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Sep 27, 2016

Six students go to San Francisco

Shane Wratt reflects on what it was like to chaperone six Young Enterprise students on a trip to Silicon Valley.


A fortnight ago with the help of FedEx, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and some of our other sponsors, we took six young entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley, San Francisco. The students aged 16-18 met some of the coolest kiwis living their dreams working in or leading some of the most influential companies in the world.

The trip was organised by Leah MacDonell at the Young Enterprise Trust. Connections to make the trip possible were arranged through our many sponsors, partners and friends of friends.  

We visited companies such as Microsoft, Uber, Facebook, Instagram, Kiwi Landing Pad, Singularity University, Stanford University, IDEO, Genentech, NZTE, Xero, FedEx, Apple and Renaissance Leadership. Prior to the trip, we knew we would get to see some cool things and meet some inspiring people, but we didn't expect the level of personal development to be quite as powerful as it was.

San Francisco itself is a beautiful city with iconic breath taking scenery and lots of 'very interesting' people. It is full of nostalgia, optimism, health and fitness, contrasting architecture and positive energy. Where Wellington runs on good coffee, San Francisco runs on the collective mindset of embracing serendipity. A belief that you never know when you might bump into someone and either change their world or have yours changed for the better. A focus on generosity, sharing and optimistic possibility. Collectively it’s a powerful force and one that quite frankly blew us all away. 

What made it more compelling was how our interviews reinforced this message. The power of embracing serendipity and designing your own future became strikingly clear when we met a senior executive of Facebook (a kiwi from Gore who now hangs out with 'Zuck'). He shared his own journey which largely consisted of moving to San Francisco and getting into situations where he connected with and became surrounded by better people than himself. He went on with a focus on how he could add value, wherever he was. A process he continually repeated. Many kiwis we met also shared a similar narrative.

Silicon Valley is full of opportunity. The people work on a scale that is simply not available here in New Zealand. They think bigger, play bigger, sell bigger and even appear to move faster (on opportunity at least).

The mindset is attractive, infectious and in this case, hugely impacting on young creative minds. For our six young entrepreneurs this experience was a significant life event, one that will help shape them as individuals and positively taint their future contribution to the world. 

They are looking forward to sharing their thoughts and learnings with you over the coming months.

Go #TeamNZ!