Wednesday 28 September 2016

How ESSEC brought me to Silicon Valley

When I started ESSEC, I decided to make the most of the broad range of opportunities available. Hence, I enrolled in the CPI Program (Création d'un Produit innovant), an entrepreneurship program which lasts 6 months and is a joint program between ESSEC, Centrale (engineering school) & Strate (design school). 

For 6 months, every Tuesday we met at NUMA, an incubator in the centre of Paris, to work in teams on the project we had chosen. I worked for Technicolor, a French tech company. They had given us the task to come up with a product or service which would protect their consumers' personal data on the internet in... 25 years time!

The project was extremely challenging since we had to imagine how the internet would evolve, how our society would adapt to it and how we would behave as individuals in an even more connected world! After 6 months, we presented our project to the jury and won a trip to San Francisco to meet the most successful companies at the heart of the Silicon Valley.

One year later, six other winners and I embarked upon this great journey, boarded a plane to San Francisco and landed in the hub of worldwide innovation.

"Silicon Valley is as tantalizing as it is intimidating"

We started off by visiting Google and its breathtaking campus. With over 30 000 employees at their Mountain View site, Google's campus is literally a self-sufficient city of its own. Dozens of restaurants, thousands of Google bikes to enable Googlers to move around. We could feel that something big was happening around us! 

We went on to visit AirBnB. They own a fantastic office as well, 6-story high, with hundreds of different themed rooms to spark creativity and foster innovation. What a great place to work!

Moreover, we met other startups, entrepreneurs and even a former colleague of Steve Jobs who had launched the iTunes Store and went on to launch the Kindle for Amazon! What an inspiring environment!

Like any other business school student, I had heard of the Silicon Valley before, but I had not really grasped the immensity of it. I truly felt that they were so far ahead from us in Europe, in terms of innovation, ways of working and cultural acceptance of failure. A place where the most influential investors in the world gather at a bar, hoping to meet the next Elon Musk or Steve Jobs, is just something I could not imagine possible. Everything seemed so easy. However, I rapidly understood that the Silicon Valley is a very competitive place where everyone tries to thrive but hardly anyone succeeds. It is as tantalizing as it is intimidating. 

I left San Francisco with the mighty desire to come back and experience the Silicon Valley fever in the future...