A fascinating New Yorker article on Stanford University, from its foundation in the 1890s at the end of the gold rush, through its rise as a technological and engineering powerhouse, through to its present position as the “intellectual nexus” of the Valley and its ambiguous position as an academic institution many of whose staff and students ask of an endeavour, “what’s in it for me”:
“If the Ivy League was the breeding ground for the élites of the American Century, Stanford is the farm system for Silicon Valley. When looking for engineers, Schmidt said, Google starts at Stanford. Five per cent of Google employees are Stanford graduates. The president of Stanford, John L. Hennessy, is a director of Google; he is also a director of Cisco Systems and a successful former entrepreneur. Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing has licensed eight thousand campus-inspired inventions, and has generated $1.3 billion in royalties for the university. Stanford’s public-relations arm proclaims that five thousand companies “trace their origins to Stanford ideas or to Stanford faculty and students.” They include Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Netflix, Electronic Arts, Intuit, Fairchild Semiconductor, Agilent Technologies, Silicon Graphics, LinkedIn, and E*Trade.
John Doerr, a partner at the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which bankrolled such companies as Google and Amazon, regularly visits campus to scout for ideas. He describes Stanford as “the germplasm for innovation. I can’t imagine Silicon Valley without Stanford University.”
Also discussed the rise of online learning, and whether physical academe will be disintermeditated in the same way as book and music publishing had been.