UC Berkeley Sutardja Center Faculty Launches MOOC to Teach Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Culture to Latin America


January 13, 2016


What makes Silicon Valley (SV) such a uniquely vibrant ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation? How can entrepreneurs from outside SV learn from its success? To answer these questions, the Sutardja Center’s Visiting Scholar Ricardo San Martin delved deeply into what makes SV so unique for Decodificando Silicon Valley (Decoding Silicon Valley), a course launched three months ago on Coursera. The course is a playbook for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs that want to build global technology companies that closely model SV. To prepare for the course, San Martin interviewed more than 30 prominent figures, including entrepreneurs, academics, lawyers and world-class CEOs. Some of the voices included renowned academics such as Ikhlaq Sidhu, Ken Singer and Steve Blank from UC Berkeley, as well as key historical actors like Stanford Professor Dr. Clarence Jones, who was the personal lawyer and speech writer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Dr. Jones contributed with his view on risk-taking).

During this interview process, San Martin discovered that SV has two faces: a visible face comprised of well-known aspects of Silicon Valley’s success such as innovation frameworks (lean models, business model canvas, customer discovery, etc.), access to capital, multinational talent, and connections to world-class companies and universities — and an invisible face represented by how people commit to each other, share ideas, build trust, and succeed by maximizing the performance of teams. This invisible face embodies the unique mindset shared by SV entrepreneurs which allows them to take risks and see failure as part of a learning process.

These findings match perfectly with the foundations of the Berkeley Method of Entrepreneurship (BMoE), which contends that entrepreneurship is not only about frameworks and infrastructure, but also about mindset and culture. Contrary to other methods, the holistic view of the BMoE allows entrepreneurs from all over the world to understand and benefit from what goes on in SV. Besides communicating what makes Silicon Valley unique through his course, San Martin and the Sutardja Center are also modeling the mindset of SV through idea exchange and teamwork. San Martin’s home University in Chile (P. Universidad Catolica de Chile-PUC) is now part of the Collider project hosted at the Sutardja Center, where five top universities from around the world will benefit from learning about Berkeley’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. At the same time, Ken Singer, Managing Director of the Sutardja Center, is also ‘colliding’ with San Martin’s home university by teaching its most important entrepreneurial course to over 400 students each semester. In addition, Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu, IEOR Professor and Sutardja Center Chief Scientist, has joined the advisory board of Engineering 2030, a multimillion dollar project that aims to transform engineering education in Chile. This collaboration will also allow Professor Sidhu to apply the recently developed Berkeley Innovation Index to assess major Latin American corporations.

Overall, these collaborations will help to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in countries that urgently need to create wealth and better lives for their people.