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What a start to the Class of 2019’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Trip to Silicon Valley!

We landed in San Francisco around noon on Saturday. After dropping our belongings at the hotel we ventured to the Artesa Vineyard and proceeded to immerse ourselves into part of the California culture. There was plenty of wine tasting, and more importantly a lot of wine drinking.

The teams split up for dinner before retiring for the evening. Sleep was a welcome reprieve after a long travel day. Some of us made it through the night unscathed and well-rested, while some of us explored the area around the hotel.

Sunday brought a day of adventures for everyone. The program had scheduled a ‘free day’ to explore San Francisco at our leisure. Some activities included hiking, touring, eating, and golfing. The cohort came together for dinner at the Tonga Room where the Mai-Tai ran deep and the music pounded the beats. The evening concluded with a cohort social gathering in the now infamous room 952, also known as the room of our fellow candidate Suhail.

The heart of our learning experience began Monday morning. A quick jaunt over to PayPal to meet with John Frost, the Solutions Engineer & Start-up Advisor. John supplied us with a detailed history of the company as well as an idea to its future plans.

The explanation of the PayPal Mafia and its members was exciting. The ‘mafia’, made up of former colleagues and alumni of the now infamous payment collection system, consists of the some of the most well-known and successful entrepreneurs of the last 20 years building and influencing several successful organizations since their departure from PayPal.

David Sacks founded Yammer. Keith Rabois was the COO of Square and played an influential role with LinkedIn. Reid Hoffman created LinkedIn. Elon Musk founded Tesla and SpaceX. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim founded YouTube. Premal Shah is the president of Kiva. Max Levchin founded Slide. And Peter Thiel, PayPal’s co-founder funded multiple well-known start-ups such as Facebook.

The PayPal Mafia story has an almost mythical vibe to it and as time goes on the investors and founders are revered and their legend most certainly will continue to grow.

We ventured to Orange Silicon Valley in the afternoon and met with Jay Onda for a session on “How corporates engage with startups and vice versa.”

Orange has held a presence in the telecommunications industry within the Valley for almost 20 years. Their focus is seeking out disruptive technology the Valley, that could change the way we communicate, and bringing it back into the Orange environment. In search of a way to stay relevant and nurture these technologies, the Orange accelerator was born. Inspired by Y Combinator and 500 Startups, Orange Fab was launched in 2013 and hosted its first season of startups. Six startups were down-selected from 160 applications and spent three months in the Valley, culminating their experience on ‘Demo Day’. The Demo Day was so successful that the model was “copy and pasted” to 13 locations across four continents.

Although the model has worked well internationally, the OSV (Orange Silicon Valley) chose to pivot. They had encountered a ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma whereby early stage startups were considered too risky by corporate. When trying to attract more mature stage startups, they found these startups were not at a stage where they needed an accelerator.   OSV now acts as a connector, inviting early-stage startups to be part of the OSV community.  Effectively, OSV connects the startups to OSV partners which in turn provides their partners with a network in Silicon Valley. For Orange, their partners attract a diverse group of startups across industries relevant to Orange’s core strategy. The startups also benefit from the networks and connectivity of Orange and its partners.

A question that came about several times, ‘how does Orange choose the best startups?” As a cohort, we are grateful for the candid response from our hosts that there is not a secret formula for choosing start-ups. Orange aims simply to minimize the number of roadblocks start-ups face. They don’t ask for equity and there are no fees to participate in and be a part of the OSV community. Like many businesses, they believe in building a foundation of relationships, reputation, and referrals.

After the presentations came to an end, the cohort returned to the Westin for some group work to prepare for meetings with their clients. 

This week has started off with a bang. The spirit and enthusiasm are prevalent throughout the group. The remaining days in San Francisco look to be engaging and unique in the educational approach. 

As a cohort, we will ensure not to count the remaining days but to make those days count. 


© 2018 Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
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