Explore Beyond the Exhibit

Explore CHM’s archives and educational materials to learn more about entrepreneurship and startup ecosystems. Find answers to questions in the following topic areas.

Do you know how the Silicon Valley ecosystem got its name?

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?

How would you build a brand new startup ecosystem?

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.

Who bought a bite of Apple?

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? 

Why were Apple’s founders considered “Risk Factors”?

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? 

Can you learn how to “Innovate”?

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?

When is failure good?

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?

What can a napkin tell us about Silicon Valley entrepreneurs?

Examine the archival catalogue record for the Entrepreneur’s Napkin and read a story by the man who created it. Then, consider the following questions: 

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?

How do things really work in Silicon Valley?

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?


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