Silicon Valley Travel — A Before and an After

Written by Andrés Buelvas Diago.

December 02, 2017.

Due to recent events, has emerged the latent idea of expressing and communicating to the world one of the best experiences of my life that defined my purpose of serving in the arduous path of entrepreneurship, innovation and achieving the creation of many things since love and happiness.

It all started the day after I left my last job at the end of August 2016. I made the decision to change the direction of my life because I felt it had no meaning for me and every Monday the pattern used to repeat itself; therefore, I promised myself that I would do impossible things, quoting the words of “Gustavo Adrián Cerati” (known as Soda Stereo Frontman) and so, I decided to take a sabbatical.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship: A Different World

During the search for answers regarding my life purpose, through networking events, I met a new world with ecosystems of innovation and entrepreneurship through people who have been in San Francisco having incubators, or ideas in validation (by then, the term “incubator” was very strange to me). I got to Silicon Valley.Travel program at the beginning of 2017 on Facebook thanks to my interests in Social Networks and I dared myself to get involved in that world I wanted to know and tell the rest of the world.

My incubator consisted of Organizational Consulting because I considered my purpose to improve the organizational culture in Colombia, so I began the process of acceleration and development of it. I learned to create and validate the value proposition of my idea, the pitch to sell my idea, get capital and how to scale my idea to start generating income with the minimum viable product (MVP).

My Greatest Challenges Before the Program

The challenge I had to face before my trip to California was more than anything in the personal, economic and financial aspects:

I was flooded with debts of more than 11 million pesos (more than $ 3,700 dollars) and increasing, since I did not find what to do to generate incomes and holde my expenses. I assumed commercial executive positions in some companies to generate incomes and learn all about sales; however, I only earned by brokerage and without a basic wage, making it more challenging. Ultimately, my family paid for my expenses. In addition, I did not have the generation capacity to pay rent and services.

I had to simplify commitments and promises due to the stress and anxiety I was handling at that moment. I left without solving many “chicharrones” (as we refer in Colombia to “complexly problematic situations”) and traveled to Los Angeles, California on September 22 to my family in which I spent a spectacular weekend full of love and happiness, recharging mental, emotional and spiritual energies.

By land, from Oceanside (2 hours south of Los Angeles) I traveled to San Francisco on September 24, one Sunday night.

Touring California: The Sounds of San Francisco

After a 15-hour trip by land among buses and trains from south to north of California, I got off in the Financial District, San Francisco’s business district. I ventured to get to the hotel by walking the streets of San Francisco since I arrived with plenty of time. There was nothing like the convenience of having a coworking inside the hotel where many of our activities started there with our computers and everyone learning from each one´s pitch of us, both in strengths and aspects to improve.

El Gran Combo … of Entrepreneurs

I was the first person to arrive while the rest of the people were on their way. Together along with the mentors, we formed a group of 12 people who came from Bogotá, Medellín and Cali from Colombia, and countries such as Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala. For being the first day, naturally we were all excited by the expectations while we met. That afternoon we went to our first Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality conference that they were developing for entertainment, for example, Star Wars games, in Google Launchpad Startup Space.

Stories and learnings

We had an inspiring story from the founder of Startup Basecamp coworking who is originally from France, telling us about his challenges during his early days in San Francisco and the things we connect with his story coincided with the balance someone gives between entrepreneuring and get into your family, friends and to never leave your hobbies.

We adapted to the lifestyle of going through the streets of San Francisco between eating at Subway and traveling by metro or MUNI (the municipal public transport buses) to get to other coworking spaces where we started to take classes in Digital Marketing strategies with Facebook and Google Adwords, feeling more immersed in this new digital world with my colleagues.

At the same space of Google Launchpad we had that night speakers from Linkedin and Yelp, experts on Machine & Deep Learning.

We attended our Fundraising session in a meeting room of Raven Office Center, a shared office building located on Market Street that is compared to Fifth Avenue in New York. I remember that day, personally for two things: first, the story of our friend and mate that inspired us about the challenges we have as human beings in the creation of things in the midst of frustration and failure while entrepreneuring; second, I had a discouragement since I did not see my project in any of the phases of the session (it was still in preincubation) and from there were only a few days left to return to the adverse reality that I had left in Bogota with personal and economic difficulties. I dried my tears and continued.

Exploring Silicon Valley and its Evolution in History (University of San Francisco)

It was the most expected day for all of us who took the program which the main activity was the Silicon Valley tour. We were picked up by a van touring us to Facebook facilities in Menlo Park, Stanford Mall in Palo Alto, Googleplex in Mountain View and Apple Campus in Cupertino.

We met the University of San Francisco where it was great to feel like a student again and we had a session with Professor Roger Chen explaining the evolution of Silicon Valley and how the methodologies of Design Thinking and Lean Startup were involved for ideas of any entrepreneurship, among others thing I felt like I really wanted to study at this university about acceleration programs.

Then we toured Union Square to get to the offices of Linkedin, where we had conferences of experts on Linkedin and Facebook about UX designs for Virtual Reality.

Stanford University

The challenge of this day was “not missing the train” on the train system called Caltrain to get to Stanford University in Palo Alto. With the same group of friends and colleagues it was such a movie experience while we were on the train passing through tunnels where everything got dark and we were ear buzzed; even there were sounds that could easily be recognized in Sci-Fi movies. We had the tour of the campus of the university and we were very involved in the California academic culture and I was personally inspired by the works donated by Bill Gates, William Hewlett and David Packard as one of the tasks of every entrepreneur that promotes development and acceleration for communities and people.

Closure of the Silicon Valley Immersion Program and “See you soon”

We had an incredible plan to go to a San Francisco Giants Baseball game and its incredible energy inside the AT & T Stadium that accompanied it with recent music hits and as a music lover I am, I enjoyed it a lot.

We took the San Francisco tour and knew the tourist sites such as Chinatown, Pier 39, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury (the Hippie neighborhood), Alamo Square (famous for the houses in the tv show “Full House” and other sites).

In addition for being an inspirational tour, it was one of the best experiences to remember along with new friends we met in a different city from our countries of origin. The most important thing was our evolution in the way we treat ourselves, how we had fun with our witty and sarcastic humor because of the confidence we acquired.

Lessons

When I took the determination to take steps forward, beyond technically learn the tools of an international program, I learned that in the adverse situation in which I found myself, many times due to the economic factor we are often paralyzed by doing things. Money comes and goes in various ways and is always flowing; while time is a non-renewable resource. Starting to act allows you to tell the world what you are doing and inspire other people to wake up and build their destiny.

I could recognize who were my friends in good and in bad situations. If you really meet people who, despite your failures and frustrations are with you and continue to support you, you are on the right track to make a better world. Once you make the decision of something crucial, you are not the same again and you have more desire to devour the world. I came to connect with new people and business strengthening ecosystems in Bogota and my head is restless and excited about generating value proposals.

Total thankfulness to Hegel Gonzalez and Marcela Morales for all their support and guidance during the program and to my friends Jefferson, Katherine, Andrés, Débora, Melissa, Nubia, Eliecer, Byron and Yanneth for making this experience incredible. I take them all in my heart, friends that I made during this adventure in a different world and I hope to see them again very soon.

Greetings to all and I hope you have liked this blog,

Andrés Buelvas Diago