Day 2 of the Les Roches Silicon Valley Trip confirmed what we already suspected — Silicon Valley is an amazing source of inspiration for students of entrepreneurship and hospitality management.
Our second day started with a visit to the global headquarters of one of the most well-known companies on Earth: Google. We were greeted by Nur-e Farzana Rahman (Associate Principle, Strategy and Business Operation), who shared her passion for her company and her role: “to make the Internet a better place.”
Nur-e shared her experience working at startups before joining Google, reminding us that in Silicon Valley, failure is a part of success. The willingness to take risks is a vital part of startup culture and entrepreneurship. To get inspired, Nur-e recommends reading Nancy Duarte; in the words of this American writer and public speaker, “The future isn’t a place you’ll go. It’s a place you will invent.”
So how does Google create an innovative environment? Administrative Business Partner Marnie McLain gave us some extra insight:
- Foundations are important. Building healthy habits like mindfulness, exercise and balance is crucial, as you have to be centered before you can influence others. Google cherishes the idea of a “G-Pause” — a reminder to get up and stretch every couple of hours.
- Brain fuel — we all need it. Community, inclusion and diversity are key to sparking ideas, fueling passion and having the courage to take risks.
- Be present. To get ideas going, colleagues need to meet, share and internalize new concepts.
- Constant feedback. Peers, daily interactions, mentorship, collaboration, stakeholders and managers — all of these elements are vital to developing long-term goals and a sense of progress.
After a campus tour and delicious lunch at Google, we were off to meet Hotel Tonight COO and Co-Founder Jared Simon. An excellent example of a disruptive startup in the hospitality world, Hotel Tonight helps travelers get great deals on last-minute room bookings while also helping hotels to keep vacant rooms from going to waste. To get an idea of how successful this company is, just look at the numbers:
- 14 million downloads of Hotel Tonight’s app
- 15,000 top hotels available in 1,900 cities across 36 countries
- Raised $80 million in funding and is now profitable
- It takes users just 4 taps in 8 seconds to book a hotel room
Hotel Tonight also left us with some interesting food for thought: “Better to have 100 who love you than 1,000 who like you.” Fully aware of the importance of quality, the company is selective about the hotels it promotes. The beauty of Hotel Tonight lies in its simplicity, which appears in everything from the easy-to-use and elegant design of the app to the win-win solution the company presents to hotels and travelers. Hotel Tonight is all about spontaneity — customers can book rooms for tonight and up to seven days in advance, and hotels can offer vacant rooms through the app at the last minute.
Our final visit of the day was with ScreenMeet and Co-Founder and CEO Ben Lilienthal. ScreenMeet was born out of the need to address a very straightforward but important problem: how to share screens on mobile devices. Prior to ScreenMeet, Ben was no stranger to the technical challenges of virtual meetings — he had previously started Vapps, a Voice over IP audio conferencing service that was later sold to Citrix Systems.
While desktop screen sharing was already available through platforms like GoToMeeting, the world has increasingly been going mobile. Meetings are now just as likely to take place while people are on the go and using their phone, not a laptop, and this shift opened up the opportunity for developing ScreenMeet: a simple-to-use service, requiring no downloads or plug-ins, that lets users share their desktop or mobile screen to any device or browser.
Ben left us with some pointers for entrepreneurs:
- Make sure you learn how to sell. In Silicon Valley, it’s not enough to be a hacker — you need to be both a hacker and a hustler.
- Have a lot of ideas and talk through them with friends and family you trust.
- Don’t be afraid to be wrong. It may turn out that you’re going in the right direction and just need to make some tweaks.
The trip’s not over yet — tomorrow more updates about our last day on Silicon Valley