Klewel | IMD EMBA Silicon Valley Expedition Day 1
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IMD EMBA Silicon Valley Expedition Day 1

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Klewel was selected to participate into a full week programme immersed into the IMD Lausanne Business School Executive MBA class in Silicon Valley, California, USA. The idea in the next couple of posts is to report on what I learnt.

Day 1: Sunday 14 September 2008

“The Deep Dive”. We started the week by viewing an ABC report on IDEO, a well known industrial design company (we visited them on Wednesday morning- Day 4). One of the founder of IDEO is Bill Moggridge who gave a keynote at ACM CHI 2007 conference (capture by Klewel) in San Jose.

Prof Chuck Darrah from the Department of Anthropology, San Jose State University, gave a great talk on the history of this region and the people living there. One of his studies was on 150 people from Silicon Valley whom he met three times each. People in different businesses, different places. This resulted in 13’000 pages of interviews. It is hard to sum-up such a work in a talk and then here in a couple of lines, let’s try.

Silicon Valley is a narrow geographic area. People tend to have an obsession about high tech. They focus in general on one industry. They originally succeeded due to a concentration of talent. Ok, nothing really new so far. While we are usually hearing about the big players (Google, Yahoo , Intel and so on), there is a tremedous amount of small very specialized companies who do computer machine tools, supply chain to big companies, law firms, real estate, financial services… It is a concentration of high tech industries and infrastructure.

“Silicon Valley is not a place, it is the future, it is a verb”.

In the 1920’s, Silicon Valley was called “the valley of heart’s delight”. A house in the 1920’s that was worth 5’000$ was 500K$ in the 1990’s and is now 1.5M$ in 2008.

People in Silicon Valley celebrate Failure (as well as success off course). Celebration of Risk Taking… while minimizing those risks though the availability of other options. They fail and learn about it.

Job vs Family – “16 years in the same company = looser”: playing too conservative. People do not have any problem changing their jobs. People in the Silicon Valley are very “Problem Solving” oriented. Silicon Valley: Flat sense of politics versus Berkeley being very politics. Someone talking to his wife: will not say “How are you?” but “Any problem?”. So much energy and positivism (I would add “confidence”). There is a strong value of management. As an extreme, someone saying: “I don’t live life, I manage life”. But management means instrumentalization. So there is a high rate of divorse, alcolism, drugs, it is a difficult place for kids. It is not all about sucess and hapiness.

There is a complex cultural diversity. Since 9/11 there are serious problems with immigration. One of the key of Silicon Valley is its cultural diversity. In the US, there are 10% of Asian American while 25% in the Silicon Valley. Rich American ethnicity: Indian American, Mexican American… It is fascinating, Silicon Valley gets the most European, Asian, Indian. We observe differences in background (biology vs high-tech), but there is also a strong homogeneity because of the particular training: bits and bytes are universal. This results in same jobs, same education, same trainees. So differences can be valuable.

Companies are less permanent than the social networks, the people connections.

The first day was full of good talks including one by an IMD Executive MBA “student” originally from San Jose who founded http://www.logoworks.com/ sold to HP recently. His talk title was: “Pitching VCs: An entrepreneur view”.

Alex Sloan, a local VC giving a talk on “What a VC wants from an entrepreneur”.

One of the new trend is “clean tech”, investing in “green”.

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