Silicon Valley 2016 Blog Series
Teams from the Class of 2017 are writing about their experiences in Silicon Valley as a part of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Business Consulting Trip in a series of blogs. You are currently reading the fourth blog in the series. You can read their additional blogs by clicking on the buttons below.
Blog 4: Incremental Innovation vs. Invention
Written by Team Capella – Mohamed Eldery, Daniel Feeny, Tanya Gracie, Kyle Taplay and Andrew Wright
The Telfer Executive MBA Class of 2017 continued the momentum of our Silicon Valley experience today with an enlightening visit to the IBM research laboratories in San Jose, a pivotal lecture at Stanford University, and a University of Ottawa alumni event.
The IBM research labs were unassuming and hidden among the hills on the outskirts of the city, far away from the speed and intensity of downtown San Francisco. We were thrilled to meet some of IBM’s top research scientists who delivered presentations on their projects, many of which have the potential to impact our daily lives: sophisticated materials recycling, next generation energy storage, and collaboration tools that harvest tribal knowledge and enable context-sensitive information management for problem-solving teams. Our key takeaway from the IBM experience was the stark contrast between the start-up VC fail-fast mind set where 60 start-ups share a workspace – versus the institutional rigor of research projects led by top scientists, physicists, and chemists over many years and often result in complex patents that span multiple technologies and industries. While the start-up culture is focused on incremental innovation, IBM is focused on invention.
A short ride down the highway from IBM we arrived at Stanford University where we had a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Richard Dasher. Dr. Dasher’s research and teaching focuses on innovation systems and the impact of new technologies on industry structure and dynamics. He stressed to us that the focus in the Valley is for start-ups to grow as much as possible, as fast possible, and then for the founders to exit quickly – and then repeat the process. Failure is not only accepted, it is considered an important step in an entrepreneurs learning curve – proving resilience – particularly if the founding team sticks together in their next venture.
We wrapped up our busy day enjoying a glass of wine at a remarkable hotel not too far from Stanford where we mingled with an impressive group of dignitaries and uOttawa alumni. We were honoured to meet with Mr. Allan Rock, University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor who captivated us with us his vision for the role of education in building bridges of understanding between nations. We were also joined by Canadian Consul General in San Francisco, Mr. Brandon Lee, who had delivered a most insightful meeting with us earlier in the week. We were particularly impressed with the alumni who now call Silicon Valley home and are proud of their affiliation with the University of Ottawa brand.