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Oct 25, 2017

Silicon Valley Study Tour | Bonnie Crawshaw-McClean

There was a tangible suspense that hung heavy in the air. Recipients of the Young Enterprise San Francisco trip were yet to be announced. An amalgamation of emotions and thoughts absorbed the room as the first name was called. So deeply caught within my hope and general inclination for overthinking, I barely registered when the name “Bonnie” was announced.

Team ImAGE

Fortunately, I was jolted into autopilot and made my way toward the podium. Elated, enthused and and ever so slightly on edge, the opportunity to represent New Zealand was one that I took by storm and committed to whole heartedly.

From October 8th to 15th, I was provided with the opportunity to meet with a number of inspiring and incredibly successful business people. The aim of the trip was to gain knowledge and insight on many people’s experiences within global enterprise and use this to form some of our own insights on the busy and complex world of business.

The trip was an invaluable experience, and I had little concept of the magnitude of an impact it would make on my life for the future.

On Sunday 8th, when the team arrived at the terminal to San Francisco, there was an immediate interconnection that allowed us all to speak freely about business and our worldly concepts as, in one way or another, we were on the same page. This set up the week positively and informed an excellent trip.

Once arrived- one day earlier than we left (time zone freak out)- the team were immediately exposed to the industrial nature and incredible scale of the city. Cars were darting past in a blur, time wasn’t slow like in New Zealand. There was a sense of urgency and frantic that filled the smog.

After driving through to San Jose, the team stopped by a supermarket. Filled with foreign curiosity, we navigated each aisle collecting obscure, and often sugar heavy foods. The scale of the food and the supermarket was almost laughable. America was delivering on its stereotypes.


There were 17 meetings scheduled over five days. Monday through Wednesday meetings were located within the Silicon Valley and in a close proximity to where we were staying in San Jose. We visited businesses the likes of Microsoft, Google and Renaissance leadership. Each entity offering their individual and personalised appetite for the Silicon Valley and its spiderweb connectedness. From Wednesday through Friday, we were centred in San Francisco CBD, where we stayed on Lombard Street, famous for its incredibly windy and crooked turns. There, we met with representatives from businesses such as Zendesk, Uber, and Carbon Five and amazing New Zealander’s such as Jake Millar, Claudia Batten and Tim Brown. Again, each business offered a very individual and intentional creative atmosphere. As an overall learning from touring each company, there was a lot to be said about business culture; exposed brick and clean, sleek areas in an industrial style that represented carbon five’s passion for creativity and design, “commons” areas where Microsoft employees could interact, collaborative working spaces and specialised places that were created specifically for the benefit and comfortability of those working there. For example, had a chill out space which overlooked a section of the city and was quiet and relaxing specifically designed for the worker to relax and meditate.


Aside from the meetings which occurred 3-4 times a day, The Young Enterprise NZ team explored sections of San Jose and San Francisco that forcefully introduced me to a very unfamiliar world. Homelessness was shocking and uncomfortable to witness. Walking past people backed up against debilitated tents with very few personal possessions, looking forlorn and removed was a culture shock and enabled me to grasp a bit of an understanding of the difference in wealth within San Francisco, and the grappling need for change concerning those less fortunate. Another aspect of the city that was incredibly disappointing to see was the amount of waste that was left scattered around. Unlike in New Zealand, there were often people in San Francisco that would litter as they were walking by. These two observations I had made whilst in San Francisco enabled me to further strengthen my vision as an entrepreneur to use my position in the world to make real social and environmental change.


There was an incredible amount of talented, empathetic, passionate business minded people amongst those chosen to venture to the ‘murica as part of the New Zealand team and it was a humbling and positively infectious experience to be able to participate alongside these people; I was able to learn and thrive whilst surrounded by these people which helped to maintain my motivation and determination throughout the trip. I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to go to San Francisco guided by such wise, cool, progressive people. The trip was just short of life changing and really changed the way that I approach my ideas and my visions for the enterprises I will hopefully pursue in the future. Being introduced to real life business in San Francisco has provided me with a foot in the door and connections that will definitely be useful for years to come.


During the trip in San Francisco, I was responsible for the companies SingularityU, NASDAQ, and NTROPIC. All three businesses were incredibly technologically advanced and involved with the progression in the world in terms of making a real, sustainable change in the world.


Singularity U is a start up designed to test and showcase some of the leading technology of the world, especially concerning augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). The campus was a small, secluded space that was placed in a mildly peculiar and a little bit eerie military ground that also housed NASA. The virtual reality space within Singularity U was  exploring future options of surgical procedures operated by robotics and/or virtual reality. The future of medicine was being explored. Along with the VR, Singularity U also touched base on mind bots. These small bots sensed your brainwaves and used the frequency to establish whether you were focused or relaxed. If relaxed, the bots would spin in clockwise circles and if focused the bots move out apart from each other. Singularity U was interesting and mind grappling fun and enabled the group to experience first hand VR and advanced tech.


NASDAQ is a non profit entrepreneurial centre opened up recently in San Francisco CBD within a beautiful building sponsored by Lehigh university. NASDAQ uses its space to educate entrepreneurs aged between eight and 60+ years old. The youngest girl had the idea of a puzzle that taught young children how to do basic code. The amount of innovation and creativity that the centre caters to is immense and implemented very effectively. The space also provides people with a platform to create instructional videos to post online- an incredible studio with up to date video cameras and imaging. NASDAQ tour was headed by an interesting guy named .... who showed us around and asked us about our mission and businesses that we had started here in New Zealand. Originally from Australia, .... was convinced to make his way to New Zealand to check out the natural beauty. NASDAQ has connection to New Zealand by working with NZTE.


NTROPIC is a business that is dedicated to the creation of beautiful animation and visual connection. NTropic uses virtual reality, animation software and colour engineers to create or enhance certain mediums such as videos, cartoons, animating on objects so that they are live on AR. NTropic headquarters lay in the heart of San Francisco and was in a beautiful industrial exposed brick building. Unfortunately, we were asked to sign an NDA so cannot disclose exactly what took place but NTropic is on another level in terms of creativity and using VR to make certain things. On particularly cool programme we were shown was the VR of a flooded town and what it would look like in a few years if nothing was changed in the environment and then also another view of what it would be like if people put in measures for change. The VR aspect of it meant that you could grasp a real understanding of how of an effect flooding would have on the city and the detrimental effects of it.


There were a number of thing that I valued and took away from the trip. I was exposed to a world so much larger than the business scape within NZ. Being a very little fish in a very large ocean meant that I was not only feeling super insignificant but also incredibly open to taking risks and opportunities in order to meet up with some of the larger, more powerful sharks. From what I learnt in San Francisco, I have begun to make plans for the future. The path to success for me will not be a linear straight and I know, after talking to Claudia Batten, that I will be okay with that. The squiggly line will be something I own and maintain for my future and use in enterprises that I will hopefully begin next year. I used the values concerning culture and emotional intelligence to better communicate my proposed problem and solution and employ people who will work on it with integrity and develop a positive and vibing business culture. I want to conjoin all of the things that I learned together to create an innovative and progressive way of doing business and starting up social enterprise.