In decades to come, people will look back on this time in history and they will ask where you were in the heyday of the internet. You might say something like Silicon Roundabout or Silicon Alley, but those names, that use of Silicon in the title is misleading at best – traitorous at worst; Silicon Valley is the heart where the action lies. Like the days of the goldrush, there is only one true place to be, to be amongst the revolution, in the middle of the action, and that place is San Francisco (or just down the road in the Valley).
And that is where the intrepid travellers of the LBS Tech Trek headed for Spring Break. We set off with our pickaxes and pans, or rather, our iPads and styluses to visit the companies setting the trends for the interweb. Who did we visit you ask? A rock star list of: Google, Twitter, Linkedin, Zynga, Dropbox, Kleiner Perkins, Tesla, 500 Startups, and more.
It was an interesting and eye-opening experience visiting these companies. It is not until you enter the Valley that you start to understand the vibe that reverberates up and down State Highway 101 and around the offices, shops, cafes and homes in the Valley. Conversations in every coffee shop, every restaurant, every street corner mention something about coding, user experience, venture funding or some variant thereof. As it was explained to us more than once, the Valley is a hotbed of innovation that does not so much move through cycles, as it does leap and bound through them. Companies can bounce ideas around, fail, and pivot to new ideas and business models faster than anywhere else possible.
And there lies the second common message shared with us: the acceptability of failure. It is acceptable, nay, it is almost a rite of passage to have failed; risks must be taken to discover what is achievable. Can Silicon Valley be replicated in other parts of the world? We received mix perspectives on this, but it was universally agreed that a prerequisite is that the culture of failure was a necessary building block that would have to be copied. Will it happen? It takes quite a heroic effort to change one’s mindset from risk-averseness to investing in inherently risky ideas. We shall see.
It is a remarkable place and an incredible experience.
A quick nod to the company offices themselves, afterall, the perks received at these companies are legendary. And sure enough, they did not disappoint: Google has a beach volleyball court taking center stage at their offices. But that was only the initial taster we saw; across the companies we visited there were company bikes to ride between office buildings, scooters to glide between office rooms, meeting rooms stacked high with lego, band rooms filled with guitars and drums, m&m dispensers, a coke machines that poured over 100 flavours, and of course the obligatory ping pong table.