An International Perspective on Silicon Valley
When Fidele Nizeyimana traveled from France to attend the Silicon Valley Immersion, his 5-day program provided an inspiring, in-depth perspective on success -and failure- in Silicon Valley.
My great experience in USF's Silicon Valley Immersion program
USF's Silicon Valley Immersion program offers a unique opportunity for students to develop a first-hand understanding of global innovation and entrepreneurship. Local students, as well as students from around the world, attend this signature USF program to immerse themselves in Silicon Valley and San Francisco's cultures, with three, five, and 10-day models. Fidele Nizeyimana, PhD, works in the energy sector as a project manager at AREVA TN International in R&D in France, and joined his fellow colleagues from IESEG School of Management to experience the program through interactive seminars, company visits, hands-on projects, networking events and educational tours. For Fidele, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
I enjoyed attending the Silicon Valley Immersion (SVI) program for its ability to deliver, in one week, the kind of inspiration and experience that exceeds what I could get from “traditional” training. This program is thoughtfully designed to allow participants to discover the secrets behind Silicon Valley success, practice innovation with design thinking logic, discover great tips of international acquisition with excellent simulations, and visit large companies and promising startups. I am grateful to SVI’s managing team and speakers because I was exposed to the best thinkers I have ever encountered.
Silicon Valley’s success story
I saw a multicultural environment that leverages different ways of thinking. I was amazed by an excellent area with leading U.S. universities, like the University of San Francisco, that generate top talent, the power of venture capital investments and angel investors, the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem, and, above all, the tremendous tolerance for failure. It is a great attitude — and culture — that encourages people to go beyond dreams and take risks in a way that's almost impossible anywhere else.
Fidele Nizeyimana Silicon Valley Immersion Participant
The SVI program has allowed me to engage with successful people. In fact, it was great to spend hours listening to two special speakers: the emblematic founder of North Face and the USF faculty member who is the author of quarterly reports on Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Confidence. In these two people, I observed how serial entrepreneurs and true leaders live and apply the saying “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” as they push the boundaries of technology and innovation. Their business experiences and personal testimonies offer valuable insights on how to disrupt existing industries without waiting for permission from anyone.
You may wonder what successful people in Silicon Valley do differently. Through SVI, I learned there are few commonalities that successful ventures and leaders share:
- They tolerate failure. In the Silicon Valley, failure seems to be normal. As long as you "fail forward," the lessons you learn move you closer to success.
- They build one strong culture in the business rather than having too many cultures in one business
- They cherish planning. Meanwhile, they value the capacity of a team to respond quickly and come up with an effective business plan B or plan C if anything goes wrong.
- They focus on customers’ expectations rather than focusing on invention/product
- They encourage the risk-taking attitude; the mindset that challenges the status quo and the way things are done in any industry today.
- They are enthusiastic and passionate: "Whatever you do in business, or in life, the most important thing people will remember about you is what you believe and your passion."
In my current job, I am involved in several innovative projects. The "design thinking" portion of the program is the one I enjoyed and valued most. Here are a few take-aways I will always remember and apply:
- Innovation starts and focuses on people. “It’s not products; it is people who make success.”
- The first step is defining the innovation challenge/insight in a positive way, because designing/innovating with negativity is complicated and less exciting.
- Brainstorming: the quantity of ideas is important to provide many options. Build on ideas of others rather than shooting them down. In other words, "Give me a good idea, and I will give you a better idea”.
- Avoid the creativity killers who limit possibilities with thoughts like, "that’s not possible/feasible," "we don’t have time," or "we don't have enough money."
- Prototype ideas in order to keep them alive. Learn from them and expand them. Prototyping needs to be quick and easy and less expensive.
- Convert ideas into product or service if, and only if, the ideas show some promise.
- Simplify: "If it’s not simple, it is not a solution.”
Pitching and Networking
Every minute of the SVI program was a great opportunity for networking, especially the visits to companies. For instance at the incubator Runway, I experienced the art of pitching by several high profile startups. Following the pitch session, the networking party with young entrepreneurs provided genuine exchange and connection. Their excitement and unshakable beliefs in disruptive ideas was amazing and inspiring.
I would definitely recommend the Silicon Valley Immersion program to every professional involved in any industry, especially those in innovation, IT, or business development.
By Fidele Nizeyimana