14 Floors Bay Area Day 3: Evernote. Brocade. Clari.


Evernote’s primary product is a note-taking app that the company tries to publish on every platform. For instance, they have a version of their app on Windows Phone. What’s interesting about their development is that Evernote embraces any given platform’s individual strengths and features. They have to work harder to do this, but it provides them with—in their words—”free” marketing. That’s because whenever a new OS update or device launches, Microsoft, Apple, or Google, will usually roll out Evernote to show how these new features are exemplified in of one of their partner’s apps. Evernote is never happy with the present and they’re always looking to the future. One of the ways that they are improving their services for their customers is by embracing machine learning, so that when a user types in a flight number or a movie title, the app knows to generate notifications and information related to the user’s input. So, if I type in a flight number, Evernote will automatically inform me of the departure time and whether there are any delays. However, sometimes information that I type in will generate a false positive, meaning that I typed in something that wasn’t a flight number, but Evernote thought it was. Evernote needs the authority to look at what went wrong when a user reports an error. This visit, more than any other on this trip, served as a reminder that presentation is important. -Tommy Stuart

As expected, Brocade’s campus is amazing. To give some perspective, there are three towers here that house offices and workspace for 2,400 employees. The facilities are impressive. There are no less than two data centers, one that’s just for visitors to see, and a real one that is inaccessible to the public. On top of that, there are cafes, a WellFIT fitness center that i saccessible 24/7, and a beautiful view of the city, including a clear line of sight to Levi’s Stadium, where the 49ers play. Along with Northeastern University students, we were provided a catered lunch by Brocade during which the chairman, Dave House (a Michigan Tech and Northeastern grad), talked with us about a variety of topics, including the trajectory of everyday interactions between humans and technology, and the importance of diversity in the tech sector.

michigan-tech-14-floors-bay-area-2017-125135-1Afterward, we saw the data centers and other facilities, and then attended a panel that included five current employees of Brocade from a variety of positions and departments. As an audience member, I learned about what it’s like to be part of a company that is in the process of being acquired. And finally, there was a mixer with both universities’ students and Brocade employees.  It was a fun event that involved networking, ice cream, and games like foosball. -Tommy Stuart

Clari was founded about five years ago, focused on providing a variety of predictive analysis, and they bill themselves as a sales execution and forecasting platform. A couple of its clients are Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco, but there are dozens of others.  In fact, Clari has a wall dedicated to holding plaques of each of their clients. It was, in a way, awe-inspiring to see that such a young company had accrued such a prestigious and deep list of clients.The office environment at Clari is impressive in its own right, too. Nearly the entire office space is one large room. As we walked in, there was a kitchen area immediately to our left and to our right was the lobby/sign-in, where the wall of clients stands. Past the lobby is the work area, accompanied by a couple lounge areas and conference rooms. Unlike most of the other businesses that we’ve visited on this trip, the conference rooms were not named after video games, TV shows, or movies. Instead, the names were inspired by what I can only assume are our national parks, or at least California state parks. At least to me, the most iconic part of the office space, though, was the functional garage door in plain view at the back of the office. It symbolized, whether intentionally or not, the cherished identity of a Silicon Valley startup. 

Three people met with us during our visit: Amy Johnson, a Michigan Tech alum; Will, from product management; and Venkat Rangan, the CTO of Clari. Amy worked for IBM shortly after graduating with her BS in computational math and then worked for Compuware in Detroit before they transferred her out to Mountain View, CA. From there, she worked at a couple startups and finally landed at Clari, which seems like a perfect fit for her, given her enthusiasm for the company and its projects.  She shared the company’s values with us and is the person that took us on the tour of the office. Incidentally, Clari has a tractor that employees can ride around inside, and that’s its sole purpose. Unfortunately, it was down for repairs while we were visiting. Venkat, who spoke with us last, is the co-founder of Clari and has been involved with several successful startups in the past. He detailed some of his past ventures, and also explained some of Clari’s inner workings. For instance, Clari deals primarily with open source platforms like Linux and Apache, and the languages that they use most are Java, R, Scala, JavaScript,Python, and MATLAB. It was a pleasure meeting each of these three people, but Venkat’s insight and extensive experience was the highlight at Clari. -Tommy Stuart