The most commonly asked question we hear is “Can we visit inside Google/Apple/Facebook”? The short answer is no. Silicon Valley companies do not open their doors to groups, and they especially don’t open their doors to tour companies. They will, however, arrange tours for the right kind of group with the right kind of connections. If you have a connection at any of these companies, by all means try to get a personal tour. If you are able to get a short tour inside a company due to your own connections, we are happy to integrate it into our broader tour of Silicon Valley. Some of the customers that we have seen successful getting inside tours include convention attendees, business owners or media.
One of the most famous examples of Silicon Valley secrets being stolen is the inside tour that Jobs was given at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), in exchange for selling Xerox 100,000 shares of Apple. Once Steve saw the graphic user interface and mouse, he went back to Apple and incorporated it into the Macintosh. Graphic User Interface, commonly referred to as GUI, formed the personal computers we know today. When understanding GUI, think of WIMP- window, icon, menu and pointing device, which is the most usual configuration.
The tour given to Steve Jobs was a revolutionary moment in Silicon Valley history. It was a perfect example of Silicon Valley innovation: building on and improving the ideas of others- some would say by stealing ideas. It also perfectly demonstrates why tech companies don’t relish the idea of entertaining tour groups. Apart from the inconvenience/secrecy issues hosting such a group impose, it detracts from their primary mission. They are in business to make money, after all. Not a lot of work gets done entertaining groups.
For those of you interested in learning more about the PARC/JOBS story, here is Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker Piece on the PARC tour and the Creation Myth:
And here is another in depth review about what actually happened on those tours:
Since you can’t go inside the companies, what do we offer on our tours? We will take you inside the Computer History Museum, the Intel Museum, the Apple Employee Store and the Symantec Corporate Cafeteria (lunch cost is additional). We will take photos at the Googleplex and Facebook and drive by Linked In and NASA. We customize each tour to ensure that you see as much as possible while in Silicon Valley!