When you mention the name Silicon Valley, for a lot of people it conjures up images of tech wizardry, flashy multi story high rises – some sort of hi tech utopia. And it is a tech utopia, well sorta. For a lot of New Zealanders, landing at SFO, jumping on Highway 101 and heading south to Silicon Valley, can feel like a bit of a disappointment. There is no “Welcome to Silicon Valley” road sign or the ubiquitous visitors centre full of t-shirts and coasters. Silicon Valley is home to some of the worlds largest and most influential tech companies and it is enormous – 1500 square miles of companies, housing, test facilities, venture capitalists, accelerators and strip malls.
Leaving San Francisco we jumped on the 101 and headed south to Facebook. We parked up at the new Menlo Park mega-campus to say hi to Wellingtonian Andrew Pope, one of the talented engineers based there. Andrew works on ensuring that Facebook’s 1billion+ user base has complete and timely access to their FB page updates. The campus culture reflects its unique Hacker Way approach, and the buildings and outdoor spaces reference the creative and open environment they have embraced. It was no surprise that we saw Mark Zuckerberg on campus. What better way to launch our KLP Facebook pagethan to grab a bite of lunch with Andrew and to write on Facebook’s own real-life wall. And lunch? Mmm delicious Portuguese food cooked in one of Facebook’s staff cafeterias. We can confirm that they do look after their employees’ stomachs rather well.
Driving past more manicured driveways to the next city, Mountain View. Famously home to another of the tech world’s giants, Google. Its headquarters are set out in a huge sprawling campus where modus potare are a fleet of very colorful Google bikes. Don’t try to trespass, they know where you live, what your house looks like, and which brand of kitchen blender you’re contemplating purchasing. Best to move on.
Some more miles on the freeway brings us to our last stop, One Infinite Loop, Cupertino (tech people are crazy about infinite loops…). Here we are taking a look at the design forward powerhouse, Apple. Their headquarters look, well, much the same as the other sprawling campuses we’d seen all over the valley. Of course, you can’t judge a Macbook by the cover, and we all know the inside is where the magic happens. There is a gift shop where you can hand over some dollars in exchange for novelty t-shirts and pens made by the Apple gods.
Well,120 miles and we are heading back to San Francisco. If you are thinking of checking out Silicon Valley or you are making appointments to visit companies in Silicon Valley, make sure you allow plenty of time between meetings and seriously consider driving. The Cal-Train from San Francisco is good, but you will still need to criss cross the valley to head to your destinations. There are few places that are walking distance to anything.
There’s no denying that the sun drenched peninsula has fostered a tech industry now unrivaled anywhere else in the world. The big guys are all here, just don’t expect them to invite you in for a cup of tea. Unless of course you know a Kiwi that works at one of them, then you could be in luck. Thanks Andrew!
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