The Interdependency Of Stanford And Silicon Valley

There was a time when Stanford College was thought-about a second-rate engineering college. It was the early 1940s, and the Division of Protection was pressed to assemble a top-secret group to know and assault Germany’s radar system throughout World Warfare II.

The top of the U.S. scientific analysis, Vannevar Bush, needed the nation’s best radio engineer, Stanford’s Frederick Terman, to steer 800 researchers on this secret mission. However as an alternative of basing the group at Terman’s personal Stanford lab — a mere attic with a leaky roof — he was despatched to the acclaimed Harvard lab to run the mission.

It’s laborious to think about Stanford handed over as an innovation hub right now. Stanford has outpaced among the greatest Ivy League universities in status and recognition. It has obliterated the normal mindset that eliteness is unique to the Ivy League. Stanford has lapped high faculties by centuries. It ranks within the high Three in a number of world and nationwide rankings (right here, hereand right here).

Plus, survey outcomes level to Stanford because the No. 1 selection of most college students and fogeys for the previous couple of years, over Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Actually, even Harvard college students haveacknowledged Stanford’s notable rise in recognition.


However one thing a bit of extra intriguing is going on on Stanford’s campus…one thing that goes past these tutorial rankings. Because the starting of time, the purpose of academia has been to not create corporations, however to advance information for the sake of information.

But Stanford’s engineering college has had a robust hand in constructing the tech growth that surrounds it right now. It’s not solely witnessed, but additionally notoriously housed, among the most celebrated improvements in Silicon Valley.

Whereas Stanford college and college students have made notable achievements throughout disciplines, their function in shaping the epicenter of The Age of Innovation is probably one of many high — if not probably the most distinctive — distinguishers. Because the world’s eyes fixate on the booming tech scene in Silicon Valley, Stanford’s affiliation shines brightly within the periphery.

In return, its entrepreneurial alumni provide among the many most beneficiant endowments to the college, breaking the report as the primary college so as to add greater than $1 billion in a single yr. Stanford shares a relationship with Silicon Valley in contrast to every other college on the planet, chartering a self-perpetuating cycle of innovation.

However what’s on the root of this interdependency, and the way lengthy can it final within the quickly shifting house of schooling know-how?

Fred Terman, The Root Of Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

To really perceive Stanford’s function in constructing Silicon Valley, let’s revisit WWII and meet Terman. Because the chief of the top-secret army mission, Terman was aware about probably the most cutting-edge, and unique, electronics analysis in his subject. Whereas the federal government was keen to speculate extra in electronics protection know-how, he noticed that Stanford was falling behind.

“War research which is [now] secret will be the basis of postwar industrial expansion in electronics…Stanford has a chance to achieve a position in the West somewhat analogous to that of Harvard of the East,” Terman predicted in a letter to a colleague.

After the warfare, he lured among the finest college students and school to Stanford within the barren West by securing sponsored tasks that helped strengthen Stanford’s popularity in electronics. Right here’s an ideal visualization, due to Steve Clean, about how Stanford first fueled its entrepreneurship engine by way of warfare funds:


This give attention to pushing colleagues and college students to commercialize their concepts helped jumpstart engineering at Stanford. Ultimately, Stanford’s popularity grew to changing into a army know-how useful resource, proper up there with Harvard and MIT.

However Terman’s advocacy of know-how commercialization went past the army. Because the Chilly Warfare started, Terman pushed to construct the Stanford Industrial Park, a spot reserved for personal, cutting-edge tech corporations to lease land. It was the primary of its sort, and famously housed early tech pioneers like Lockheed, Fairchild, Xerox and Basic Electrical.

The analysis park was the right recipe for:

  • A brand new income stream for the college
  • Bringing tutorial and trade minds collectively in a single house
  • Inspiring college students to start out their very own corporations

You would possibly say that the Stanford Industrial Park was the unique networking hub for among the brightest minds of know-how, merging academia and trade, with the purpose of advancing tech information.

That they had a harmonic relationship wherein trade of us took part-time programs at Stanford. In return, these tech corporations provided nice job alternatives for Stanford grads.

Proximity to Silicon Valley just isn’t crucial factor that distinguishes Stanford, nevertheless it’s definitely probably the most distinctive.

Since then, Stanford’s bridge from the college to the tech trade has been cast-iron robust, infamous for uplifting an entrepreneurial spirit in lots of college students. Probably the most well-known story, after all, is that of Terman and his mentees William Hewlett and David Packard, who patented an modern audio oscillator. Terman pushed the duo to take their breakthrough industrial.

Ultimately, Hewlett-Packard (HP) was born and moved into the analysis park as the most important PC producer on this planet. Up to now, he and the late David Packard, along with their household foundations and firm, have given greater than $300 million to Stanford.

Due to their proximity to high improvements, Stanford teachers had the chance to identify technological shifts within the trade and capitalize by inventing new analysis breakthroughs. As an example:

  • Laptop Graphics Inc.: College students had been enamored by the potential for built-in circuit know-how and VLSI functionality. The Geometry Engine, the core innovation behind laptop generated graphics, was developed on the Stanford campus.
  • Atheros: Atheros launched the primary wi-fi community. Teresa Meng constructed, with authorities funding, a low-power GPS system with prolonged battery life for troopers. This led to the profitable low-power wi-fi community, which ultimately turned Wi-Fi.

These are only a few of among the most groundbreaking technological improvements sprouted from Stanford soil: Google, Solar Microsystems, Yahoo!, Cisco, Intuit … and the listing goes on — to greater than 40,000 corporations.

Stanford additionally has a popularity as a go-to pool for expertise. As an example, the primary 100 Googlers had been additionally Stanford college students. And right now, 1 in 20 Googlers hail from Stanford.

Proximity to Silicon Valley Drives its Tech Entrepreneurial Spirit

When you stroll alongside the 700 acres of Stanford’s Analysis Park, not solely will you see cutting-edge corporations like Tesla and Skype, but additionally world-renowned tech legislation companies and R&D labs. It’s a sprawling community of innovation within the purest sense of the time period — it’s the very best place to uproot a nascent thought.

Proximity to Silicon Valley just isn’t crucial factor that distinguishes Stanford, nevertheless it’s definitely probably the most distinctive. It’s the hotbed of laptop science innovators, deep-pocketed enterprise capital companies and angel traders.

No less than right now, everybody who needs to “make it” in tech goes to Silicon Valley. And — similar to Terman’s early Stanford days — it’s the place you possibly can meet the precise individuals with the precise assets who can assist you flip the American entrepreneurial dream right into a actuality.

Simply take a look at the rising variety of H-1B visa candidates every year, most of whom work in tech. There have been greater than 230,000 candidates in 2015, up from 170,000 in 2014. 4 out of the highest 11 cities that home probably the most H-1B visa holders are all in Silicon Valley.

Plus, an rising variety of non-tech corporations are organising R&D retailers in Silicon Valley. Analyst Brian Solis not too long ago led a survey of greater than 200 non-tech corporations; 61 % of these had a presence in Silicon Valley, which helped them “gain access and exposure to the latest technology.”

There’s definitely a strong emphasis on know-how entrepreneurship penetrating the campus of Stanford engineers.

Nonetheless, opponents usually level to media exaggeration that cut back Stanford right into a startup-generator. After all, Stanford’s prestigious curriculum is a draw for high college and analysis throughout disciplines. However, given the proof and anecdotes, there’s definitely a strong emphasis on know-how entrepreneurship penetrating the campus of Stanford engineers. How can it not?

Michael Harris, a Stanford alumnus, can attest to a basic sense of drive and fervour. “It’s not quite as dominant as the media makes it seem,” he mentioned, “but there’s some element of truth.”

Stanford college students are by and huge fascinated by creating actual issues which have an actual impact on this planet. The truth that Silicon Valley is correct right here and college students have pretty good entry by way of buddies, professors, the college, and so on. to individuals within the trade is certainly a giant bonus. It will get individuals enthusiastic about doing work within the tech trade and feeling motivated and empowered to start out one thing themselves.

This Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Evolving Into A Sense Of Urgency

Terman’s early emphasis on turning the concepts developed in academia into viable merchandise is simply as — if no more — rampant right now. Probably the most telling proof is that Stanford’s campus is producing extra tech startup founders than every other campus.

However what’s much more curious is that some college students, significantly within the graduate division, don’t even end their levels. It’s monumental to pay hundreds of for a grasp’s diploma in laptop science, solely to go away to launch a startup. Even on the undergrad degree, Harris considered leaving school after doing one wonderful internship the summer time after his junior yr.

“I will say that working in industry teaches you more things faster about doing good work in industry than school does by a really big margin (order of magnitude maybe),” Harris mentioned, “so I don’t actually think it’s crazy for people not to go back to school other than the fact that some companies seem to think it’s important for someone to have a piece of paper that says they graduated from college.”

After all, most individuals do end their levels. However this sense of urgency to go away — whether or not or not the bulk comply with by way of — is palpable.

Will Stanford find yourself disrupting the very distinctive issue that distinguishes Stanford from every other college on the planet?

Final yr, six Stanford college students quitschool to work on the identical startup.One other 20 left for related causes the yr earlier than that. Apparently, Stanford’s coveted StartX program wasn’t sufficient for them.

StartX is an unique Three-month incubator program to assist meet the demand for college kids who need to take their enterprise concepts to the market — full with famend mentorship and help from college and trade consultants to assist the brightest Stanfordites flip their concepts right into a actuality.

In a current speak, Stanford President John Hennessy proudly spoke about this program as a launchpad for college kids to scratch their itch for entrepreneurship. However when an viewers member requested him about college students dropping out of faculty, he mentioned, “Look, for every one Instagram success, there are another 100 failed photo-sharing sites.” And, he added, “So far, all of the StartX program students have graduated — at least all of the undergrads.”

Typically, Stanford’s commencement charges have dipped considerably lately. Of scholars who enrolled in 2009, 90 % had graduated inside 5 years, Stanford mentioned, in contrast with a 5-year commencement fee of 92.2 % 5 years earlier. And this isn’t a nasty factor for Stanford. Because the very starting, a core operate of Stanford’s excellence is its funding in its college students to construct nice industrial merchandise — beginning with the early days of Terman.

The Future: What Will Stanford Be With out Silicon Valley?

However each schooling and the Valley are shifting. The very nature of innovation frees us from brick-and-mortar partitions of elite establishments and firms.

If the very best software of know-how is to democratize alternative, then each single particular person on the planet ought to have inexpensive entry to Stanford’s world-class schooling on-line. The rise of Huge Open On-line Programs (MOOC) and on-line assets are a sign of the way forward for schooling.

It’s a future wherein bold college students have the chance to coach themselves. On the forefront of know-how, instructional establishments, together with Stanford, are beginning to decentralize the mannequin by way of on-line course materials.

Stanford shares a relationship with Silicon Valley in contrast to every other college on the planet.

In the meantime, Silicon Valley might have pioneered the tech growth, nevertheless it’s not the one tech hub. Bursts of technological hubs are forming everywhere in the world. In a bit on the H-1B visa cap, I discovered that the highest traders in early stage startups have arrange store in India, China and Israel, three of the most important world tech hubs after Silicon Valley.

Realistically, the H-1B visa cap and metropolis infrastructure can’t virtually help exponential development in Silicon Valley. The nucleus of innovation will ultimately shift, deeming the proximity to Silicon Valley irrelevant.

Plus — as some college students aren’t even ending their levels — it’ll be price re-evaluating if hundreds of for a grasp’s in CS at Stanford is basically well worth the model identify on a resume or entry to espresso with high startup founders who occur to reside in Palo Alto.

But when Stanford’s proximity to Silicon Valley drives its entrepreneurial essence, which helps bolster each the popularity and funding of Stanford, what is going to occur when the bold, startup founders at Stanford begin getting their schooling on-line?

Will Stanford find yourself disrupting the very distinctive issue that distinguishes Stanford from every other college on the planet? Or will Stanford’s alumni proceed to gas its self-perpetuating cycle of innovation and keep its popularity as an innovation hub?

Aline Niyonkuru


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