Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trip Summary

Having failed to post on a daily basis, I thought I could at least finish up with a summary of the trip. Being a categorizer I have tried to put the various people and companies into categories:

  • Seed Stage
    • VarLabs Facebook shopping/recommender app
    • Wameeni
    • Citizen Space

  • early stage (1 -2 rounds)
    • Boxee
    • Seesmic
    • Revision 3

  • Middle stage / pre public
    • LS9
    • MobiTV
    • Krugle
    • Tesla Motors
    • Facebook

  • Mature public Company
    • Google
    • Apple
    • Pixar

  • Meeting with VC's
    • Hummer Winblad Venture Partners (Ann Winblad)
    • Guy Kawasaki

  • Individuals Working on their own as Authors/Consultants/Entrepreneurs
    • Sara Lacy
    • Robert Scoble (FastCompany TV)
    • Charlene Li

  • Research
    • Xerox PARC

  • Persistent thread about branding and building your own brand
    • Jeremiah Owyang @ forrester summarized it really well
    • Twitter and Blogging as devices for building brand

At all stages of company we heard some persistent themes. One of them revolved around risk. The message the students heard was don't be afraid to take risks, there are lots of good opportunities out there and if one thing doesn't work out, learn from that and move on. We also heard very consistently about the concept of value. How do you add value to the company you work for? If you don't know the answer to that question then you are in the wrong place. Figure out how you can add value doing something you love and you will be happy and successful. Related to the value question the students heard a lot of encouragement that it doesn't matter what your pedigree is once you are in the door.

Silicon Valley is an amazing and vibrant community. People are constantly supporting each other and encouraging each other around the ideas that are floating around. People openly share enough of what they are doing to build on each others ideas and enthusiasm. We heard consistently that its not enough to have an idea you have to be able to execute on it and that is really what differentiates the winners from the losers.

We heard about lots of different business models. How does a company make money? How does an individual monetize their blog and other online work?

  • Advertising supported
  • Technology licensing
  • direct sale to consumers
  • consulting

Open source is as big as you think it is. Virtually every company is building and using open source software.

We saw examples of lots of different work environments:
  • Very Open
  •  Facebook, Citizen Space, Revision 3
  • These companies have little or no personal space. If there are cubes, the cube walls are extremely low and allow you to see everyone at a glance. At the facebook extreme its like a public lab except you bring in your laptop and plug it into a monitor and keyboard. There is lots of movement as project requirements and stages demand.

  • Moderately Open
  • Google -- Google appears to have a more traditional mix of offices and high cubes, but there are so many entertaining activities going on all the time that it draws people out into the open for frequent interaction. Google has a very open culture in that all the data about the performance of virtually any product is available to any employee on their intranet. The "testing on the toilet" program is a great example of both openness, and how to use every avilable second to educate and keep people engaged.

  • Closed, but with other strategies for bringing employees together
  • Apple --  More closed. This brings about the legendary secretive nature. But this is by design. We heard that you don't really work at apple, you belong to a cult. And people are proud of that.
  • Pixar is closed because they need to protect whats coming next. The entertainment industry is much more cut-throat than the tech industry and without enforcing some secrecy on projects it would be a disaster. However, they are open in other ways that encourage people to be creative.

I would like to thank the Estrem Endowment for making this trip possible. I would like to thank all of the students for being great representatives of Luther College. Finally I would like to again, publicly thank all of the people we met with for being so gracious and taking the time to talk to us.

I hope we can do this again.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Web Strategy for the Obama Generation

The Lutherlive gang got a nice mention from Jeremiah Owyang in his blog post today. Check it out here

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Catching up -- Part 1

The students have been doing so well in capturing this trip on their own blogs that I have been remiss in writing anything here.


Friday was an awesome day. We began with a visit to Citizen Space where we met Tara Hunt and Cathy Brooks. Tara described the concept of "Whuffie" to us which will be further explained in her upcoming book. Cathy talked about her career in the valley and here experiences at seesmic. Its great to hear from Valley veterans, I could barely keep up with them as I was checking out all the cool websites and web services they use.

We left Citizen Space and headed over the bay bridge to Emmeryville, home to Pixar Animation Studios. Yes! I know I was like a kid again getting the tour of the studio and seeing the life size models from Cars and Wall-E. I had my picture taken with Bruce from Finding Nemo, we got a sneak preview of an upcoming Pixar short, and lunch in the cafeteria. Its amazing to see how much of the architecture and work environment at Pixar is aimed at helping people to be creative. I'm so grateful that we got to see Google, Apple, and Pixar relatively close together, to appreciate the differences and similarities between these three companies.

After the Pixar tour, lunch, and retail stop for Pixar shirts etc. we had a group picture taken with the Luxo lamp.

Luther College: Live in Silicon Valley

As an added bonus to the day we visited MobiTV, Daniels cousin, Alan Moskowitz, works in the office of the CTO there and oh-by-the-way was one of the founders of Tivo. We met with Alan in their glass lined conference room with a view of the golden gate bridge. Alan gave a great presentation on innovation, entrepreneurship, and life in a startup company.

After all of the above we drove back to Union Square in downtown San Francisco where Stephanie had organized a happy hour for her friends. This was a chance for the students to meet some additional technology people in an informal setting. After hanging around the happy hour for an hour or so we set off to find some dinner at more student friendly prices. Yes, downtown San Francisco has a slightly different price point on drinks and dinner than downtown Decorah! It is all part of the experience and the students experience it with good humor.

Well, this is a lot so I'll continue to catch up in another post.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 3

I skipped a day. Sorry.

On day 2 we had our first official site visit at Life Sciences 9 (LS9). We were hosted by Jonathan Seaton who did a great job of giving an overview of the company, the technology, and how startups function. LS9 takes e-coli bacteria and sugar cane, applies some genetic engineering, and turns that combination into diesel fuel!

In the afternoon we met at the home of Sarah Lacy, author of Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good. Elliott has a great overview of the day on his blog

On Day 3, we started our day in Silicon Valley traffic. It took a full hour to get from Santa Clara to Palo Alto. The drive was worth it as we got to spend an hour and a half with Guy Kawasaki. After our meeting with Guy we soaked up the Silicon Valley atmosphere, and the unseasonably warm (73 degree) weather. It helped to know that the wind chill back home was somewhere around -40!

We had lunch with Charlene Li, author of Groundswell at Zibibbo in Palo Alto.

After lunch we had some time to kill so we hiked down to the Stanford campus and visited the bookstore. It is a huge campus and very beautiful.

Our final visit of the day was to Tesla Motors This is an amazing story. In just 5 years Tesla has gone from startup to production on a fully electric roadster. Compare that to the decades its taken the big 3 to produce a car and it really makes you wonder. More details on the day can be found on Jake's blog Right Where I Neeed to Be. You will also note who got to sit in the roadster for the picture :-) Wes also has a good description on his blog.

We ended the day at Darbar, an Indian restaurant in Paolo Alto. Craig Cornelius met us there and we had a great visit with Craig. Everyone was very adventurous with their orders and it was great.

Finally we have a big flickr photostream started here: Luther College Live in Silicon Valley Photos right now its kind of a firehose of information but we'll get them organized eventually.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 1

We made it out of Minneapolis just ahead of the blizzard! Silicon Valley was a beautiful 60 degrees and sunny!

Elliott has a short summary of the first day here:

See also Jake's summary of the day here:

Stay tuned for pictures and video of Whack-a-Spam at the Tech museum.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jake's Trip Preview

Jake Vaith has a good summary of what we are going to be done on his blog. Check it out on Jake's Blog

Thursday, January 8, 2009

T minus 4 days

Only 4 days to go until the kickoff of Luther College Live in Silicon Valley.

You can follow our travels on this blog as well as the twitter id @lutherlive