If youâ€™re a visiting dignitary whose country has a Gross National Product equal to or greater than the State of California, your visit to Silicon Valley consists of a lunch/dinner with some combination of the founders of Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter and several brand name venture capitalists. If you have time, the President of Stanford will throw in a tour, and then you can drive by Intel or some Clean Tech firm for a photo op standing in front of an impressive looking piece of equipment.
The â€śofficial dignitaryâ€ť tour of Silicon Valley is like taking the jungle cruise at Disneyland and saying youâ€™ve been to Africa. Because you and your entourage donâ€™t know the difference between large innovative companies who once were startups (Google, Facebook, et al) and a real startup, you never really get to see what makes the valley tick.
If you didnâ€™t come in your own 747, hereâ€™s a guide to what to see in the valley (which for the sake of this post, extends from Santa Clara to San Francisco.) This post offers things to see/do for two types of visitors: Iâ€™m just visiting and want a â€śtourist experienceâ€ť (i.e. a drive by the Facebook / Google / Zynga / Apple building) or â€śI want to work in the valleyâ€ť visitor who wants to understand whatâ€™s going on inside those buildings.
Iâ€™m leaving out all the traditional stops that you can get from the guidebooks.