Exploring Silicon Valley

7 February 2019

As part of her year abroad at ETH Zürich, Georgiana had the chance to visit Silicon Valley. Read more about her experiences in the tech capital of the world!

Georgina blog 4

In my second semester at ETH Zürich, I had the opportunity to be part of the EXPLORE Silicon Valley project. The program, organised by Start GLOBAL and ETH Entrepreneur Club, had the aim of promoting entrepreneurship among the students of ETH Zürich and University of St. Gallen (HSG). This is how, a group of young students from various study backgrounds and motivated founders of Swiss startups joined the trip to San Francisco between 30th of March to 8th of April 2018, in order to learn more about the world of entrepreneurship in the Bay Area. 

Silicon Valley Presentation

As soon as the program started, we had the chance to meet the co-founder of the most successful Swiss startup, AVA Science, who shared her experiences and challenges with us. We also visited companies in the San Francisco Bay area, such as Coinbase, Google Brain, Oracle, Dropbox, Swisscom or Beekeeper. While some companies shared stories on how they got to be so successful, through research or innovative business models, others presented facts I was not aware of. For example, I was surprised to find out the impact that Uber had in various places of the world, where it managed to generate jobs in countries with little job opportunities but also about the strategies that they use. For example, in San Francisco, there is a new Uber option designed for both customers and drivers, where instead of standing and waiting for the ordered car for a long time, the customer can walk towards a destination which is more accessible to the driver, shortening this way the waiting time. Another peak visit was Tesla Factories, where we discussed with their VP Global Supply Chain or the visit the Facebook campus on 1 Hacker Way.

However, the most interesting part was to watch the pitches of young Swiss startups in front of investors or during other events of the trip. The startups had the chance to present their business at a VC firm, but also in front of Angel Investors in Palo Alto. I think that this experience was by far the most interesting and insightful one of the entire trip. We also attended a “Startup night”, where we had the chance of networking with ETH and HSG Alumni living in San Francisco, along with representatives of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. 

Georgiana Birjovanu

During the trip, we also had time to visit San Francisco, by renting a bike and crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We made a tour on the ferry, finding out more things about the area but also seeing Alcatraz island. One of the things I didn’t miss in San Francisco was to take one of the old cable cars through the town, to taste the specialties specific to the Bay Area or to observe the sea lions in Pier 39. We also visited the campus of Stanford University where we got to meet other Computer Science or business students. Our group had the chance of going to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where I could admire the artwork of famous artists, such as Constantin Brancusi, Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera. However, one of the most exciting moments was to be invited to watch the NBA game between Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans on the Oracle Arena, where we could cheer for the favourite team together with the crowd. 

Thanks to the EXPLORE Silicon Valley program I had the chance of learning a lot about the world of entrepreneurship, while making friends and visiting some of the top companies in the tech industry. I am very grateful to be one of the students selected for the program but also that I had this wonderful opportunity during my year abroad at ETH Zürich.

By Georgiana Birjovanu