So your team decided to visit San Francisco to be inspired by the latest exponential technologies and trends? Awesome, this handy guide will show you the best spots to make the most out of your innovation trip to Silicon Valley.
Agendas that work well typically begin with visits to prominent startups, investors, or established corporates and then finishing off the tour with a fun, high-tech Bay Area culture experience.
Let’s break this down into parts. We have an entire article devoted to the many companies, activities, and restaurants that should be on your Silicon Valley innovation tour bucket list, so hang tight!
Companies to See
Now we can discuss some of the top companies to visit. Keep in mind that when you reach out to these companies for meetings, you’ll want to align the innovation interests of your company with the ones that you’re visiting, such that every meeting is a mutually beneficial introduction for both parties.
Facebook and Twitter began as social media platforms and have both grown into a global presence reaching far beyond networking. News, commerce, entertainment, and many more industries are heavily impacted by the two tech giants. Both companies are shaping the way society interacts and they are are relatively open to meetings exploring growth, marketing plan, commerce, and data. Twitter has a large building in the heart of downtown San Francisco right next to Reason, while Facebook has two main beautiful campuses located in the south bay.
Google (or Alphabet Inc) as we know started as an incredible search engine and turned into a technology powerhouse spanning every aspect of our lives from self-driving cars, life extension, space exploration, scientific research, connectivity, AI, and more. They are particularly keen on meeting with innovators visiting the area, so definitely research who you want to talk to and reach out!
For a more hardware-centric focus, companies like Apple, Tesla, and NASA are the way to go. From the phones we use to the cars we drive, companies like these are heavily incorporated into the daily life of consumers. Of course, NASA is also a hub for innovation, literally pushing the limits of our knowledge with every bit of progress made.
Intel and Stanford can provide slightly more edifying experiences, with an academic audience in mind for each tour given. Intel has an entire museum devoted to the path of innovation taken by the company many times over, and Stanford is a highly respected research institution that is making huge strides in nearly every field.
There are also companies like Salesforce and Amazon that have worked to establish a brand beyond their central product. Salesforce is a well-established CRM that also focuses heavily on connecting professionals across the many companies they work with. They also do a lot of educational work for their interns and members of the industries that they serve. Similarly, Amazon has reached beyond its e-commerce platform to be a resource for consumers in many other ways. Amazon now has a streaming platform, an influencer portal, tools for e-commerce, and significant architecture for software development (ie. e-commerce CRM) and deployment that owns over 42% of the cloud market and growing. To paraphrase the German statesman Klemens von Metternich, “when Amazon sneezes, the Internet catches a cold.”
Then of course a tour of the innovation in the Bay Area wouldn’t be complete without visiting a Venture Capital firm and a startup incubator. A16Z and Y Combinator, respectively are industry leaders and host market development programs. There are many, many others as well, so don’t hesitate to research what firms and incubators may be right for your concept, company, or product!
WeWork, an example of a coworking space for startups in San Francisco
Activities to Do
There are so many wonderfully innovative activities to try out after you are inspired by the business methods of the companies listed above. Get ready to relax, explore, and be inspired by the interesting and dynamic activities that Silicon Valley has to offer.
If you want a mixed reality experience, places like Reason and Unreal Garden are good places to start. The reason is a high-tech escape room that excels at connecting people with new technology such as drones, holograms, VR, robotics, and lasers and strengthening team bonds. On the other hand, Unreal Garden is a digital art exhibit you can see using AR.
If you’re more interested in the history of the tech industry itself, both Samsung Innovation Center and the Computer Science History museum are amazing places to immerse yourself in the story of Silicon Valley. For a look at the tech that’s coming next, stop by Google’s B8ta stores to see innovative new products or visit an Amazon Go store for an “employee and checkout-less” experience.
Finally, if you just want to get a glimpse into startup life, stop by Galvanized or Bespoke, both popular coworking spaces in the Bay Area. Then after a big day, you can wrap up your adventures with a fun meal and visit at Salesforce Transit Center, right by the big Salesforce tower in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial district.
The Financial District – and Salesforce tower – in all its glory
Places to Eat
Silicon Valley tech has even influenced the dining culture here in the Bay Area. While you are here, you try out a classic: the Impossible Burger. Several different diners and restaurants in the city carry this unbelievably tasty vegetarian burger alternative. Find a spot that’s already along your itinerary route and enjoy the experience of eating a veggie burger that is actually good for once.
There are more literal tech trends happening in the restaurant industry, too. Robotic kitchens are popping up all over, serving coffee, pizza, and burgers for unbeatable prices with virtually no wait. Cafe X, Zume Pizza, and Creator, respectively, are some of the more established spots for San Francisco’s newest robotic food phenomenon.
Of course, not all food here has to be something novel. Twitter Market is a great spot for a quick bite, with several different restaurant and prepared food stations to cater to any restrictions, diets or preferences your group may have.
You could stay here for years (as many do) and never run out of new companies to draw inspiration from, or innovative experiences to discover. The beauty of Silicon Valley is that there is no limit to the innovation happening here: everyone has so many ideas and at any given time the next big thing is just starting out.
If no matter if you are here for a few days or a few hours, we hope this guide will help you find the inspiration your team seeks. Feel free to reach out if you need help planning your trip don’t forget to stop by our future technology escape room for a team-based sci-fi adventure. Perhaps some collaborative thinking is just the catalyst the doctor ordered to bring the inspirations together into the next big thing!