Sloan Fellows discover business outlook in California

London Business School Sloans visit San Francisco and Silicon Valley


54 Sloan Fellows have returned from a week-long London Business School International Assignment, renamed this year as ‘SloanFEST’, in California. 

The London Business School SloanFEST offers Sloan Fellows the opportunity to learn about leadership issues that growing enterprises face, understand situations and challenges unique to the local area and apply frameworks and theory studied in the classroom to real businesses. 

Kirsten Zverina and Paul Hanegraaf were among the Sloan Fellows who travelled to California to visit a range of organisations, attend workshops and networking events in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area.

“The week was very inspiring,” Kirsten comments. “Sloan Fellows helped to design the schedule, and so we got to see many of the organisations we most wanted to visit. This included meeting firms in all stages of commercial development from initial start-ups all the way through to more established companies like Google X, Square, Twitter and many VCs.  

“It was a great journey through the development stages of corporations in Silicon Valley and a really educational experience,” Kirsten adds. “I particularly enjoyed how many incredibly intelligent people are attracted to this area, from all over the world.  It is like the renaissance of the moment, in business. I’m delighted to see how many of these businesses are trying to make a difference in the world - to transform and save lives.” 

Paul Hanegraaf adds: “Seeing the growth of start-up organisations, from their challenging beginnings all the way through to established organisations such as Square, Twitter and Google X was an eye-opening experience. These companies are populated with incredibility intelligent people who are attracted to the entrepreneurial vibe of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It was fantastic to meet and interact with a community of people so passionate about what they are doing and genuinely trying to make a difference through business. San Francisco and the Valley are a hotbed of business model innovation.”

Paul says SloanFEST provided an invaluable networking experience, which saw Sloan Fellows not only meet with the best business minds in the region, but also with Fellows from Stanford and EMBA students from the Haas Business School at Berkley.

One of the main highlights Paul recalls is being able to network and share experiences with such intelligent, international and well-connected individuals, which he feels is highly beneficial to his future career. “SloanFEST is proof of just how strong the business school network is. There is an aligned family of likeminded people from all different backgrounds that you can tap into whenever you find a need. It’s a catalyst of experience.”

Kirsten says her biggest take-away from the week was realising how much the people and place where you do business makes a difference day-to-day. “It’s critical to attract great talent, especially in these areas. As such, corporations in the region work hard to differentiate themselves, bravely disrupting old business models, to create better products and services for us all.  It is wonderful to see so much focus on a better future for all.”

Paul also said he observed a difference in business model structure and the leadership style within many of the organisations. For him, the realisation was that anything is possible. 

“There is a huge focus on idea creation,” says Paul. “One of the organisations we visited was the innovations company, IDEO. The business model which underpins their ‘Toy Studio’ was an equal measure of innovative and brave, for they design without clients. This is because they truly believe in the value of their design thinking from the onset.

“The organisations have remarkably lofty goals, but the teams here actually achieve them because of the motivational and entrepreneurial cultural environment they are in.”

Kirsten believes the trip was a tremendous learning experience for those involved.

“With the opportunities we had through site visits, networking at other business schools and the extremely talented people we’ve met, the London Business School Sloan programme has even further enhanced our business education.  

“I highly recommend this course to those considering masters — London Business School Sloan is a great way to help develop your skills for your own future career ambitions.”

London Business School’s international assignments are highly anticipated by Sloan Fellows. During this year’s SloanFEST, Fellows visited a number of start-up and established companies based in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, including GoogleX, Go Pro, Twitter and TechShop. They also had the opportunity to attend a number of workshops, expert panel sessions and networking events with Fellows from Stanford and EMBA students from Haas Business School.