By Natalie Kahalé

It’s 7:30am and we are all on the bus, some with coffee in hand and others sharing sections of today’s paper, we are ready for the day’s adventure. Our busy day starts with a debrief on our experience so far in the Valley. We are asked to discuss our recent exposure to Silicon Valley Ecosystem and compare this new knowledge with our own client companies and their reality. This conversation is lead by Professor Pierre Sabourin and Director Dr. Terry Kulka.  What is it about a company that makes it great? Oh, let me rephrase that, “What is it about a company that makes it great in Silicon Valley?” As we have been discovering, it seems to be about finding the intersection between science and humanity, about making business decisions that are based on your customers while building a meaningful relationship with them.  This might look simple because when you notice greatness, it already “is”; however, we are learning that it is hard to work to get there. So how do we get there? How can we support our client companies to “achieve greatness”? We are learning that it is by transforming imagination into innovation; all the while creating a customer experience that is memorable.

The City of San Jose created that memorable experience for me today. Our bus driver Philip chose the beautiful San Jose Rose Garden to have our box lunch. The garden was filled with fresh sent of bloomed roses and the sun was shining bright. We found a stone bench near a large fountain right in the centre of the garden, completely surrounded by roses or all possible colours.  A little girl came by selling chocolate bars for a fundraising initiative at her school.  She was shy, but had great big smile and the perfect treat of chocolate and almonds for sale. The only problem is that I did not have my wallet with me, I had to kindly decline. I thought to myself, “Will I see the day when I will not need to carry a wallet to transfer funds to her school to purchase that chocolate bar?”  My intuitive response is “yes absolutely and it will probably be possible due to a start-up company in Silicon Valley comprised of a small energetic team of content experts with big imaginations!”
After our beautiful lunch stop, we headed out to eBay – PayPal.  We were greeted by Matthew Mengerink- VP Core Technologies PayPal.  As we know, eBay currently connects buyers to sellers to auction.  What Matthew explained is that the sale of digital goods and of mobile commerce is growing at mind blowing rates. Mobile commerce for example blossomed from $50 million to half a billion dollars in one year via PayPal. This is changing the auction model to a data company, tapping into monetisation capabilities and helping connect buyers and sellers with a safe proposal (PayPal), durable over time. Mr Mengerink explained the value proposition in having the ability of taking friction out of transactions and creating platforms for customers that offer a safe and reliable exchange of goods and a positive experience for the customer.

After our presentation from Matthew, we had the opportunity to get behind the scenes of the eBay monitoring systems. In a boardroom with a glass wall on looking to a room of computers and projector screens, Operations Manager Larry Cassidy introduced us to the “Nerve Centre” a place where everything on eBay is monitored. Bids, registrations and listings are all showing in graph form while on another projection screen we see a web server monitor sending a test connection every second. Of course they have backup systems and other locations (Denver for example) to ensure contingency planning. This information was running “real time”. They are operating 24/7 and this internationally, the sheer magnitude of the load that is handled through these systems is most impressive.

We are living in a time where the digital world is shaping who we work, live and play and it is moving faster than we are able to conceptualize. I am very excited to be living today, in a time of change and endless possibilities. Who knows, with a little imagination turned into innovation, maybe the next time I am sitting on that stone bench in the San Jose Rose Garden, I will be able to purchase a chocolate bar without having my wallet on me.