Learning Expedition USA 2022 – Part 1 – EMBA UZH goes Westcoast

EMBA UZH is on the road in the USA to explore innovation hotspots San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New Haven and Boston. The EMBA students have an exciting program meeting start-ups, tech giants entrepreneurs and lectures at Stanford University and Yale School of Management.

Exploring and comparing the innovation eco systems on both East and West Coast – the EMBA UZH just finished the first part of the 2 week Learning Expedition to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

The 2 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 with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Then the students transfer to the East Coast to continue the Learning Expedition together with the EMBA UZH with focus on International Management in Yale with an executive education program on leadership and negotiation at the Yale School of Management and company visits in Boston.

Thorsten Klein, Program Director of the EMBA with focus on Digital Transformation says “This Learning Expedition to the USA is really exciting, as it balances company visits and live cases with start-ups and stimulating lectures with scholars from Stanford and Yale.”

Day 1 focused on understanding the Silicon Valley mindset with 650 Labs CEO Mark Zawacki and learning about the people and history of Silicon Valley with Dr. Sean Randolph, Senior Director at Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

Then the students embarked on a walking tour of the Tech Quarter visiting the headquarters of some of the largest tech firms like Salesforce.org and LinkedIn and a short visit to the check-out free Amazon Go store. Riding the classic cable car to Fishermen`s Wharf the group then enjoyed a fine welcome dinner at “Al Scoma`s” seafood restaurant at Pier 39 – Fisherman`s Wharf.


Day 2 started with Emory Nager, CEO from Jacki.ai speaking 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 cause. Olivier said: “There is a competitive advantage in creating an impact in society.”

This topic led the EMBA participants towards a design sprint challenge to create a socially responsible application. This design sprint is hosted by Swissnex at Pier 17. Deputy CEO Yannick Heiniger and Corine Thommen, Head of Impact Programs, set-up an exciting working session about responsible and inclusive innovation. 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.” Sarah Oh, the Human Rights Advisor  from Twitter discussed with the participants about the roles and responsibility of social media platforms.  The evening continued with a wine tasting reception at the San Francisco Wine Society and further networking with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and tech veterans.

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. After that the tour continued to Palo Alto with a visit to Chris Martinez, serial entrepreneur and founder of idiomatic. Then the group headed over to Sunnyvale to meet entrepreneurs at Plug n`Play – one of the largest (invitation only) start-up events in the Bay Area following an invite by Jake McNee, Corporate Partnership Manager, Plug & Play.

The Learning Expedition then moved on Palo Alto for the second part of the expedition focusing on the role that Stanford University plays in the start-up ecosystem.


Starting the second part of the Learning Expedition Dr. Tamara Carlton introduced the participants to the 4 Horizons model of innovation. Then Prof Dr Michael Shanks took the long view on some of the myths and narratives surrounding silicon valley entrepreneurship.

Christie Ko, Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab introduced some of the cutting edge projects combining different fields of studies to achieve new insights. Then the participants were introduced to a panel of current Stanford undergraduate students to learn about their motivations and aspirations. A big thanks to Ira Thawornbut  and Joyce Chen for moderating this insightful panel. The afternoon concluded with a campus tour and a welcome dinner in downtown Palo Alto.

On Friday Professor Todd Coleman gave fascinating insights into his work where he bridges the gap between biochemistry and electrical engineering to tackle gastro intestinal diseases.

Then Professor Mark Cutkosky gave a lab tour of the famous Stanford d.school and an introduction to the semantic ME310 course.

The afternoon was spent with Tiffine Wang and Jay Onda to learn about the mindset of Silicon Valley investors from a VC perspective.

This concluded the first part of the Learning Expedition and the EMBA UZH is now en-route to New Haven to continue with an exciting program on Leadership and Negotiation at the Yale School of Management.

Many thanks to all our speakers, panellists and moderators, and to Dr. Gert Christen and module leader Dr. Tamara Carleton for putting together this stimulating Learning Expedition for the EMBA UZH. 

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