Shortly after landing in San Francisco airport the participants of the Executive MBA from the University of Zurich were on their way downtown to Union Square, to the hombase for the first part of the Learning Expedition at Dynamico, a new co-working space in the heart of San Francisco.
The 1 week program spends 3 days exploring the start-up eco system in San Francisco and the bay area and then 2 days in and around Palo Alto with lecturers, students and speakers from Stanford University and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Thorsten Klein, Program Director of the EMBA with focus on Digital Transformation says “This learning expedition has been 3 years in the making and we are delighted, that we were now able to embark on this exciting expedition and learn about the Silicon Valley mindset and meet entrepreneurs and start-ups.”
Day 1 focused on understanding the Silicon Valley mindset with 650 Labs CEO Mark Zawacki and learning an anthropologist`s view on the people and history of Silicon Valley with Prof Chuck Darrah. During the afternoon the topic switched to the unique way corporate ventures are being built here with an interactive session conducted by Pilot44 founder Jon Corshen.
To battle the jetlag the EMBA explorers then set upon a walking tour of the Tech Quarter visiting the headquarters of some of the largest tech firms like Salesforce.org and LinkedIn and seeing the Amazon Go store in action. Using the classic cable car to Fishermen`s Wharf the group then enjoyed a wine tasting at the Winery Collective before the official welcome dinner at Scoma`s Seafood to sample the famous clam chowder and superb fish and meat dishes.
Day 2 started with two entrepreneurs sharing their insights into starting a business in San Francisco. Emory Nager, CEO from Jacki.ai spoke about the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life in Silicon Valley. Then Olivier Kaeser, the COO and co-founder of atlas.go shared his story about coming from Switzerland to study and now running a start-up in San Francisco where corporate customers can activate their employees to support a social casue. Olivier said: “There is a competitive advantage in creating an impact in society.”
This topic led the EMBA participants towards a challenge to create a socially responsible application in a design sprint to address a particular social issue like homelessness they observe. This design sprint is hosted by Swissnex at Pier 17. Deputy CEO Yannick Heiniger and his team with experts Rakesh Bharania from Salesforce.org and Mark Silverman from the International Red Cross giving insights and advice. Yannick said “At Swissnex in San Francisco we empower the next generation of innovators to collaborate and create futures in which the planet and society thrive.” Xavier Deulofeu, EMBA participant and Strategy Manager at Vueling Airlines said “This design sprint made us understand the potential of technology to include marginalized groups of society.” The evening concluded with a reception hosted by Swiss Consul General a.i. Nicolas Descoeudres, and the opportunity to network with local start-ups and businesses that had a link to Swiss innovation.
With an early start on day 3 the group set upon a road trip down Silicon Valley to San Jose to meet anchain.ai founders Victor Fang and Ben Wu and learn about checkout free shopping with aifi.com founder and CEO Steve Gu. After that the tour continued with stopovers at google and Apple headquarters to Palo Alto to learn about the endeavors of Swisscom Innovation Lab with Stefan Petzov. Then Dominic Siegrist, Director of Customer Engagement & Business Integration spoke about ABB`s vision for Formula E. The day concluded with a talk by Steve Feyer from eightfold.ai, a unicorn business disrupting the talent management industry.
The Learning Expedition Switzerland then continues in Palo Alto for the second part of the expedition focusing on the role that Stanford University plays in the start-up ecosystem and we will update on this part shortly.
The learning expedition takes place under strict Covid safety measures including vaccination certificates for participants and speakers, distancing, masks and airfilters in enclosed areas and daily Covid Antigen tests for all those participating. Many thanks to Dr. Gert Christen and module leader Dr. Tamara Carleton for putting together this stimulating Learning Expedition for the EMBA UZH.