Towards a Digital (Manufacturing) future - Part 1 : the Silicon Valley culture | Agoria

Towards a Digital (Manufacturing) future - Part 1 : the Silicon Valley culture

Published on 17/05/18 by Paul Peeters
Recent evolutions in data generation as well as machine learning - also called Artificial Intelligence for Manufacturing - will transform the manufacturing world radically, enabling Factories of the Future to move to ever more personalized and fully connected manufacturing.


Together with E.D.&A., Daikin, 24/7 TailorSteel, Van Hoecke NV and Newtec , Agoria and Sirris spent a full week in Silicon Valley to get a feel on the region's advancements in digitization & manufacturing.

Our schedule of the week consisted of

  • A full day visit to the largest Cybersecurity Exhibition RSA in San Francisco, including keynotes of Symantec, Cisco, Juniper and Monica Lewinski (!)
  • 2 visits to Global Manufacturing Innovation Centers (Jabil & Flex)
  • A Friday afternoon talk with Roel Peeters, CEO of Roost Labs
  • A visit to Stanford University (Palo Alto) and Berkeley University professor & AI-expert Pieter Abbeel (San Francisco)
  • An introduction @ the Trident VC-office of Bayshore's Cybersecurity approach towards Operation Technology (OT)
  • A visit to the headquarters of GE Ventures, where two 3D-printing investments (Carbon & Desktop Metal) as well as one big data company (SightMachine) were introduced
  • A concluding Saturday @ Monterey and Pebble Beach, where we drove the beautiful 17-mile drive

Pieter probably is the only Belgian expert having quite close contacts with some Silicon Valley 'hotshots' from whom he picked up following principles :

  • … always iterate the mission ('fighting climate change') - E. Musk
  • … try to delegate everything you possibly can - Larry Page (Google)
  • … always continue to ask 'why' - E. Musk
  • … the best business to go into is a zero billion dollar business - Jenson Lang (Invidea)
  • … most of you margin is made before your first competitor starts - J. Bezos (Amazon)
  • … only choose those investors that really believe in you, because you'll not always be able to give an explicit explanation for everything - Jenson Lang (Invidea)
  • … request timelines - E. Musk
  • … get other people to under-estimate you – J. Bezos (Amazon)

Following themes clearly stand out in today's Silicon Valley manufacturing DNA :

  1. Digital transformation,
  2. AI (Machine Learning ) and
  3. Cyber security.

We'd like to share with you the facts and outlooks of some local thought leaders on these 3 themes.

But let's start with a first blog around the Silicon Valley culture …

"It feels a lot easier making things happen when everything around you is focused on making things happen", Pieter Abbeel, Prof. University of Berkeley, AI & Machine Learning expert

Silicon Valley is NOT…

… a specific location

Silicon Valley is not a place you can point to on a map. Silicon Valley is a loose collection of independent cities, most of them small towns, without formal identity, without borders. Silicon Valley has no regional government, no regional framework for decision-making. 

… a planned phenomenon

Silicon Valley is not targeted or supported by national US policy; it is not a result of local government planning. To the contrary, Silicon Valley always has followed (very) chaotic patterns of development.

"Silicon Valley will ALWAYS recover, whatever happens. Back in the year 2000, 350k jobs were lost when the high tech economy collapsed; 2 years later there was a complete recovery, WITHOUT ANY GOVERNMENT SUPPORT", Ivo Bolsens, VP&CTO, Xilinx


Apple HQ – employee entrance

Silicon Valley is all about …


no matter if you are an 18y old youngster or an old veteran, you only matter in Silicon Valley when your idea merits attention

"My 18yr old son recently got 2M US$ from VC's", Ivo Bolsens, VP&CTO, Xilinx

… Mentorship


(Wealthy) people really want to give back, "and not through sponsorship of a soccer team". This means most of the times they'll invest (a part of their own) fortune in other start-ups or in society-relevant research

… Money

In Silicon Valley, other than in other parts of the world, there is plenty of money available.

… Mobility

Silicon Valley has an extremely high job flexibility (people change jobs, like we tend to change cars), for a large part enabled by the fact that Silicon Valley's recruiting pool is the world. This really makes the region stand out.

Silicon Valley People…


… always look for change and never agree with status quo

… continuously re-invent themselves ;

… easily pay a monthly rent of 2500$ 'for a not so nice apartment' 

Silicon Valley investors …

… invest in PEOPLE more than anything else, following a kind of standardized success formula :

find an investor =

win a technology award or write a nice thesis


get a first successful customer

Guardsquare, the Belgian scale-up on App security led by former judoka Heidi Rakels, confirmed this formula when we met her at the RSA Conference.

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