A Learning Expedition to Silicon Valley, the "Cradle of Innovation"

8 April 2013

For aspiring entrepreneurs, there’s really only one dream destination: Silicon Valley! This April, 96 students from the HEC-Entrepreneurs Specialized Masters [a1] and the Entrepreneurship Major programs flew to the world’s startup hotspot, located in northern California. During their seven-day visit in April, they soaked in the business environment and met up with 50 Silicon Valley stars, including innovators from Google, Facebook, Viadeo SF and AirBnB.

HEC Entrepreneurs - Learning Expedition Silicon Valley _ 2013

Why Silicon Valley?

The HEC-Entrepreneurs program is for Specialized Masters and Grande Ecole students who aim to start up their own businesses after graduation. Designed to give students as much hands-on experience as possible, it provides them the opportunity to learn from real, successful business founders. “Silicon Valley took more than 50 years to develop into what it is,” says Audrey Stewart, the HEC Paris student who headed up the Leadership Expedition initiative. “It doesn’t and can’t exist anywhere else. It’s an incredibly rich environment for entrepreneurs. There are more investors in Silicon Valley than in the rest of the US combined. People there have enthusiasm for fresh ideas and the means to implement them. It’s the cradle of innovation!”

A multipurpose trip

With help from the HEC community, Gervais Johanet, Deputy Director of the HEC-Entrepreneurs program, helped make the Learning Expedition a reality. It was built around three objectives. First, it helped students discover and understand the origins of innovation and entrepreneurship while inspiring them to pursue their own business projects. Second, it forged ties between HEC Paris and Silicon Valley. Finally, it immersed students in the Silicon Valley “ecosystem,” through visits, networking and meetings.
“Our students need to meet with all kinds of industry players,” Mr. Johanet says. “In doing so they learn that the entrepreneurial community is theirs too, and that it’s rich with experience and advice. Our trip enabled them to do just that by meeting with everyone from investors to professors to CEOs.”

The Learning Expedition: entrepreneurial in its own right

Audrey’s personal experience in the Silicon Valley inspired her to get involved in organizing the Learning Expedition. “I first went there to intern at RocketSpace, a start-up incubator,” she says. “I loved it so much that when my internship was over, I brought RocketSpace to France by opening its first French branch.” Audrey saw the benefit of seeing Silicon Valley firsthand, and wanted to share that experience with her classmates.
“We are particularly proud that we turned this idea into reality,” Mr. Johanet says. “Thanks to our partnership with Singularity, most especially its co-founder Alexandre Azoulay (HEC 95), the alumni network, the HEC-Entrepreneurs ecosystem and the team of students led by Audrey, we invented our Learning Expedition from scratch.” This exciting trip abroad will hopefully be the first in a long line of similar endeavors.


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