Student Treks: A week in the Bay

We’re pleased to welcome guest blogger Patrick Keenan, MBA ’10-11.  Along with dozens of his classmates, Patrick traveled to Silicon Valley over spring break with the Oxford MBA trek to experience the region’s entreprenerial energy first-hand.  The post originally appeared on Patrick’s blog.

Trickling into the Carlton hotel one Oxonian after another. It was Sunday night and we knew, despite the long ride, we would need all our energy for the week ahead. The schedule was packed. We certainly had options: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Box, IDEO, The HUB, Path, Genetech, LinkedIn, CurrentTV, and YCombinator.

What stuck about the Bay area was the contrasts. From one block to the next, from one hour to the next it was a place of:

  • Perfect Weather vs  Cold Fog
  • Delicious Tastes vs  Fast Food
  • Optimism vs  Destitution
  • Opportunities vs  Workaholics
  • Thought Leaders vs  Deluded realties
  • High quality of life vs  High cost of living
  • Freedom vs  Income disparity
  • Beautiful Public Space vs  Urine soaked streets

We heard many contrasts at our visits as well. Entrepreneurship and Innovation often come from making unexpected connections, here are a couple we saw:

Path: Anthropology + Online Networks

Drawing from Professor Dunbar at Oxford, Path is working to create a smaller social network. The venture is based on 2 of Dunbar’s magic numbers of 150(the amount of people you can know) and 5(the amount of people you can trust). By limiting your social network, the idea is that you’ll share more of your life(photos). Download the app, its beautiful.

IDEO.org, one of many entrepreneurial highlights (photo courtesy of ideo.org)

IDEO.org: Human Centred Design + Social Issues

We were privileged to hear from Jocelyn Wyatt about IDEO’s venture into the social innovation space. They’d be launching an incubator for ideas, and a kit around HCD. Design and Development have been too far for too long, we have 90% of designers designing for 10% of the population. Great to see this connection, apply for the fellowship here.

SYPartners: Strategy + Design

I took the liberty of visiting a firm I’ve been inspired by for a while. SYPartners has worked with top tier clients on changing culture for the better. By their material you might think they were a design studio. What they do well is assist leaders to develop new visions for themselves. I hope to see more work that hits the high note of both core strategy and quality execution, check them out here.

O’Reilly: Communities + Venture

Another fortunate meeting was with O’Reily Alpha Tech Ventures. They work with the alpha nerd, and the communities that surround folks who are doing for the sake of it. Some familiar technologies line the walls here: Drupal + Aquia, Foursquare, Strobe + SproutCore, Get Satisfaction.

The highlight of the trip for me though, wasn’t a company, but a talk. I’ve been an avid listener of the Long Now Foundation for years. As fate would have it, the dates matched.  In the talk many contrasting visions were reconciled, from the singularity, to nuclear power, to the importance of geography, and more. Check out the talk here.

Its clear I’ll have to go back. There’s an attitude, a culture, and an ecosystem in the bay area that can’t compare. Entrepreneurs live on the fault line of ideas, and the Bay area is wrought with tectonic activity.

For more on the trek to Silcon Valley, read what other student’s had to say