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Silicon Valley study tour connects Bondies with the world of innovation

Twenty-six Bond students have recently returned energised and inspired from the University’s annual entrepreneurial pilgrimage to California’s Silicon Valley.

The aim of the study tour was to connect our students with the world of innovation through educational visits to a range of entrepreneurial environments.

The group of undergraduate and postgraduate students visited, and heard from, some of the world’s leading start-ups including Google, Twitter, Rocketspace, Omada Health, Mitchell Lake, US Market Access, Salesforce, StartupHouse, Cobalt Labs, Nitro, VMware, Hacker Dojo as well as the California Academy of Sciences and Stanford University’s d.school.

Bond’s Head of Entrepreneurship, Assistant Professor Baden U’Ren, who led the tour with the assistance of alumnus and tutor Auden Fiskerud and Jodie Siggers of Bond Business School, said the diversity of the companies visited was a key strength.

“This year’s study tour included visits to an incredible mix of companies at varying stages of development like Cobalt, an eight person apartment-based start-up, through to global tech giants like Google and Twitter,” he said.

“All the start-ups we visited were so very different in terms of scale and maturity, yet the similarities between them were even more fascinating.

“They all run small, collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams made up of people with their eyes wide open for the next opportunity and an absolute passion for innovation.

“StartupHouse’s pitch night was a real highlight for everyone. The innovative ideas that were pitched were incredible, but an ever bigger learning point for the students was the realisation that their pitching skills were easily as good, if not better, than a lot of the start-ups we saw pitching that night.

“Visiting and hearing from the founders of high growth organisations – like Tasmanian-born Sam Chandler, CEO of Nitro who started his business in Melbourne and is now thriving in the Valley - normalised the entrepreneurial process for students and made them think ‘hey, he had an idea, got it off the ground and it’s now a successful business… if he did it, then I can too’.”

The study group also had the chance to visit a number of Bond alumni who are now living and working in Silicon Valley, including Tristan Cameron of Google and Hugh Minson of Salesforce.

“Hugh is a graduate of Bond’s Entrepreneurship Program and along with two other students he took his startup, Nexus Notes, to the US. Although it didn’t succeed, the people he met and lessons he learned primed him for his current role as product manager with global CRM leader, Salesforce,” Professor U’Ren said.

“It was great for our students to see the strength of Bond’s alumni network in this highly dynamic and influential part of the world, and to witness first-hand the power and importance of establishing, maintaining and growing relationships and networks. “

First-year dual Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws student, Emma Sam, said many of the things they did on the tour could simply not be experienced as a tourist or visitor to the Valley.

“The Stanford class was definitely the highlight for me; it was just such a unique experience to attend a class with a world leading authority in Entrepreneurship like Professor George Foster,” she said.

“The Stanford campus was unbelievable too, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to say that I have taken a class at Stanford!”

“The tour was a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, that provided me with amazing opportunities, including the ability to build networks with MBA and EMBA students and the inspiration to create a business in the future.”

Janelle van de Velde, who is currently studying her Executive MBA and works for Tim Fairfax AC, said Silicon Valley was ‘infectious’.

“It has a tremendous community vibe about it and the ‘pay it forward’ mentality is remarkably refreshing, so to be able to have the opportunity to witness this first-hand was truly unique,” she said.

“It was fantastic to be given the opportunity to meet organisational founders and key strategic and operational staff who were so generous with their time, and reinforced what we had learnt through our classes.

“One of my greatest learnings was that to be successful and relevant, companies need to continually innovate, with collaboration and communication being two of the biggest enablers.” 

Dual MBA/Masters of Project Management student, Tim Tews of Germany described the insight he gained from the study tour as ‘eye-opening’.

“We didn’t just learn more about the guiding principles of entrepreneurship - like the networking effect and the importance of information exchange in the entrepreneurial culture - we got to meet, talk to, and ask questions of people who are living what we are learning about, which you just can’t get from reading a textbook or sitting in a classroom.

“Our visit to Rocketspace was really inspiring as we got to see how a co-working space works, how ideas are developed and the importance of the exchange of ideas, while Nitro was a great lesson for us in the importance of corporate culture.

“Everyone we visited shared the same entrepreneurial spirit. They were so open and honest and willing to share their knowledge and experience, to help us and ‘pay it forward’.

“The amount we learned in one week was amazing. There were so many learnings, new experiences and new impressions - it’s not until later you realise how much you learnt and how you can apply the knowledge and information to your ideas, career and life.”

The Silicon Valley Study Tour is a Bond Business School subject that is available to all Bond students as an elective, regardless of what you are studying. The Tour takes place in the September semester break each year. 

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