Capstone Module Silicon Valley 2017

Study Tour of Silicon Valley, May 7 to 13, 2017

16 students of the MSc Class of 2018 attended the WHU Study Tour to Silicon Valley in 2017. They were accompanied by Prof. Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier, Chair of Production Management and Director of the Industrial Excellence Award Europe, Dimitry Smirnov, doctoral candidate at the Chair of Production Management, and Heike Hülpüsch, Head of Career Service.  

On the first day, students visited successful leaders in innovation and e-commerce, i.e., the manufacture of e-vehicles Tesla, the search engine company Google and the web hosting service provider GoDaddy

On the second day, students discussed ways of scaling the business with incumbent online companies such as LendUp, a fin-tech company providing affordable and fair pay loans to low income customers, General Catalyst, a venture capitalist firm investing in mostly business applying Artificial Intelligence tools, and shop.co, offering a universal cart for online shopping.  

On the third day, students met with two established enterprises trying to change and digitize their business model: Innogy showed how they transform the German parent company and how they mitigate financial risks through investments, e.g., in e-mobility. The strategic planning unit of Hewlett Packard Company - the first computer company in Silicon Valley - showed how their supply chain was reengineered recently to compensate losses by the fading PC industry and thus printing needs or habits by customers: through an instant-ink service the company is able to monetize effectively using digital technologies.  

On the fourth day, the visit to Stanford University shed some light into management strategies for digital success: in the d.school, design thinking contributes greatly to successful product launches, in the Data Science Initiative, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques for mostly unstructured data are applied to real world business problems for improved decision making, in the Graduate School of Business, it was postulated that substitution (disruption), scaling and structural change (3S model) lead to digital success, disruption alone is not creating value as such.  

On day five, students met with a founder of Mesosphere, a company that enables companies like Apple, Twitter and Uber to offer a suite of online applications using big data which make use of large-scale cloud computing necessary.  

The week ended with a well-deserved dinner at a French restaurant where all participants revisited this mind-opening experience.

Company visits

Day 1: Tesla Factory, Freemont; Google, Mountain View and GoDaddy, Sunnyvale
Day 2: General Catalyst, LendUp and shop.co, all San Francisco
Day 3: Hewlett Packard Company and Innogy, both Palo Alto
Day 4: Amour Vert, Palo Alto; Stanford Data Science Initiative, Stanford d.school and Standford Graduate School of Business, all Stanford
Day 5: Mesosphere, San Francisco