Building a New Bridge to Silicon Valley Culture


February 4, 2016


business-561387_960_720Nowadays many companies from all around the world come to Silicon Valley (SV) to learn how to become more innovative and technologically competitive. However, the recurrent question is:  what’s the best way to do that?

At the School of Engineering of P. Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC) we are prototyping/testing a new program called Bridge Executive to help Silicon Valley visitors learn about innovation more effectively. By doing so, we are leveraging our partnership with the Sutardja Center of Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley and its collider program.

Our conviction is that the traditional approach, where high executives come to SV to purchase technologies is not enough/the right one. We believe the most effective way to learn about SV innovation is to experience its ecosystem, learn its frameworks and understand its mindset to be able to come up with innovative ideas and set up teams to execute them. This approach normally encounters major difficulties, such as lack of time from top executives to really understand how ideas are executed in SV, and a very traditional internal culture that resists change. However, most companies realize today that there are no other options: they either have to rapidly adopt innovation frameworks or be displaced by novel and fast growing technological companies.

Bridge Executive provides a platform where Chilean companies can rapidly enter into Silicon Valley networks through our connection with the Sutardja Center, work on pressing technological problems and gain insights about emerging technologies by working with PUC engineering students that stay 4-5 weeks in SV. Moreover, they simultaneously start addressing internal cultural issues that may be inhibiting innovation.

The prototype program that started in January 2015 considers the following activities:

  • Selecting leading Chilean companies that are aware that the new technologies created in SV will certainly disrupt their business models.
  • Choose a particular project/problem they want to develop with Silicon Valley.
  • Bring top company executives to SV for about a week. Prior to coming, these executives are trained remotely on the mindset and cultural aspects of SV by the PUC team in SV.
  • Select 1-2 senior students per company that stay for at least 4-5 weeks in SV to understand if the problem is correctly framed, if the timing is right and which partners and other stakeholders might help in the execution of the project. These students benefit from the networks provided by the Collider, and therefore have a vantage entry point to SV. The role of the students is not only to try to solve a specific challenge, but also to provide new ideas and emerging technologies to the company.
  • Evaluation of the innovation culture of the company using the recently developed Berkeley Innovation Index to assess what are the main roadblocks to execute innovative projects. These topics are addressed through conversations with the executives of the company. The emphasis is placed on team dynamics and on the conversations that have to take place to really open a new space of opportunities for the company.
  • Follow-up conversation between the PUC team in SV and the company’s team to facilitate the execution of the projects, and move towards a more innovative culture.

We expect that the program will help Chilean companies adopt current SV innovation practices that will help them maintain their competitiveness in the region.