Category Archives: Silicon Valley and Europe

Is Silicon Valley crazy (again)?

I regularly go back to my “second home” trying to discover if Silicon Valley has to tell us anything new. This time, I came back a little more confused than after my previous journeys. The region remains the center of entrepreneurship and high-tech innovation, but it seems to touch the limits of madness. Everything goes too fast (except the automobile traffic which is nearly always congested), everything is too expensive, and many are hoping for a crisis to return to a normal situation. Certainly the craziest projects are funded and it is difficult to say what they will become (SpaceX and Tesla of course, but what about MagicLeap or explorations of Google and others in artificial intelligence and augmented human?)

But connoisseurs of Silicon Valley are worried too. So is Michael Malone in Of Microchips and Men: A Conversation About Intel, published in the New Yorker for his new book The Intel Trinity: “The most interesting phenomenon of the last three or four years is that big, successful Valley companies like Facebook and Google and Apple are so flush with cash that the game is now, you build yourself to a certain size and look to be bought. Look at Mark Zuckerberg. He buys Instagram and then he buys WhatsApp. He spends nineteen billion dollars for WhatsApp. That’s a mind-boggling number for a startup. For the first time, acquisitions are more appealing than I.P.O.s. So we are going into this interesting era where maybe companies will choose not to go public anymore, which was always the big-money exit strategy, and instead go do a fan dance in front of Mark Zuckerberg in hopes of getting these insane valuations. What’s your take on the worldly ambitions of the new tech companies? I’m a little bothered by the hypocrisy exhibited by the new generation of Silicon Valley leaders. They’re code writers, and software is different from hardware. With software people, there is this big, romantic philosophy—“Do no evil”—yet it’s always combined with a sort of duplicity. These guys who are running the social-networking era, they’re really behaving like oligarchs: “You know the reason we’re successful is that we’re special. We’re smarter than other people.” You didn’t see that in the early generation of Silicon Valley leaders. They were the children of blue-collar working families. They worked with their hands. So they didn’t try to be your whole world. They didn’t build a campus for you to live on twenty-four hours a day, like in a dorm. They expected you to go home to your family. They had an admiration for working people. You just don’t see that right now with the social-networking guys. Average folks in the Valley, especially poor people, have a really strong sense that these guys don’t care about them. And I think it manifests itself in all sorts of ways, like working with the N.S.A., and the perpetual effort to monetize our private information. It’s a very different world.”

There was also an interesting oral exchange between between George Packer and Ken Auletta, two other connoisseurs of Silicon Valley, although it’s been two years ago: George Packer and Ken Auletta on Silicon Valley.


At the anecdote level, I retained the following from my trip:
– Venture capital is changing due to the departure of former generations and they no longer fund the traditional areas of the semiconductor or hardware, too risky at the product level, nor even the cleantech / greentech (which were not just another bubble). Only corporations fund innovation in these sectors,
– Accelerators are primarily a source of new projects and talents for investors, not necessarily a better model for entrepreneurs,
– Entrepreneurs are stressed by costs and competition that leads to overbidding,
– As a result, the region is saturated, also because its center of gravity moved to San Francisco
– Therefore my belief (still strong) that we need to know the dynamics of this region to innovate and engage in high-tech is modulated by all these constraints and there is probably an opportunity to attract talent, projects and small and large high-tech companies in Europe …


So will there be a lot of damage as predicted by the Guardian in Silicon Valley braces it self for a fall ‘There’ll be a lot of blood.’? Or do we make the same mistake as AnnaLee Saexnian: “In 1979, I was a graduate student at Berkeley and I was one of the first scholars to study Silicon Valley. I culminated my master’s program by writing a thesis in which I confidently predicted that Silicon Valley would stop growing. I argued that housing and labor were too expensive and the roads were too congested, and while corporate headquarters and research might remain, I was convinced that the region had reached its physical limits and that innovation and job growth would occur elsewhere during the 1980s. As it turns out I was wrong.” (Source: A climate for Entrepreneurship – 1999)

PS: a shot addition (dated February 12, 2016) about the craziness of unicorns. Just have a look at the nice infographics below…

Source: Licornes et dragons font resurgir le spectre d’une bulle Internet

When Entrepreneurship Meets Street Art

From time to time, I post articles not related to start-ups and entrepreneurship, but to other topics such as Street Art for example. Now comes the opportunity to join both thanks to Banksy. Indeed I can even relate both to migrants (who are a critical component of entrepreneurship). Banksy recently created the following Street Art work:



Banksy explained: “We’re often led to believe migration is a drain on the country’s resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world’s most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion a year in taxes—and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs.” Do I need to add about the importance of migrants in high-tech entrepreneurship? If yes, just read again AnnaLee Saxenian, Migration, Silicon Valley, and Entrepreneurship.

Why doesn’t Europe create any Google or Apple?

This is my latest contribution to Entreprise Romande. In the middle of my accounts of In the Plex, I think it is an interesting coincidence. React if you wish…


Why did not Europe create Apple, Google or Tesla? Or should we say, why don’t we have Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Elon Musk on the old continent? Innovation is complex and success comes only as an unlikely alignment of planets that are a product, a market, founders and a team they have managed to assemble, capital, and even a favorable macroeconomic situation. Also we cannot ignore in the success of a start-up, the luck factor involved in this unlikely combination.

The recent and great biography of Elon Musk [1], the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX describes in an exemplary manner how a migrant from South African origin, who could have been a very brilliant student, took risky decisions with a nearly inhuman focus to build businesses that might change the world. We must of course be wary of the myth of the superman that Silicon Valley tends to highlight. All the success of the new Steve Jobs will depend upon a favorable and highly efficient environment. But why Europe and Switzerland create so rarely similar “role models”? We have of course Richard Branson or the Hayek dynasty and recent analyzes show that Europe has its “unicorns” [2] but the comparison shows a “shy” Europe. So why?

The serious and competent analyst will explain the multiple benefits of the United States: a discreet but substantial public R&D, particularly in the military field, a highly efficient capital market, a homogeneous and sometimes protectionist market, and a devilishly aggressive policy and economy at the limit of imperialism. But the pessimist pamphleteer may also see an aging (precisely) old continent where migrants are seen as a threat – whereas they are the lifeblood of Silicon Valley – and more seriously a lack of ambition of youth, encouraged by a society with dreams dying off.

The roots of our weakness are deep. We say to a young graduate still full of dreams to go and learn from the private sector to acquire skills and experience. But is there any European company with dreams of electric vehicles and interplanetary travel? Worse, we say to the children first and foremost to integrate well and we forget to let them dream further. The school does not encourage the crazy adventures and in this environment dreamers quickly fall from the stars on dry land.

Five EPFL start-ups have recently been sold (Sensima, Jilion, Lemoptix, Composyt and Aïmago) to the satisfaction of their founders and many others will be delighted to build strong SMEs with fifty employees or so. But when I tell them that in the United States their counterparts dream of changing the world, they look at me with a funny look. They tell me as their investors that we are not on the same planet and that the German and Swiss model of SMEs is a beautiful alternative. The ambition is seen as arrogance and an engineer does not like uncertainty or risk of failure.

So much unnecessary suffering for the rare exceptions. Some of them face advisors or investors, sometimes incompetent, mostly benign but having references only to our modest success. “Prove that your first model can work here.” “Do not go looking for too much money.” “You’ll lose control and you’ll be replaced.” Not to mention the finicky reading of business plan. Everyone should know that they are only the expression of a vision. To the point that I sometimes advise them to leave if they are ready to do so …

I will remain optimistic because Skype and Spotify are recent encouraging counter-examples and Europe took the measure of the threat, I think. I will mostly remain optimistic because entrepreneurship is a matter of exceptions and I meet young people who still have some dreams. But please, do not turn them off!

[1] Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Future Fantastic Ashley Vance; Ecco – May 2015.

Startup Land : the Zendesk adventure from Denmark to Silicon Valley to IPO

Many of my friends and colleagues tell me that video and movies are nowadays better than books for documenting real life. I still feel there is in books a depth I do not find anywhere else. A question of generations, probably. HBO’s Silicon Valley may be a funny and close-to-reality account of what high-tech entrepreneurship is but Startup Land is a great example of why I still prefer books. I did not find everything I was looking for – and I will give one example below – but I could feel the authenticity and even the emotion from Mikkel Svane’s account of what building a start-up and a product means. So let me share with you a few lessons from Startup Land.


The motivation to start

“We felt that we needed to make a change before it was too late. We all know that people grow more risk-averse over time. As we start to have houses and mortgages, and kids and cars, and schools and institutions, we start to settle. We invest a lot of time in relationships with friends and neighbors, and making big moves becomes harder. We become less and less willing to just flush everything down the drain and start all over.” [Page 1]

No recipe

“Along the way, I’ll share the unconventional advice you learn only in the trenches. I am allergic to pat business advice that aims to give some formula for success. I’ve learned there is no formula for success; the world moves too fast for any formula to last, and people are far too creative—always iterating and finding a better way.” [Page 6]

About failure

In Silicon Valley there’s a lot of talk about failure—there’s almost a celebration of failure. People recite mantras about “failing fast,” and successful people are always ready to tell you what they learned from their failures, claiming they wouldn’t be where they are today without their previous spectacular mess-ups. To me, having experienced the disappointment that comes with failure, all this cheer is a little odd. The truth is, in my experience, failure is a terrible thing. Not being able to pay your bills is a terrible thing. Letting people go and disappointing them and their families is a terrible thing. Not delivering on your promises to customers who believed in you is a terrible thing. Sure, you learn from these ordeals, but there is nothing positive about the failure that led you there. I learned there is an important distinction between promoting a culture that doesn’t make people afraid of making and admitting mistakes, and having a culture that says failure is great. Failure is not something to be proud of. But failure is something you can recover from. [Pages 15-16]

There are other nice thoughts about “boring is beautiful” [page 23], “working from home” [page 34], “money isn’t only in your bank account, it’s also in your head” [page 35], and an “unconventional (possibly illegal) hiring checklist” [page 127]

I will quote Svane about investors [page 61]: “I learned an important lesson in this experience – one that influenced all of the investor decision we’ve made since then. There is a vast spectrum of investors. Professional investors are extremely aware of the fact that they will be successful only if everyone else is successful. Great investors have unique relationships with founders, and they are dedicated to growing the company the right way. Mediocre and bad investors work around founders, and the company end in disaster. The problem is, early on many startups have few options, and they have to deal with amateur investors who are shortsighted and concerned with optimizing their own position.” [and page 93]: “Good investors understand that the founding team often is what carries the spirit of a company and makes it what it is.”

And about growth [page 74]: “Even after the seed round with Christoph Janz, we were still looking for investors. If you’ve never been in a startup this may seem odd, but when you’re a startup founder you’re basically always fund-raising. Building a company costs money, and the faster you grow, the more cash it requires. Of course, that’s not the case for all startups – there are definitely examples of companies that have come a long way on their own positive cash flow – but the general rule is that if you optimize for profitability, you sacrifice growth. And for a startup, it’s all about growth.”

In May 2014, Zendesk went public and the team was so extatic, many pictures were tweeted! The company raised $100M at $8 per share. They had a secondary offering at $22.75 raising more than $160M for the company. In 2014, Zendesk revenue was $127M!… and its loss $67M.


There was one piece of information I never found neither in Startup Land nor in the IPO filings: Zendesk has three founders, Mikkel Svane, CEO and author of the book. Alexander Aghassipour, Chief Product Officer and Morten Primdahl, CTO. I am a fan of cap. tables (as you may know or can see here in Equity split in 305 high-tech start-ups with founders, employees and investors shares) and in particular studying how founders share equity at company foundation. But there is no information about Primdahl ‘s stock. I only have one explanation: On page 37, Svane writes: “the thing about money is, it’s happening in your head. Everyone processes it differently. Aghassipour adnSvane could live with no salary in the early days of Zendesk, but Primdahl could not. It’s possibly he had a salary against less stock. I would love to learn from Savne if I am right or wrong!

Click on picture to enlarge

Europe and Start-ups : should we worry? Or is there hope?

I just read two articles (thanks Kevin and Deborah 🙂 !) about high-tech entrepreneurship in Europe. One is optimistic, the other one less so… The Financial Times just published a special report about Europe’s top 50 tech entrepreneurs and it includes Watch out Silicon Valley by Skype’s co-founder Niklas Zennström. The new York Times published A Fearless Culture Fuels U.S. Tech Giants. You might not be surprised but I mostly agreed with the American point of view. So let me begin with the pessimistic analysis…

Here’s a stark comparison: In the United States, three of the top 10 companies by market capitalization are technology companies founded in the last half-century: Apple, Microsoft and Google. In Europe, there are none among the top 10 and when it comes to remedies: “They all want a Silicon Valley,” [said] Jacob Kirkegaard, a Danish economist […] “But none of them can match the scale and focus on the new and truly innovative technologies you have in the United States. Europe and the rest of the world are playing catch-up, to the great frustration of policy makers there. The article adds: “while there are always individual exceptions to sweeping generalities about Europeans and Americans, the major barriers were cultural.” […] “Fail fast, fail often” is a Silicon Valley mantra, and the freedom to innovate is inextricably linked to the freedom to fail. In Europe, failure carries a much greater stigma than it does in the United States. […] None of this will be easy to change, even assuming Europeans want change.

Zennström is much more optimistic and I would love to agree with him… “Just as a nimble start-up can defeat a large incumbent, turning its focus and speed to its advantage, so too are we seeing that in some respects European entrepreneurs actually have an edge. The first of these advantages is highly visible: the extraordinary development of Europe’s tech hubs.” He mentions here Helsinki for mobile gaming and London for finance. He sees a second reason why Silicon Valley might be less needed. “When we founded Skype, our aim was never to build the best peer-to-peer communication service in Sweden. Likewise, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon did not set out to build Sweden’s best music service with Spotify, nor did Riccardo Zacconi and his co-founders at King aim to build amazing games for Swedes to play with. Without the luxury of a huge domestic market, we were forced to think internationally from day one — to solve global problems, to work across borders, and to move fast in doing so.” […] “In short, we are seeing the emergence of a remarkable cohort of new businesses: start-ups that begin in some of the world’s smallest domestic markets but are able, thanks to their highly international approach, to reach global scale in record time. In time, I believe, this will be as significant a trend as the historic concentration of innovation in Silicon Valley, and will play a major role in the European economy for decades to come.”

I feel like I read the same analysis from fifteen or twenty years…Just have a look, even if more recent, at Europe vs. USA: growth in IT and Biotech Only time will tell us who best analyzed the situation.

We must create a Google in Europe

The self-citation is a delicate exercise but as it does not happen often that I give my point of view in the media, I guess this is acceptable… Newspaper Le Temps asked for my point of view related to the recent acquisitions of EPFL spin-offs. I extract some messages.


What worries me is that in Europe, I have never seen the birth of technology companies like Google, Apple or Cisco.

– Yet there is SAP in Germany or Internet service Skype…

– Yes, but [forgetting SAP] there was no big success in Europe in technology in the last fifty years. Microsoft has bought Skype for $8.5 billion and Logitech is worth $2B on the stock market with 6,000 employees. But in the United States, industry heavyweights are valued at over $170 billion and have more than 50,000 employees. There is a difference of a factor ten between the two continents and this has been disturbing me for over twenty-five years. I have doubts and fears about the future of Europe.

– How do you explain this difference?

– I think this is essentially cultural. A young engineer who listens to her parents will work with Nestlé and Novartis, and then remains there. Americans have parents or grandparents who were immigrants. The tradition of moving is digested and failure is accepted.

– What are the risks of such a situation?

– If it does not renew, it is the death of Europe. We are almost there, look at France. This is a concern I have for my two children. We must create a Google in Europe for the economy to evolve. Without the presence of a major technology group, innovative start-ups will be systematically acquired by American groups. Yahoo! bought French start-up Kelkoo, Danish Navision now belongs to Microsoft, the Swedish MySQL to Oracle and French ILOG to IBM.

For the spin-offs of EPFL, it is the same. Medical imaging company Aïmago was acquired by Novadaq Technologies for $10 million. Sensima Technology, active in the production of magnetic sensors, has been integrated in Monolithic Power Systems (MPS) based in San Jose, California. Only Jilion was bought by the French Dailymotion, which integrated their video technology on their site. And now it’s Intel. And when these companies are acquired, it’s expertise and jobs that may disappear. There is a risk of loss of wealth.

The rest of the article is available on Le Temps website.

My coming out – in the world of start-ups

No it is not a true coming out à la Tim Cook, but a much less spectacular message… I woke up early this morning very disturbed. As you can see below, the ecosystem to support entrepreneurs at EPFL (finance, coaching, exposure and office space) is rich and complex. Yet our results are average not to say mediocre… all this is in fact useless without the ambition and risk-taking of enthusiastic and passionate individuals.

I’m not talking about people, but the system. A few days ago, I said to colleagues I was a matchmaker. I encourage meetings and I put the oil in the wheels. Then I smiled, thinking – I’m usually not too vulgar – that I offered vaseline for introducing investors. Fifteen years ago, an entrepreneur who had enjoyed a chat told me that I made him think of a prostitute but hidden behind me, there were nasty pimps…

Two days ago, I was lucky to listen at EPFL to a Nobel Prize in economics who explained that the Western world is in decline, that the crisis can be explained in part by a weak innovation. Corporatism and financiarization are some reasons of this. Then there was a shocking message from another speaker. Switzerland would be fine because it is hard-working while its neighbor would go wrong because its workers start their weekend on Wednesday at noon. Who can believe that unemployment and bankruptcy in Detroit would come from the laziness of the automobile workers and the success of Silicon Valley because of workaholic nerds. Things are much more complex! Just see in particular the recent analysis of Thomas Picketty or the related MIT Technology Review Technology and Inequality.

Four days ago, I listened to the US ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Suzi Levine knows the world of start-ups. She is therefore interested in the situation in Switzerland. I noticed two of her messages:
– First “you have a lot of money but little capital”, I leave you to think about the message that was given to her at EPFL I think, “you have a lot of money but little capital”.
– Second, the weakness of the female presence in this entrepreneurial world. She therefore particularly appreciated that the Prix Musy be created this year. But our efforts will be useless, if we do not encourage and allow the emergence of passionate and adventurous entrepreneurs that create wealth and value… it’s not just about women, but diversity in general which should not be hindered by corporatism and financiarization.


More on the EPFL support to entrepreneurs


Stanford University, where Optimism Meets Empathy

People who know me well might be tired of my enthusiasm about Stanford University. My kids laugh at me, even some former professors do! Still, often, when I hear something about Stanford, it reminds me of the good old days. Not only. Stanford mostly looks at the future! I was reading yesterday night the Stanford Magazine and was attracted by two articles, which illustrate my nostalgia (and by the way, EPFL has some similar features today…):

– Stanford and Silicon Valley are not known for their interest in art. However, the university will open a new Art Gallery (close to the Rodin sculptures) on its campus, showing a major private modern art collection from the Anderson family. More in The Collection of a Lifetime

The New Anderson Collection building at Stanford University

– The President column also said very true things, such as “I’m often asked what sets Stanford apart. The university’s entrepreneurial spirit is certainly a distinguishing characteristic. But there is another vital component: the desire to make the world better for others.” Again one may laugh at this, but I really invite you to read “Optimism Meets Empathy” by John Hennessy.

John Hennessy
John Hennessy

A few lessons from disruptive innovators

My friend Jean-Jacques (thanks :-)) sent me a link about the CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of 50 “private companies in 27 industries — from aerospace to enterprise software to retail — whose innovations are revolutionizing the business landscape”. One could criticize the method, the fields, what is disruptive and what is not, but the list is by itself interesting. And I have done a few quick and dirty analyses. (I mean by Q&D a very fast analysis on the age of founders based on available data – their age or the year of their bachelor – my full analysis is available at the end of the post)


I found the following:
– Disruptive innovators are young (33 years-old)
– They raise a lot of money: more than $200M!!!
– and yes, they are mostly based in Silicon Valley.


Disruptive innovators are young

The average age of founder is 33 (whereas the age of founders of start-ups is closer to 39 – see my recent post Age and Experience of High-tech Entrepreneurs). As it was the case with that general analysis, founders in biotech and energy are much older than in software or internet. This was something I had already addressed in that paper: disruption might be the field of young creators.

They raise a lot of money

A really striking point is the amount of money raised by these disruptive companies. With an average age of 6 years, these companies have raised on average $200M… In energy, it is more than $400M and even more than $250M for the internet.

Silicon Valley leads

Not surprisingly though, Silicon Valley seems to be the place where to be. 27 companies are based there (a little more than 50%). It is also where they have access to the most capital ($280M on average). Then comes the East Coast (25%). Surprisingly they are based in NYC, not in Boston anymore when East Coast is concerned. Only 3 are Europeans… (Spotify, Transferwise and Fon) even if a few Europeans have also moved to SV…

Here is my full analysis which as I said before might contain mistakes (particularly on the founders’ age…). You might also disagree with my field classification…

click on picture to enlarge

Why is Silicon Valley still the place

I heard so many times that Silicon Valley is not any more the place where to be or where to go, that when I read again the emails I had recently with a student, I asked to let me publish some of his words.


April 2 – Dear Hervé,
I just wanted to update you on my achievements so far in the Silicon Valley. First of all, this place is amazing! It is the first time in my life where I feel so accepted. The events and style of those events is just incredible. This is so much fun!
I met so many inspiring people there. I spent the weekend getting to know the people I am living with. I guess I did not tell you exactly that I live in an entrepreneurs’ house. It’s like a long term hostel for entrepreneurs and by entrepreneurs. I am so inspired by all of the stories!
I also visited a European institution on Thursday. And talking just between you and me I was really disappointed. People were very nice on the surface, but did not help me very much. Just the night before we were talking with some entrepreneurs that a lot of entrepreneurial problems arise in Europe because of lack of cooperation and common goals between the governments.

April 8 – Hervé,
I definitely want to return to Silicon Valley later. Another update of nearly a week’s progress: I visited another amazing conference! Feel so inspired. I also visited one Meetup on the topic of big data. It was really good. I also had an opportunity to participate in an event organized by the Scottish government – it was a very high level event. This is what I love about the Silicon Valley – I would have to try very hard to get into something like that in Europe.

April 18
I really love this place! 🙂 […] I can also give a short summary of what I did during my 3rd week here. I am so proud of the fact that I have visited Google twice! It’s an amazing place! I have also driven past some famous Silicon Valley giants like Cisco, Intel, IBM, Oracle (I loved the Oracle style!). I also went to the place of Shockley Semiconductors and Fairchild Semiconductors.
I went to some events at Plug and Play – very nice place. People have good connections there. Visited an event at Rocketspace accelerator. Completely different atmosphere. Attended another event by IESE (European business school) at Runway accelerator. Saw some Germans, liked the style. Had another event at SRI. Such a protected space, looks like the military future is in there. The event was about robotics – I felt stupid there because I know nothing about robots, but learnt a lot of stuff.
Lastly, as I have mentioned earlier – had the chance to meet […]. I love his speeches. However, it was a bit disappointing because the material was not really new. He just spoke about the same stuff which is on youtube. In general, I just love my time here. I have almost no time to respond to emails (as you can see), but I meet so many people and visit so many places!

May 6
Regarding the last two weeks of my stay – boy were they crazy. I have visited a lot of events. I have met some Europeans who live in San Francisco area. Actually it was a bit disappointing because they were not really entrepreneurial, more like benefiting from the local atmosphere.
I have been to another pitching session in San Francisco – totally secured my opinion that everyone has a chance to pitch and so many people use the opportunity even though the technologies are not really exceptional. I have spent the Easter at Stanford. There was the demo day and final pitches from participants of E-Bootcamp. Stanford left a very good impression – the quality of pitches and organization is different from the rest of Silicon Valley. The next week I went to Entrepreneurial thought leaders event at Stanford – an interview with Morris Chang. Very nice idea to have such events.
To shortly summarize my trip to the Valley it was truly a revolutionizing experience! I have learnt and saw so much. I feel like I have done another semester at EPFL! I think that entrepreneurship around the globe is very different. It is always possible to make something different than Silicon Valley and tailor it to the local atmosphere but in many cases some traits of the culture need to be changed. And that is probably the hardest thing to change. It requires much more than money injections. I am very happy about my choice to go to SV and I think this has made a huge impact to me as a future entrepreneur.

A few years ago, I had participated to a roundtable in Grenoble. I was trying to explain my views about the differences between here, Europe, and there, SV. It was criticized a lot for that “biased, one-sided view” of things when a young entrepreneur reacted. She had just come back from a trip to SV and it was a first time there. “I met more people and learnt more things in 10 days than I would have in in 6 months in Grenoble.” This was in 2011. I believe it is still true in 2014. I still believe SV is the place where to be or at least to go if you want to accelerate your learning about innovation and high-tech entrepreneurship.