Jugend Gründet national winner teams Qi-Tech and exclamo. Jan, Julius, Milan, Paul, Kai (from left and right)
After surviving the exhausting transatlantic flight and even more exhausting immigration controls, we found ourselves in front of San Fransico Airport. We already spied the downtown skyline and excitedly chatted about the upcoming trip. Finally, the time had come. Now we could enjoy the trip that we had won in the summer at Jugend Gründet.
We ordered an UBER to a rather rustic hotel downtown. We didn't really have a plan for the first two days, so we decided to just explore the city. We experienced the smooth transition from China Town to the Financial District. They say that in California you experience the future, which would hit the rest of the world a few years later. And so it was: e-scooters everywhere, self-driving cars - normal here. We also tested an Amazon Go store. Cameras detect when someone grabs an item from the shelf. When they leave the store, the corresponding amount is debited from their Amazon account - all automatically, without a cashier.
On Saturday, Professor Dr. Nils Högsdal joined us and we ended our San Francisco sightseeing at a viewing platform over the Golden Gate Bridge. From there we drove to Silicon Valley, where exciting encounters awaited us. We met Björn Hermann, founder of Compass and 2005 Youth Startup winner, in the evening. We visited the airbnb headquarters and went to the Transatlanitc Sync conference in the evening.
The next few days we visited the headquarters of Facebook, Apple and Google. We visited the Tesla factory in Fremont. We visited Stanford University and met with professors and students, startup founders and employees. We exchanged ideas about economic models and about the successes and failures of experienced founders.
Finally, we drove from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, where our journey ends.
We take a lot away from the various discussions and visits: For example, how different the work cultures are at the "big players. At Apple, they are very closed and the "Apple Park" building is designed in Apple style down to the last detail. At Google, we sat in an unexpectedly simple building, but the culture seemed more open. At Airbnb, there were lovingly designed conference rooms, including the first rented Airbnb apartment and a replica of the War Room from the movie Dr. Strangelove. Still rather young compared to Google and Apple, the company seemed playful in its culture. Until a few years ago, for example, there was a Head of Inebriation who was responsible for sourcing alcohol. Table tennis tables, beer from 4 and a ball pit can still be found in the office today.
In the one-on-one meetings with Björn Hermann, Michael Bollmann and Frederik Hermann, we were able to gain insights into everyday life and mentality in Silicon Valley. In addition, we learned from Björn and Frederik how work in startups works there.
The conference offered a perfect opportunity to network with other Germans in Silicon Valley. Especially the speaker lineup was impressive: Andy von Bechtolsheim (founder of Sun Microsystems and investor), Christoph Keese (author of the book Silicon Valley, which accompanied us as an audio book during the car rides) and John Hennesey (Stanford professor and chairman of Google).
Some impressions were certainly buzzwords and hot air. But Silicon Valley is and remains an impressive and inspiring place where the future is already happening today.
In the one week we were here, we enjoyed and adapted to the American lifestyle. In the eight-seat Ford rental car, we listened to American '70s music alongside two audio books about startups and the Valley and now and then. Important impressions of life in California include giant all-you-can-drink cups, oversized cars and refrigerators as well as cheap and delicious burgers at In'n'out.
Numbers about the trip: 7 passengers, 7 nights,1300 miles driven, 43 burgers, 3 startups visited, 3 visits to major companies and countless impressions and lasting experiences.