A panel of Silicon Valley experts and thought leaders gathered virtually to share their thoughts on the impact of Silicon Valley during COVID-19
On April 30, 2020, China Business Studies Initiative (CBSI) at the University of San Francisco had its second virtual panel following the series of Saving Lives and Livelihoods: Silicon Valley in the Post COVID-19 World.
In this virtual panel, Silicon Valley (SV) experts and thought leaders reflected on the world’s #1 entrepreneurial ecosystem’s evolution and transformation amid the global pandemic and economic upheaval the global economy is now facing: What SV businesses have done to fight the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 virus? Can the Valley maintain and even strengthen its lead position? Is the SV bubble now finally bursting for good with companies and jobs exiting in search of “warmer climates”? What are the unique features of the Valley’s resilience and ingenuity that will continue to power its success and save millions of jobs?
The event opened with a welcome address by the Director of CBSI, Prof. Xiaohua Yang. She informed the audience about CBSI mission and goals and extended special thanks to the panelists, the student team, and the panel organizer and moderator, Prof. Gleb Nikitenko, as well as audience from around the world.
What SV businesses have done to fight the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 virus? What are the unique features of the Valley’s resilience and ingenuity that will continue to power its success and save millions of jobs?
Brett Bonthron, the Vice President of Office of Innovation in Salesforce, and Hope Lewis, the CEO/Co-Founder of MORE Health Inc., both agreed that the companies in SV face fewer challenges than what many industries are going through since “they are by definition digital.” Having the equipment and the thought of working remotely and digitally was already native in the Valley.
Gery Gutnik, the Product Leader of Facebook, further mentioned that “the companies that have the ability to continue contributing to the virtual connection in the world are taking bigger roles and making investments in exploring and building products that will accommodate this new normal.”
Can the Valley maintain and even strengthen its lead position?
Hope Lewis expressed a great deal of optimism. From a medical perspective, she believed that SV had one of the best biotech and health-tech sectors in the world already. Based on her own experience, she was confident that with supportive investors and engaged business partners, we would able to get through this crisis with fewer losses compared with the rest of the country.
Brett Bonthron also reflected on the topic from a tech company’s perspective. He mentioned that many companies, such as Salesforce, would see this pandemic “as an opportunity to engage customers in a way that they would never forget.”
Is the SV bubble now finally bursting for good with companies and jobs exiting in search of “warmer climates”?
When Brett Bonthron described the SV burst in the past, he said: “35% of the household had experienced unemployment during the burst, but if you lived in the other parts of the world, the pain was a lot less. I personally went through unemployment during that period.” However, when talking about the negative impact of the pandemic now, he didn’t think it should be called an SV bubble. He said: “Unfortunately, the pain now felt much more broadly and evenly across the industry around the world.”
Toward the end, the panelists answered all the questions from the audience. One of the questions was directed to Hope Lewis: “Would you consider the Chinese patients are likely to shift their travel to Europe to receive complex medical treatments such as oncology because of the US COVID-19 situation?” Ms. Lewis’s answer to this question was no. Her explanation was that “The U.S. has spent a large amount of money in research and technology in developing new drugs, that European countries cannot compare with. Plus, the US has more room to accommodate patients.” Yet, she also mentioned that it was challenging to travel to another country now since each country had a shortage of healthcare workers.
One of the attendees from Barcelona, Spain shared the panelists’ sentiment and posted the following reflection on the panel discussion:
“Dear Gleb, many thanks for this interesting webinar discussion. I see the digital Silicon Valley companies much more resilient than the majority of companies worldwide. It is true that hospitality, services and retailing will suffer as in the rest of the countries affected by the pandemic, but this will not be the case for the digital and software firms which are real market le
aders and their regular income is almost ensured.”
The Vice President of Office of Innovation in Salesforce
The CEO/Co-Founder of MORE Health Inc.
Prof. Gleb Nikitenko