North America

Silicon Valley – San Francisco, California

San Francisco’s largest industry is tourism however it is most famous for its array of start-up tech companies which changed the world as we know it. They have revolutionalized and disrupted industries such as Airbnb changed the concept of how we look at accommodation, Facebook in how we communicate with each other, and Netflix changed how we watch movies. As I arrived in San Francisco, I witnessed the unfortunate aftermath of a Tesla car crash. This for me raised the notion that as these industries evolve it is a growth curve as we are going to make mistakes as we learn such as the reliability of self-driving cars.  

It’s intriguing to consider that during the Cold War, the launch of Sputnik the world’s first orbital satellite by the Soviet Union was a slap in the face to the USA  int he advancement of the space race. This encouraged the National Defence Education Act by the USA which was behind STEM and influenced money to be spent on education. J.F.Kennedy wanted to put the first man on the moon. Venture capitalists began to invest their money. Most IT innovations stemmed from military projects, even things like the internet were thought as sophisticated communication platforms never envisaged for civilian use. In San Francisco, this provided resources for soon became known as, ‘Silicon Valley’. I wanted to learn more so I took a tour as and we drove down an eerier block of empty buildings, remnants of start-up tech companies that didn’t make it, the competition is intense.

There are no signs to welcome you into ‘Silicon Valley’, it used to only be based in Palo Alto it slowly began to extend outwards.

The Birthplace – HP Garage, Palo Alto

A sign outside this cute home reads ‘The Birthplace of Silicon Valley’ at the garage where Hewlett-Packard (HP) was founded in Palo Alto, California. As part of Stanford University’s initiative graduates were encouraged to stay in the area and develop technology within the region –  HP founders William Hewlett and David Packard were two of the first students to do just that. This location has been marked a Californian Historical Landmark.

Facebook – 1 Hacker Way

You’ll find Facebook at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo, California. You’ll find colorful bicycles outside (however Google is the only company to provide helmets with theirs), and electric charging points for vehicles. There is a gym and even a portable dentist onsite. Quite plain looking buildings only identifiable by numbers, no big signs here. The site is patrolled by heavy security. You can take a photo at the sign but there isn’t much else to see here. 

Google HQ (Googleplex), Amphitheater Parkway, Mountain View

Google paved the way with giving their employees benefits such as haircuts, laundry service, and free meals and a shuttle to work service. Other companies followed the trend. There is a dinosaur skeleton on-site to remind them not to become complacent as there is the possibility of becoming extinct as a result.  Security was very strict here, although the public are allowed to walk through the site, I was told to ‘move on’ as I looked a poster.  If you know someone who works here you can enter as a visitor. One thing I found shocking was to see parked caravans onsite, supposedly of Google workers who could not afford to buy or event rent homes in the city.

There is also a park full of cute with Andriod operating systems… Gingerbread, Froyo, KitKat, Jelly Bean, Donut and Pie!!

Saw this cheeky little sign for ys you guessed it… the home of Google Maps!!

Yahoo – Sunnyvale

At Yahoo HQ you will find solar panels over the car park to provide shade as they harness the power of the sun. A beautiful arrangement of colorful flowers by the sign this is as much as you will see as even other media companies have never been allowed into the building.

Apple Park – 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino  

Apple is based in Cupertino, a small neighborhood you wouldn’t expect to find such a tech giant in. Apple Park is surrounded by trees and you’ll see no big signs anywhere. Visitors are no longer allowed into the main site campus known as the ‘Spaceship’. You have to instead head over to the Apple visitor center across the road and you won’t find any discounted products here. You can borrow an iPad to do a virtual tour as you point towards a model of the site.

Stanford University

A private research university ranked as one of the best in the world, based very close to Silicon Valley and known for its academic strength and start-up entrepreneurship. It was established as the first mixed-gender, non-religiously affiliated university. The Church was blessed by leaders of ten different religions. The university was founded by Leland (a railroad tycoon) and Jane Stanford in memory of their only child who they lost to Typhoid at the age of 15 as a way to teach all children as they were theirs.

Computer History Museum

Based in Mountain View California, the CHM was set up to preserve and document the revolution of the information age. It contains the largest collection of artifacts in the world, with the  Heinz Nixdorf Museum in  Germany, having more items on display but a smaller collection. The collection goes back 2000 years through computing from the abacus to the internet. 

The Biotech Capital of the World – South San Francisco

South San Fransisco is the biotechnology capital of the world with over 210 companies based in the bay area, mostly in Mission Bay.

The hospital UCSF Benifoff was build by the CEO of Salesforce as part of his philanthropy efforts.
Genetech also got  a shout out on my tour, ‘One day they are going to find the cure for cancer’ – We can only keep excelling our efforts in hope.

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