MBA by the Bay: Day 2

The second day of the combined FSAC/LCE/CSBP trip to the Bay Area began with chocolate. A factory FULL of chocolate. We visited the Guittard Chocolate Company at their HQ and manufacturing facility in Burlingame. After a great discussion about quality control and the importance of sustainable agriculture to their supply chain, we were fortunate to be able to take a tour of the factory and see exactly how chocolate is made. The production floor was hot and it didn’t always smell like fresh chocolate, but our perseverance paid off in the end as we were all sent home with a massive box containing a variety of amazingly delicious treats!

Next, we were off to visit 500 Startups, which is a business incubator/accelerator (with heavy focus on mobile applications) located in Mountain View. The laid back environment was completely open, and focused totally on allowing new ideas to flourish and develop into potential businesses. Everything seemed acceptable here, as evidenced by the sign on the front door that read “Warning: Ninjas and Pirates and Lasers and S[tuff]”. Unfortunately our time here was a bit limited by our schedule, so we asked a lot about the current tenants and the funding structure (the incubator provides seed funding and guidance, and maintains relationships with larger organizations in the area) before heading to our much anticipated meeting with Facebook.

Looking at the campus from afar, you’d barely be able to distinguish Facebook from a series apartment buildings, until you spotted the gigantic “Like” button right outside the driveway entry. At Facebook we met with Lyrica McTiernan. Lyrica is a Sustainability Program Manager at Facebook, which means that a great deal of her time is spent analyzing the performance and developing programs for the company’s data centers. Because of their massive energy demand, data centers make up very large portion of Facebook’s environmental impact, and have dedicated team that works tirelessly to balance maximum reliability and minimal energy usage. While the discussion of energy efficiency and green building practices was interesting, I think it’s safe to say that most of us were a bit preoccupied trying to get our names on the signature wall (Shaq’s autograph is obviously at the very top) and take in the beauty and eccentricity of our surroundings (complete with a mural of Yoda!).

After “checking in” at the Facebook HQ, we moved north again on US101 to visit Pinnacle Engines. This was another short visit, but allowed us the opportunity to observe an engine durability test in progress, and learn about a potentially massive upgrade in fuel efficiency for internal combustion engines. Using Pinnacle’s patented and innovative engine design, small vehicles (mopeds, motorcycles, cars) can experience over 50% more efficient use of fuel. Pinnacle’s VP of Marketing and Special Projects, Tom Covington, explained the importance of selecting the right markets for initial adoption, and outlined the company’s plans to build a strong customer base in emerging markets such as India and China, where sensitivity to fuel prices and an abundance of smaller vehicles combine to create favorable market conditions.

The last visit of our trip was at Stanford Hospital with the Executive Director of Emergency and Medicine Services, Janet Rimicci, and a panel of Stanford Hospital executives. Our discussion here was centered on the important role that logistics can play in a hospital that continually needs to move patients in and out of various services, as well as sustainability at a facility that requires redundant systems and constant access to electricity to support its systems. Overall it was a great visit that provided a nice finale to our busy trip to the Bay Area!


Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.