computer Science and Math while at Cambridge and now runs Blinkx.

They have been asked to address what they are seeing at the moment that they think we should all be thinking about and to give their predictions for where the greatest opportunities lie.

Megan Smith oversees teams that manage early-stage partnerships, explorations and technology licensing. She joined Google in 2003 and has led several of the company's acquisitions, including Keyhole (Google Earth), Where2Tech (Google Maps), and Picasa.

She also co-led the company's early work with publishers for Google Book Search and more recently led’s transition to expand on its technology projects. Previously, she was the CEO and, earlier, COO of PlanetOut, the leading gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender online community.

Under her leadership, PlanetOut grew tenfold in reach and revenue. Prior to that, Smith was at General Magic for six years working on handheld communications products and partnerships. She also worked in multimedia at Apple Japan in Tokyo.

Over the years, she has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, such as designing an award-winning bicycle lock; working on a space station construction research project that eventually flew on the US space shuttle; and running a field-research study on solar cookstoves in South America.

She was also a member of the MIT-Solectria student team that designed, built, and raced a solar car in the first cross-continental solar car race, covering 2000 miles of the Australian outback.

Joi Ito, CEO of Creative Commons, is a co-founder and board member of Digital Garage JSD:4819. He is on the board of CCC TYO:4756 and Tucows AMEX:TCX and a senior visiting researcher of Keio Research Institute at Shonan Fujisawa Campus in Japan.

Ito is the chairman of Six Apart Japan, the weblog software company. He is on the board of a number of non-profit organisations including The Mozilla Foundation, WITNESS and Global Voices. He has also created numerous Internet companies including PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan and was an early stage investor in Twitter, Six Apart, Wikia, Technorati, Flickr, SocialText, Dopplr,, Rupture, Kongregate and other Internet companies.

Suranga Chandratillake is founder and CEO of Blinkx an Internet search engine for video and audio content based in Cambridge UK. Prior to founding blinkx, Chandratillake held a variety of roles in technology, sales and marketing at Morgan Stanley, netdecisions and anondesign.

He was also the US CTO of Autonomy Corporation, responsible for growing Autonomy's research and development division in the States. He founded blinkx in 2004 and took blinkx public on the London Stock Exchange in May 2007. The company has made two major acquisitions in the space of a few months.

Chandratillake holds a Master of Arts in Computer Science, specialising in distributed processing architectures, from the University of Cambridge, where he also received a double first in Computer Science and Mathematics.

The Computer Lab sessions of master classes and workshops will be delivered by some of the big names in consumer internet, fashion and gaming, exclusively for University of Cambridge students. They will also hear from Julie Hanna (Kiva:org), Nancy Lublin (DoSomething) and Ted Shelton (Open First) to name but a few: The master classes will inspire students and encourage them to get involved in entrepreneurial business, ideally after graduation!

The event is hosted in the award-winning William Gates Building. See

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Suranga Chandratillake

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