Sunday 10 July
Our trip officially started in San Francisco. We met up at a restaurant near our hotel for a quick catch-up and to prepare for the intense week ahead.
Monday 11 July
We gathered at the Martin Luther King Memorial in the morning to visit San Francisco-based law firm Fenwick & West. Here, partner Joseph Schenck talked with us about the impact the legal framework has on innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. From there, we went to a gallery to meet Dutchwoman Carmen Pop, who has worked at organisations like Dropbox and LinkedIn. Currently, she’s Chief of Staff to the CFO of Asana. Carmen shared her experiences about working and living in the Bay Area, and also acknowledged some of the darker, neglected issues of working in Silicon Valley.
After a quick lunch, LinkedIn director and RSM alumnus Martijn Lancee joined us. Martijn reminisced about working at tech companies like Microsoft, Google and LinkedIn, and shared what he has learned throughout his career.
Later we caught up with entrepreneur and RSM alumnus Steijn Pelle. He talked about what it’s like to work in Silicon Valley and how it compares to the Dutch culture. Steijn answered our questions about his employment at Coinbase and Robinhood – a great opportunity to learn about different roles in practice.
That evening we travelled from San Francisco to Draper University in Palo Alto.
Tuesday 12 July
We woke up in our rooms at Draper University, fresh and ready to enjoy a free day. Some of us went surfing, others visited Apple Park and another group took in a baseball game.
Wednesday 13 July
Our first stop of the day was U.C. Berkeley. We attended a workshop there on design fiction given by Jan-Simon Veicht. Later, we collaborated with Schoolab students from Berkeley to predict and understand future developments in urban design and upcoming technologies.
After Berkeley, we had a guest lecture from Michael Seiler on social impact and what a good team in an organisation looks like. Highly relevant because many start-ups consist of teams of developers. We wrapped up the day by visiting Stanford University before returning to Draper University.
Thursday 14 July
This morning we visited Plug and Play, a venture capital firm and start-up accelerator. Jan Akerman and EUR alumnus Floris van der Meer discussed the lifecycle of start-ups and the over 28 unicorns Plug and Play has guided over the years. Jan and Floris also shared their personal journeys to Silicon Valley and explained the pros and cons of working there.
Mountain View was our next stop with an afternoon visit to Googleplex as well as the Computer History Museum. A museum displaying the development of computers and, on a broader scale, the development of Silicon Valley.
Next, we visited Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus and had a tour of the office, among others. RSM alumni Luc Kien Hang and Deepak Subhramanian discussed how it is to work for a tech company and explained the different ways to acquire a work visa.
We left Draper University and travelled back to San Francisco that evening.
Friday 15 July
We kicked off the day by visiting Planet, a company that has launched thousands of satellites into Earth’s atmosphere for data collection. Data from the satellites is shared with governments, research institutions and other organisations to create a better understanding of avalanches, visualise the earth’s outer shell and predict various natural phenomena.
Our final event of the week was a visit to the Dutch consulate in San Francisco where we met many RSM and Erasmus alumni. Here, senior advisor for Innovation, Technology and Science, Karin Louzada, gave a presentation on the impact of Dutch entrepreneurs in the area and the general business ecosystem of the Bay Area. Cocktails followed and Willem Jonker, CEO of EIT Digital, gave a speech on what European countries could learn from the US and why the Bay Area has made more advancements in technology than the EU.
This study trip has enabled me to understand how various players can boost innovation and entrepreneurship in an area. I witnessed first-hand how an environment in which all kinds of organisations (e.g., venture capital firms, start-ups, law firms, governmental organisations) working together can establish remarkable things and change the paradigm. Of course, I also saw up-close the downside of such an ecosystem. With many homeless people, burned-out employees and an extremely high cost of living.
I have broadened and deepened my horizon when it comes to innovation, entrepreneurship and mindsets. Both the RSM BSc programme and honours study trip have taught me lessons I now apply on a daily basis in my personal, academic and professional life.
Special thanks to Prof. Wim Hulsink and Prof. Rene Olie for making this study trip possible. And to San Francisco Minibus charters for their kind transport of our group throughout our study trip week.