Six values ​​I learned in Silicon Valley

Sara Aragon
Jan 6, 2020 · 8 min read

On December 9th, in the afternoon, the day began. We had arrived only a couple of hours ago at Silicon Valley (SV) and we were already at the University of San José meeting Sergio Ortiz, an academic at Tecnológico de Monterrey, who is in the valley completing a doctoral degree in entrepreneurship. In his words, entrepreneurship is the viability of a country, it is the way to generate economic progress and social development. Its objective of studies is to know the elements that influence entrepreneurial skills and unravel the reasons why graduates of Tec de Monterrey stand out in creating companies.

As a team, we were amazed and privileged to be in that place, the area of ​​the world where large technology corporations are hosted, as well as thousands of small startups. Even more, when for a long time we had worked on developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our city of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico, by the best private university in the country, Tecnológico de Monterrey. Tec de Monterrey is based on a business park model aimed at knowledge transfer by being strongly connected to other entrepreneurship centers, government entities, corporations, local universities and entrepreneurs in the region.

Throughout 10 years Orion Technology Park, has looked at the leaders of global entrepreneurship such as Silicon Valley or Tel Aviv to learn about its dynamics and operations knowing that, to develop the local ecosystem; the key is knowledge, adopting good practices and adapting each initiative to the reality of our environment.

During this 5-day trip, not only physical but intellectual and even in many ways, spiritual; I witnessed firsthand, the way of life of the locals of SV which is based on 6 values ​​that caught my attention powerfully: collaboration, feedback, persistence, globality, impact and honor. Next, I will explain from whom I heard these important lessons.

1. Globality

Late in the afternoon we arrived at Common Grounds, a coworking space in downtown San José, where a thoughtful and profound conversation with Jorge Zavala was awaiting us. Jorge is a Mexican with great initiative and vision, who has lived in the Valley for several years helping to connect, train and fund entrepreneurs; being also a partner and founder of different ventures.

Between the smell of coffee and a cozy atmosphere, Zavala gave us very valuable clues from someone that looks at the Mexican ecosystem from the outside. He was direct when he referred to Mexican entrepreneurs, stating that their businesses are competitive, have quality and all the capabilities to innovate and grow; however, emphasized on an important necessity: vision.

To scale and grow, all companies must achieve: (1) a unique added value, so that they do not need to compete for price, (2) an expectation of demand not large but huge, that is, that there really is a promising market for their product and (3) the knowledge and attitude to manage growth. This third aspect is the most relevant, it refers to global mentality and ambition to impact considerably for which large amounts of money are required; but, according to Zavala, there is a problem with Latin American entrepreneurs, they are not skilled in getting money and when they get it they don’t know how to use it. SV is the best place to obtain funds as long as the entrepreneur is clear about what he needs the resources for and is able to demonstrate that his business will work.

In any case, it is the global mentality that advances any startup and leads it to get the resources it needs to grow globally.

2. Feedback

With a big smile, we were met at Microsoft’s offices by Brian, a talent recruiter. It was about 10 in the morning in San Francisco when we entered the lobby of the building marked with 1355 Market Street. We could not believe so much hospitality from the hosts, but the best thing was the message they shared.

“I am here because I share the vision of this corporation that is helping people and companies around the world to develop their full potential,” Brian said with great pride during his talk.

Since the founding of Microsoft, Bill Gates and Paul Allen had the vision of “creating products that people love.” Throughout its history, the company has distinguished itself by listening to its client and understanding the market by creating or acquiring systems and products for mass markets such as Windows, Office, Surface, Skype, Xbox or Yammer.

This is a great lesson on how to listen to the market and generate, in its terms, the customer-oriented work culture which all Microsoft employees live day by day applying their knowledge in developing accessible media and platforms that allows the greatest number of people in the world to live their passion using friendly and efficient tools.

For this reason, the concept of customer feedback takes on special relevance and is an essential part to consider for every startup.

3. Persistence

San Francisco had yet another surprise for us in the Bay Area: the startup called Miroculus, led by three incredible Mexicans. This new company is about to launch a new affordable development for students, academics and researchers dedicated to molecular tests. As it reads in its LinkedIn, Miroculus technology is able to simplify, automate and miniaturize complex protocols such as the preparation of sequencing libraries, improving the consistency of information and eliminating the need for complex robotics. Miroculus platform also decreases the entry of samples and reagent volumes, reducing protocol times and manual interventions. In other words, they are automating and reducing costs of laboratory tasks.

What makes Miroculus’ history fascinating is its persistence over time having worked for years in its development, knowing that in the health industry research is expensive due to the intensive use of specialized equipment and the long period required to give results; but, thanks to its persistence, the team has obtained 27 patents in 13 families to reach the technology that the market will soon see. In the words of Jorge, one of the entrepreneurs, they are democratizing advanced science … amazing! Don’t you think?

4. Collaboration

At the epicenter of innovation, Global Silicon Valley or GSVLabs is driving an intelligent, determined, ambitious and collaborative way of generating innovation. In its own description, GSVLabs is not a place but an “energy”, a network of innovation centers located in critical points around the world near companies and research institutions. This global structure has a venture capital fund, spaces for entrepreneurs and a digital ecosystem called GSV Passport consisting of access to mentors, guides and discounted services.

It also stands out for supporting corporate innovation by helping to create the culture and collaborative environment by teaching the necessary tools for the development of projects. They are programs of internal innovation of high speed and high impact.

With a worldwide community of mentors, entrepreneurs, institutions and companies, it is the collaboration and ties between the participants that makes GSVLabs work with great results in created companies and technological development, connecting the 40 main innovation capitals of the world with startups, innovators and corporations. For GSVLabs this “is an extraordinary time to be an entrepreneur.”

5. Impact

On the morning of our 4th day at SV, we were lucky to visit Hitachi Vantara at its new location in Santa Clara Square. Carla Yashiro, welcomed us to give us a tour and then take us to a talk about internet of things and artificial intelligence. Inside the offices with perfect design, collaborative environment and common areas such as cafeterias and a gym, the digital era and use of data to improve the lives of people with multiple applications such as industrial development and smart cities are brewing.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) was founded in 1989 primarily dedicated to storage systems. Since 2017, HDS has become Hitachi Vantara oriented to data management for the era of Artificial Intelligence. “DataOps” connects data consumers with data creators to quickly monetize their information.

Hitachi Vantara has a special focus on social innovation by placing on the Thompson Reuters list “Top 100 Global Innovators”, its technology is really changing the way in which companies and society work together. Another of its principles is corporate social responsibility complying with the highest standards in the world. Additionally, it dedicates more than $2.8 billion annually to research and development to find solutions to the challenges posed by its customers.

Today, more than 4,900 employees know and share the company’s culture within an environment that inspires teamwork, community, leadership and ownership of projects and delivery of results. Interestingly, receiving the tour we met an employee who has 30 years in the company and two of our hosts already served 10 and 8 years consecutively, it is rare and admirable in an environment like SV where talent seeks rapid mobility between companies.

The impact of the company is global and comprehensive, based on the latest technology data analysis that helps improve the activities of companies and people. The company currently has its corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, California and commercial offices in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

6. Honor

Googleplex is the headquarters of the company Google LLC, located in Mountain View, Santa Clara, that was the last company to visit on our agenda. They say that the best should be left for last and this experience was undoubtedly the best.

Upon entering, awaiting us was a delicious breakfast, a table with all kinds of drinks, fruits and snacks. Then, our host invited us to enter a room where four amazing people were waiting for us, all with great stories to share about their experience within the company and the way in which, being Latinos, they were accepted in Google.

We started a group conversation where we listened to their life lessons and they shared their advice to grow professionally, but more important, personally.

It was a close and endearing talk, it was easy to understand why they looked so happy to work in that place, they all shared the vision of Google to “organize the information of the world and make it accessible and useful for everyone”, they talked to us about the way talent is selected based on leadership skills, not only current but potential, they agreed that the company is empathetic in thinking of others and their own employees, they also mentioned that the relationship with their bosses and their teammates are based on independence, autonomy and flexibility.

There is much talk about how fantastic it is to work at Google, that more than a company it looks like a university campus with bicycles, cafeteria, gym, laundry and sports facilities. But when it was time to respond, Rubén, one of the interviewees did not hesitate to say: “The best thing about working here is that our interaction is based on honor. We all know that everyone is going to do their part and is doing the best they can. That is why we trust each other and it is not necessary to respect a schedule.” I hope that by reading this last paragraph you will be as shocked as I am.

The entire trip was amazing, unexpected almost unreal and definitely transformative. A place as particular as Silicon Valley could not help but give us some of its magic to bring a little to Chihuahua.

Parque Tecnológico Orión

Technologhy, education, entrepreneurship and innovation…

Sara Aragon

Written by

Coordinator of Business Department in Orion Technology Park that includes startups incubation, business acceleration and mentoring network.

Parque Tecnológico Orión

Technologhy, education, entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystema part of Tecnologico de Monterrey University

Sara Aragon

Written by

Coordinator of Business Department in Orion Technology Park that includes startups incubation, business acceleration and mentoring network.

Parque Tecnológico Orión

Technologhy, education, entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystema part of Tecnologico de Monterrey University

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