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To The Tech-Mecca and Back – Eko’s Trip to Silicon Valley

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 06, 2011

The Silicon Valley is undoubtedly the most important place as far as high technology is concerned. It has all the major technology companies that power the internet age – Apple, Google, Cisco, Intel et al. ALL of these concentrated within a relatively small geographical area south of San Francisco.

Eko was named as a laureate for this year’s The Tech Awards – a prestigious event and a great great honor. I thus got a chance to tag along Abhishek and Abhinav and spend a good week in the silicon valley – The Tech Mecca, (and then back to reality :).
It all started with an 18 hour Emirates flight from Delhi, via Dubai and over the North Pole to San Francisco International. On an airport shuttle, we traveled to San Jose, the uncrowned capital of the Silicon Valley.

The Tech Awards is a signature program held by The Tech Museum, San Jose, in association with the Santa Clara University. What stuck me was the grand global vision that the relatively small museum had (for a start, it calls itself ‘THE’ Tech Museum)! For the last 11 years, it has been seeking out, encouraging and supporting enterprises around the world that were trying to play meaningful and transformative roles in Environment, Economic Development, Equality, Education and Health. The program is sponsored by technology majors like Applied Materials, Intel, Flextronics (the sponsor for our award), Microsoft, Nokia and the Swanson Foundation.

There is another great signature program for the Tech Museum – its called the Grand Challenge. I hope someday soon, we will be able to have something similar for students in India!

Stanford University

We also got a chance to visit and Abhishek got a chance to speak to a class at the Stanford University. The campus itself is so picturesque and grand; with such a great legacy that just being on that campus inspires you to think big. Imagine what would happen if you’re tutored there ;)? Ans: You get to be Larry Page, Sargey Brin, Peter Thiel, Jerry Yang, Azim Premji, Ray Dolby or Vinton Cerf 🙂

Close to Stanford University is the Sand Hill Road– one street lined with all the major VCs. Guess why they have parked themselves right outside the university gates 🙂 ?

From what I could observe, the valley is what it is because of three main reasons:
1. Climate. Seems to be just right! I’d call it nice cold and nice sunny. No sweat.
2. All migrants. I think I read somewhere that it was a place which did not have incumbents. Its ‘history’ hardly stretches back a few centuries. It perhaps represents a very open and forward looking culture.
3. Infrastructure. Things were just in place. To someone coming from India, even simple things like the highway networks, buildings, traffic lights that work, reliable electricity and water seemed awesome. While it is true that the sheer volume of the needs in India are daunting, we seem to have stretched this excuse way too far.
Consider the presence of just the Stanford University and its contribution! Even access to capital could be considered an essential infrastructure and silicon valley seems to have a surfeit of it!

At the Golden Gate Bridge
We couldn’t get time to travel much, but we did travel to the Golden Gate bridge and gazed atAlcatraz from our vantage point. I also got to meet my college batch-mate Tapish and my brother Arun..

Jetlag (this thing is for real!) prevented any further ambitions of venturing out – something hit us so hard by the time the sun went down that we could hardly force an eye open.

Thursday, 20th October was the gala. That was a really grand gathering marked by meticulous planning and impeccable execution. It was encouraging to have Patrick from Creation Investments (the folks who have invested in us) with us at the gala. Silicon valley was well represented by top executives, VCs and well-wishers. It took some time for the realization to sink in that the net worth of that hall, that evening, should have been a pretty impressive $billions figure :)!

Also, each year, an individual is honored through the Global Humanitarian Award- this year’s recipient was Jeff Skoll (An active philanthropist and a maverick movie producer- An Inconvenient Truth, American Gun, The Kite Runner and the erstwhile employee number one for eBay). Previous recipients include Bill Gates, Gordon Moore, Dr. Mohammad Yunus and Al Gore.

There were over 600 nominees, 15 laureates (5 in each category) and 5 grand prize winners. The names of the grand prize winners of $50K were revealed only during the gala, when Abhishek and Abhinav were on-stage. The sense of joy and exhilaration when Eko was named as a winner was amazing. Equally awesome were all the other laureates and winners. My personal favorite was WeCareSolar represented by its founders Dr. Laura and her engineer husband Hal. Their innovation was a solar power unit that fits in a suitcase and provides the necessary power and lighting required for medical procedures, especially related to child-birth; in developing countries. There is nothing technologically earth-shattering about most of these innovations, its their simplicity and appropriate use in solving real world problems efficiently that makes them noteworthy. Their solar suitcases for instance have already saved a lot of lives!

Check out Abhishek’s acceptance speech video:

That was an amazing week! One last thing…

The Trophy

The trophy that we received aptly summarized the spirit of the silicon valley. On the bottom is a solid ingot of silicon (The same thing that is sliced into neat wafers and each slice could give birth to a set of microchips). On top of it rests a crystalline globe. The modern world literally runs on silicon. The Silicon Valley therefore is closely intertwined with all of our lives.

Here’s a technologists salute to all the people who make the valley what it is.

To The Tech Museum, CSTS Santa Clara University, Leslie, Andy, Lee, Mike – and all the others who led us through the entire process- thank you!

[It took me quite a few sessions to finish this blog post- its been almost a fortnight now!]

That weekend, we returned home -recharged.
To newer heights!

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