By Alexandre de Kalbermatten
“The San Francisco GIW is a week you will remember”. This was the first words I heard from Professor Ricardo Pérez’s presentation about our timetable. Definitely not convinced by his statement my mind was already visualizing the many memorable nights out I would have with all my friends. In fact, I was totally wrong, not due to the fact that San Francisco’s nightlife ends at 2, but simply because the schedule was spectacular. This was truly an unforgettable experience that I absolutely recommend to every MIM students.
Welcome to San Francisco! Every morning Felicia, Rie and Ricardo were waiting for us at 8 sharp and made sure that the next 10 hours of visits felt like a ride on a rollercoaster through the tech world. We drove up and down countless time on the infamous Bayshore Freeway that passes through all the major communities along the San Francisco Peninsula. Leveraging on Ricardo’s 10 year experience organizing this trip and the numerous IE alumni living there, our visits included some of the big names such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Electronic Arts, Intel and Dolby, as well as some of the so called Unicorns and earlier stage startups. It felt like everything was possible in the Valley.
We also had the chance to visit incubators and Venture Capitalists. One of our main hub was an incubator/startup-school “Mind the Bridge” where we were always welcomed by its founder and CEO Marco Marinucci. In their basement, we attended several presentations, coaching sessions and even an IE networking event. I was very surprised to see how everyone was so open and ready to help. We received valuable insights on how to strive in this ecosystem and were also given some reality checks.
ome of my key takeaways concerning startups include the following:
- Surround yourself smartly.
- Ideas are cheap but execution is expensive.
- Focus on customers, particularly on how they use your product.
- To become really big you need two things: an ambitious vision and a large market of potential customers.
- From google, test the toothbrush rule to your ideas. If your customer use your product twice a day then there is potential.
- Beware of conjectures.
And finally, control risks. Startups do not need to be an extremely risky endeavor according to Professor LaBlanc from Berkeley Business School (HASS). There are plenty of tools to help you minimize risks, and money will come automatically if you have a good product. Besides, be humble.
From all our visits, several recurring themes around future technology emerged. Many speakers referred to the fourth economy and how everything is becoming virtualized. I can now say confidently that the next technologies that will shape this world will gravitate around the field of virtual and augmented reality, cloud computing, big data, and machine learning. My advice to any tech entrepreneur is to focus on these technologies, and perhaps most importantly, come to Silicon Valley! Granted, it is easier said than done, especially when talking about visas, but the gain in synergies from this unique ecosystem is a game changer.