One couldn’t possibly visit Los Angeles without taking a narrated tour of breathtaking celebrity homes and hot spots, or visit Saigon without experiencing it from the backseat of a motorbike. But how about Silicon Valley, the home to many of the world’s most influential high-tech companies and thousands of small startups? It is precisely a sightseeing tour of these companies that makes a visit to Silicon Valley most memorable. This blog article highlights some of the historical sites and current nerve centers, from the birthplace of Silicon Valley in a Palo Alto garage to the current headquarters of social networking giant Facebook.
Shortcuts: Adobe, Apple, BEA Systems, Cisco, Computer History Museum, eBay, Facebook, Google, HP Garage, Intel, LinkedIn, McAfee, Netflix, Oracle, PayPal, Roku, Sand Hill Road, Stanford University, Square, Steve Jobs, The Tech Museum, Twitter, Yahoo!
The Birthplace of Silicon Valley
This garage, located at 367 Addison Avenue in Palo Alto is considered the birthplace of the world’s first high-tech region, Silicon Valley. The idea for such a region originated with Dr. Frederick Terman, a Stanford University professor who encouraged his students to start-up their own electronics companies in the area instead of joining established firms in the east. The first two students to follow his advice were William Hewlett and David Packard, who in 1938 began developing their first product, an audio oscillator, in this garage. The rest is history.
It is very likely that if you are reading this article on a Mac or PC, that your computer is powered by an Intel processor.
Intel was founded in 1968 by semiconductor pioneers Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, with Andrew Grove joining on the date of incorporation. The company is best known for its x86 series of microprocessors. Intel powered the Altair 8800 microcomputer that was featured on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. Maybe less known is the fact that Intel ventured into the timekeeping business in 1972. And if you believe the rumors, it will be venturing into television in 2013.
The Intel headquarters is located at 2200 Mission College Boulevard in Santa Clara, where you can visit the 10,000 square foot Intel Museum (closed on Sunday) and discover the people and technology behind the company. The museum is a self-guided experience that mixes Intel history, technology explanations, demonstrations, and popular culture in more than 30 exhibits. The museum store sells Intel branded merchandise including apparel, pens, gifts, computer devices, toys, and other items.
Founded on April 1, 1976, Apple has touched the heart and soul of millions. It changed my life in 1982 when I got my first personal computer: an Apple IIe. Headquartered at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Apple continues to enchant the world with magical products we didn’t know existed, but then couldn’t live without such as the iPod, the iPhone and iPad. What next: the iTV, the iWatch, the iGlass? I certainly hope so. In the meantime, don’t miss The Company Store (open on week days) as it is the only place in the world that sells Apple logo t-shirts, caps and accessories.
Construction of the Infinite Loop campus was completed in 1993. Apple is building a new campus on 175 acres by highway 280 to the south, Wolfe Road to the west, Homestead Road to the north and North Tantau Avenue to the east. It has been in the planning stages for years and is the brainchild of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The company says the new “spaceship” campus will be open for business in 2016. But apparently, this project is neither on budget nor on schedule.
Following the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said: “Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.” His passion for simplicity and elegance will be remembered and hopefully will live on.
Steve lived in Palo Alto at 2101 Waverley Street in Palo Alto for twenty years. But it all started in the garage located at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak assembled the boards of their first computer, that Apple I, starting in 1976.
In Search of Relevance
Headquartered at 701 1st Avenue in Sunnyvale, Yahoo! changed the World Wide Web by making it easier to find Web sites on the Internet. It started as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” in 1994, while Jerry Yang and David Filo were Ph.D candidates in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Today, Yahoo! continues to be a leading Internet communication, commerce, and media company. Do you Yahoo!?
This building was built in 2000-2001 and cost approximately $258 million. In 2002, Yahoo! received a Merit Award from the Society for Environmental Graphic Design for the branding of its corporate campus. When looking at the building from a corner, you can discern the sweeping roof line which starts at a midpoint in the back, then swoops upward toward the front of the building, ending in an aluminum crown.
Like many other Silicon Valley startups, Google is rooted at Stanford University where co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were computer science graduate students and began collaborating on a search engine in 1996. From the start, Google was best known for returning extremely relevant results and is today the search engine of choice for many.
Headquartered at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, the Googleplex covers four core buildings. It is surrounded by dozens of other offices, with Googlers riding colorful bicycles between them. Android fans may want to take a stroll across the street from the Googleplex to Building 44, the home of Android, located at 1635 Charleston Road in Mountain View.
The story goes that eBay was founded in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar to help his fiancée trade Pez candy dispensers. Unfortunately, the story about the Pez candy dispenser was fabricated by a public relations manager. The first item sold on eBay was actually a broken laser point for $14.83. Located at 2145 Hamilton Avenue in San Jose, eBay is today the world’s largest online marketplace with more than 100 million active users globally buying and selling practically anything.
PayPal is currently headquartered at 2211 North 1st Street in San Jose and is the result of a 2000 merger between Confinity and X.com. At the time, 70% of all eBay auctions accepted PayPal payments and 1 in 4 closed auction listings were transacted via PayPal. In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay. As of 2012, PayPal accounted for 40% of eBay’s revenue with more than 120 million active accounts. Today, it allows for payments and money transfers to be made online, via mobile devices, and even in store, without people sharing financial information.
The PayPal headquarters was originally built in 1997 as part of Novell’s 45-acre campus with 533,000 square feet of office and laboratory space in five granite and limestone-fronted buildings, as well as a glass-enclosed cafeteria, fitness center, athletic facilities, fountains, gardens, and tree-lined paths. At the time, Dr. Eric Schmidt was the Novell’s chairman and CEO.
Square is an electronic payment service based on two free apps. The Square Wallet app allows customers to discover great places, pay using their mobile phones, receive electronic receipts, earn rewards and much more. I consider it the future of payments and use it wherever I can, as the experience if more convenient and secure than cash or cards. The second app, Square Register, turns your iPhone or iPad into a cash register. An optional Square Reader (also free) allows you to swipe cards. A merchant will pay 2.75% per swipe for all major credit cards. That’s it. No other fees.
Square was founded in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, who also co-founded Twitter. The company is located at 110 5th Street in San Francisco, walking distance from the Powell Street BART Station. The lobby is nice and simple, just like the products the company designs and builds. If you need help locating the office, use your Square Wallet and look for Square Coffee Bar, the official espresso station of Square employees and their guests.
In late 2011, Facebook relocated from downtown Palo Alto to their splashy new headquarters at 1601 Willow Road in Menlo Park, which was previously occupied by Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle). The 59.6 acre East Campus includes nine buildings with over 1 million square feet of office space that can accommodate over 6,000 employees. The inside walls of the building (pictured above) are decorated by graffiti artist David Choe.
The East Campus is part of a two-site campus project. The new 22-acre West Campus site is located at 312 and 313 Constitution Drive, where Facebook intends to construct an exceptionally long 433,555-square-foot building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and features a rooftop park.
Are you on LinkedIn? I am. If LinkedIn were a country, it would be the 5th largest population in the world with over 200 million people. Reid Hoffman would be its founding father and Jeff Weiner its current President. But since it’s not a country, you won’t be needing a passport to visit the LinkedIn headquarters located at 2029 Stierlin Court in Mountain View. That is unless you’re visiting from outside the United States.
LinkedIn announced that it would be relocating to a 560,000 square foot office campus located at 555 Mathilda Avenue in Sunnyvale. It expects construction of the buildings to be complete in July 2014 and be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified.
There is a growing number of tech companies and startups that call San Francisco home. Twitter is amongst them. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given co-founder Jack Dorsey‘s life-long adoration for cities and whom once said, “The first time I remember falling in love was when I fell in love with the city.” His first public tweet was “just setting up my twttr“.
Located inside the historic Market Square building at 1355 Market Street, the building lobby has a tree theme, which is appropriate considering the company logo is a bluebird. The building was originally the Western Furniture Exchange and Merchandise Mart and is still the name on the building exterior. Twitter’s main lobby on the 9th floor pays tribute to its bird logo. It is said that the reception desk itself is made in part from wood that was previously part of the lanes of a bowling alley.
The Systems Companies
Adobe is located Downtown San Jose at 345 Park Avenue. The office complex comprises three towers, with the tallest one standing 18-stories high. The towers were awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certificate and include integrated wind turbines atop its headquarters and twenty vertical axis turbines that could be mistaken for sculpture. On display in the lobbies are large screens displaying the buildings’ energy use, carbon emissions, and other operating data.
In 2010, Adobe re-introduced San Jose Semaphore, a major public artwork by Ben Rubin consisting of four 10-foot high disks on top of the 17-story building, which rotate to display a series of simple geometric symbols that spell out a complex coded message. Rubin created the artwork’s coded message using algorithms similar to those used in World War II-era cryptography and is based on the semaphore telegraph system designed in the 18th century.
BEA Systems was founded in 1995 by Bill Coleman, Ed Scott, and Alfred Chuang, and subsequently acquired by Oracle in 2007 for $8.5 billion. The company was last headquartered at 2315 North 1st Street in San Jose in two four-story buildings totaling 250,000 square feet and a noteworthy 3,000 square foot historic home that was retrofit into a conference center. BEA had plans to relocate to a 380,000 square foot building in downtown San Jose, which didn’t happen due to the Oracle acquisition.
Cisco, whose name comes from the city of San Fran”CISCO”, was founded in 1984 by husband and wife Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner. It went public in 1990. By 2000, Cisco had become the most valuable company in the world before the dot com crash. Today, it is the world’s largest manufacturer of computer networking equipment.
The Cisco main campus consists of over fifty buildings in San Jose with the headquarters located at 170 West Tasman Drive. Head east to 300 East Tasman Drive and get a glimpse of the Executive Customer Briefing Center, where Cisco welcomes visitors from around the world.
NFL Football fans visiting the Cisco main campus shouldn’t miss the new home of the 49ers with a capacity of 68,500, which could accomodate all 66,639 (July 2012) of Cisco’s worldwide employees. The stadium is located west on Tasman Drive near Great America Parkway.
Oracle has been headquartered at 500 Oracle Parkway in Redwood Shores since 1989. It stands on the former site of Marine World, which moved to Vallejo. The distinctive Oracle Parkway buildings, nicknamed the Emerald City, were used as the futuristic headquarters of the fictional company NorthAm Robotics in the Robin Williams film Bicentennial Man.
The 2 million square foot campus consists of eleven 8- to 16- story buildings that are a composition of rectangular and cylindrical forms. It also houses a conference center, auditorium, and fitness center. The 50,000 square-foot fitness center includes indoor amenities such as a full-size NCAA basketball court, a 5-lane, 25-meter lighted lap pool, and a collegiate-sized sand volleyball pit.
McAfee was founded by John McAfee in 1987, who resigned from the company in 1994. It is the world’s largest dedicated security company and wholly owned subsidiary of Intel since 2011. The headquarters are located at 2821 Mission College Boulevard in Santa Clara, which was previously occupied by Yahoo! and before that the final headquarters of Internet hosting company Exodus Communications.
Over The Top
Netflix was established in 1997. It started by offering a subscription-based DVD-by-mail service and shipped its billionth DVD by 2007. That year, Netflix introduced a video-on-demand streaming service via the Internet. Today, you can watch a large selection of TV shows and movies, anytime, anywhere, for $7.99 a month. The service counts over 30 million members. In 2011, Netflix began acquiring original content. Its first original series, called Lilyhammer, premiered in 2012.
The Netflix headquarters is located at 100 Winchester Circle in Los Gatos.
Roku is a consumer electronics company that builds set-top boxes for streaming video and audio services over the Internet. In the early days of Roku, Founder and CEO Anthony Wood also served as the vice president of Internet TV at Netflix, where he developed what is known today as the Roku streaming player, the original video player for Netflix that shipped in 2008. Today, the Roku Channel Store includes over 125 free channels, 40 premium channels (including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO) and 30 games (including Angry Birds). The Roku boxes start at $50.
The modest Roku headquarters is located at 12980 Saratoga Avenue in Saratoga.
Behind The Scenes
Without Stanford University, there would be no Silicon Valley. In 1939, with the encouragement of their professor and mentor, Frederick Terman, Stanford alumni David Packard and William Hewlett established a little electronics company in a Palo Alto garage. That garage would later be dubbed “the Birthplace of Silicon Valley.”
Over the following years, Stanford University would become a wellspring of innovation, producing advances in research and the formation of many companies that have made Silicon Valley one of the most innovative and productive high-tech regions in the world. Legendary Silicon Valley companies with strong ties to Stanford include Cisco Systems, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intuit, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo!.
Whether you wish to visit for an hour or a day, the university provides several parking options and easy access to the entire campus. The Gates Computer Science Building was completed in January 1996 and is the home of the Computer Science Department and the Computer Systems Laboratory.
Sand Hill Road
A century ago, Sand Hill Road was a dirt road in the sleepy little town of Menlo Park. Forty years ago, it was a popular home for venture capitalist offices. Today, it is shorthand for an industry. Its significance as a symbol of private equity in the United States may be compared to that of Wall Street in the stock market.
Sand Hill Road is notable for its concentration of venture capital companies, including:
- Andreessen Horowitz – 2875 Sand Hill Road
- Battery Ventures – 2884 Sand Hill Road
- Benchmark Capital – 2480 Sand Hill Road
- Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers – 2750 Sand Hill Road
- Mayfield Fund – 2800 Sand Hill Road
- Sequoia Capital – 3000 Sand Hill Road
Le Louvre of High Tech
The Computer History Museum
I first had the chance to visit The Computer Museum in 1986 when it shared space with The Children’s Museum at Museum Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. The museum artifacts were eventually relocated to the Bay Area in 1999. Then in 2002, The Computer History Museum acquired the former Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) headquarters for $25 million and opened its doors at 1401 N Shoreline Blvd in Mountain View. The museum subsequently underwent a $19 million renovation in 2010 and re-opened to the public in January 2011 as a world-class museum with its signature exhibition, Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing.
The museum holds the most significant and varied collection of computing hardware, software and documents in the world. The iconic machines are here, including the 1946 ENIAC, which was the first general purpose computer, the first Google server rack from 1999, the rare 1988 Cray-1 supercomputer, a working DEC PDP-1 from 1959, the original 1976 Apple 1 autographed by the great Woz, the first Internet router called the Interface Message Processor (IMP) from 1965, and thousands of other pieces of computer history that bring the story of computing to life. I hope to write a separate blog article about this museum one day.
The Tech Museum of Innovation
Embrace your inner child and visit the The Tech Museum of Innovation located downtown San Jose at 201 South Market Street, walking distance from the Adobe Headquarters. Open daily from 10am to 5pm, The Tech is the only museum to offer visitors of all ages the unique comprehensive Silicon Valley experience with hands-on, interactive experiences in genetics, earth sciences, alternative energy, virtual design, microchips and lots more.
The museum is also the home of the ultimate movie experience on the largest IMAX screen in the West. The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater, with a 280 seat capacity, allows guests to be immersed in giant wrap around screen for an unforgettable film experience. You can buy tickets online and at the museum.
Like many other museums, The Tech relies on donations. There is a special group of donors, called the Inspiration Circle that supports The Tech’s Annual Fund for Education with gifts of $10,000 or more. The handprints of Inspiration Circle members are etched on silicon wafers and displayed on the Hands of Innovation Wall in the Tech’s lobby along with those of David Packard and William Hewlett. How many handprints do you recognize?
- Business Insider: 16 Silicon Valley landmarks you must visit on your next trip
- Mike Cassidy: Steve Jobs’ Los Altos house inspires DIY Silicon Valley tour
- Steve Blank: A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley
Let’s make the world a better place!
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass.
The Center for Innocent Children in Vietnam needs your help! By contributing to the Happy Planet Children fundraising campaign, you are making the statement that despite being abandoned by their families or orphaned, these children deserve a decent childhood, an education, and a chance at a better life. Your willingness to help makes all the difference.