Vibrant and diverse ecosystems allow talent, information, and resources to flow to entrepreneurs.
Explore the resources below to learn more about the historical context of vibrant ecosystems like Silicon Valley and how they thrive.
Read the 1971 headline article, Silicon Valley U.S.A., the first time the name “Silicon Valley” appeared in print. (Note: the masthead incorrectly carries the date 1970.)
Why did journalist Don Hoefler use the term “Silicon Valley” to refer to the region in 1971? [Hint: What are microchips, or semiconductors, made from?]
Do you think one successful industry is always enough to create and sustain a startup ecosystem?
If you were coming up with a nickname for Silicon Valley’s ecosystem today, what might you call it?
Most would agree that all of the pieces of an innovation ecosystem are important—and interdependent—in creating the greater whole. If you were tasked with developing an innovation ecosystem in another region, which piece would you focus on first and why?
Can an innovation ecosystem be intentionally constructed through policy and planning or must it emerge organically? What must be present to lay the foundation?
Download the discussion guide, The Sum of the Parts: Building an Innovation Ecosystem, for more questions to help you think about how to build a new startup ecosystem.
For nearly a century, Silicon Valley has spawned new firms that have forever changed how we work, live, and play. Apple is one of the most innovative and enduring.
Explore the resources below for historical context about the early days of Apple, including its funders, management team, and business plan.
After watching the video of early Apple funder Mike Markkula, how would you answer the following questions:
How did Apple’s founders secure initial funding?
Venture capitalists differ on whether they focus on the founders or the market opportunity when considering a potential investment. In the case of Apple, do you believe the investors were betting on the people or the market?
What criteria did the funders use to determine if they would invest in the startup? What role did personal networks play?
Based on Apple’s Preliminary Confidential Offering Memorandum (pgs. 16-18, 24, Appendix B) consider the company’s business model:
How will it make money? Can you tell? If so, explain what operations will look like for the first 12 months vs. 5 years in the future. If not, consider how an investor might feel without that information.
Why might an investor be concerned about Apple’s founders?
Learn about entrepreneur, university president, and Silicon Valley leader John Hennessy’s advice after a long career. Then, consider the following questions:
Can you relate to any of the mistakes that Hennessy made as an entrepreneur?
Does Hennessy believe that you can teach entrepreneurship? Why does he advocate cold sales calls?
What is the unusual company leadership model that Hennessy describes? Under what conditions do you think it would work?
Venture capitalist Tim Draper chose “Fail” as his word of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs to encourage them to learn from their mistakes. Watch a video of Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Bill Barnett talking about the importance of failure. Then, answer the following questions:
How deeply must a willingness to fail be embedded in an innovation ecosystem for it to thrive? Is a risk-averse but bold minority enough?
Does the strength of the ecosystem itself serve to minimize the risk that many individuals actually take on? For example, with a large number of job opportunities in the region, an individual bears little risk in accepting a startup role (and even relocating for it), because the probability of employment remains high should the original venture fail.
What steps can be taken to institutionalize failure acceptance in an effort to foster innovation? From a policy standpoint? From an educational standpoint? From a public narrative standpoint?
Although entrepreneurs often face similar tasks and challenges on the journey to building a company, each story unfolds in its own unique way.
Explore the resources below for historical context and analysis about Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
What stereotypes does this napkin perpetuate about Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs?
What does it tell you about entrepreneurship?
How does Bob Zeidman’s story support or detract from stereotypes about Silicon Valley entrepreneurs?
Read about Silicon Valley historian Leslie Berlin’s take on some of the real people who made things happen in the Valley. Then consider:
How do the people that Berlin talks about conform to or differ from the stereotypes on the napkin?
What, if anything, surprised you about the people or culture of Silicon Valley?
Check out the long history of innovation in Silicon Valley.
See what you think about the idea that the US government is the key player behind Silicon Valley’s tech ecosystem.
The devil is in the details of one of the first Apple ads… literally. Can you find the reference to a biblical story in the Apple I advertisement? What do you think the founders are trying to convey to their early customers?
Silicon Valley: The Heart of the Untold Story introduces you to the founders of WhatsApp, Apple, and other Valley tech companies.
Helen Bradley, former VP of Engineering at Silicon Valley success story NetApp, shares her thoughts on the importance of strong teams and the vulnerability that exists if diversity is lacking in a company or an ecosystem.
Check out some one word activities and see if they might help you in your professional or personal life.