The San Francisco experience
From the excited fingers of Bibi Jellema, co-founder Hopolla.
Here is something I can cross off my bucket list: San Francisco
The two weeks in San Francisco went fast. It was over in a flash. Looking back, it was like being in a movie. If there is anything this city has shown me, it’s that you can fit in more meetings. Who needs sleep anyway?
Every startup founder has a natural attraction to San Francisco. There is no place on the globe like it. The Bay Area knows how to breed amazing startups and is home to the world’s biggest tech companies. So when our awesome muru-D accelerator announced a San Francisco trip, you can probably imagine my excitement.
Here are some observations from a first-time visitor.
Networking on steroids
Never ever could I have imagined the level of networking that happens in San Francisco. Big shout out to you LinkedIn, you were my best friend during this trip and you made my life a lot easier. ‘Cold’ messaging on the platform proved to be way more fruitful than anticipated. Surprisingly, it was often easier to connect with CEOs than other team members.
I found people in San Francisco to be incredibly nice. They really listen. Before the trip, we were warned that the Americans can walk out mid-conversation if you’re not saying anything worthwhile of their time. And while it’s definitely true you have to run at least ten times harder to earn their attention, most of them do really listen. It gives you the biggest confidence boost.
The general consensus in San Francisco is that could be the next Airbnb or Uber. So if an investor fails to listen carefully to you, she or he might miss out on the next billion dollar opportunity. And that is something they don’t want to risk.
Think you’re dreaming big? Multiply that by ten and you’ve reached a closer level of the San Francisco way of thinking. Is your company making ten or even a hundred million dollars in revenue per year? Well done! But to grab a VCs attention, you have to be able to convince them there’s a 1% chance you’ll become a billion dollar company. It’s nothing personal, they just really like unicorns.
It’s true, everything is bigger in the USA. Not only the investment and the scope of the startups, but also the coffee, food, cars, houses, roads and even trees! Go big or go home. As a travel startup founder, it would have been a huge shame to not check out the local experiences. Let’s call it research. So here’s a travel tip for you: when in San Francisco, rent a car and make your way up north to the Redwoods. It’s absolutely stunning and also provides you with a, in my case much-needed nature fix. We went to the Hendy Woods State Park near Boonville.
The future of work
To walk around the headquarters of some of the coolest companies in the world felt like to witness the offices of the future. Stunning designs, all your meals catered for, company retreats, meditation workshops, beautiful photos of people everywhere and open plan spaces. There is a massive focus on diversity and employees seem to be given a lot of freedom and trust. You are expected to work hard, but there is a lot of fun involved.
At Airbnb, you are encouraged to stay at home on ‘Work from Home Wednesday’. When you do come to work, you can bring your furry friend along. Cool fact: all the meeting rooms are based on real-life Airbnb’s. “Want to run the finance meeting in a Moroccan tent or a submarine this week?”. Uber has more of a sci-fi feel and the meeting rooms are named after the first Uber locations. There’s also beer on tap (which opens after 6pm, let’s not go overboard).
Focus & FOMO
Focus was my biggest takeaway from San Francisco. Focus, focus, focus. During every networking event or one-on-one meeting, this word came up. If you want to run a successful startup, your best bet is to focus. And not just an 80% focus, the sort of focus that an eagle has. Test a lot of different things and once something sticks, get that eagle eye going and don’t lose it.
Another great takeaway was FOMO. When it comes to attracting investors or potential customers, the creation of FOMO can be your most powerful tool. Nobody likes the fear of missing out, we’re all humans after all. So use it to your advantage and play hard to get. Tell the investor that you are not raising at this point or make people feel like they will miss out if they don’t get on your product soon.
It was mental
When I look back on the San Francisco experience, I can only use one word to describe it: mental. It’s a crazy place that can be grungy at times. You can’t walk around SF without noticing all the homeless people, it’s pretty confronting. But it’s also one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. The city is full of amazingly talented people that are creating things you couldn’t even imagine. If you’re looking for opportunities, San Francisco should be very high on your list.
Personally, I owe a lot to SF. It has connected me to some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met and completely changed my mindset about the ‘startup game’. This place has filled my head with hope and dreams and handed me tools to create an awesome startup. So if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do. I’ll leave you with this quote from the great Mr Bourdain:
“Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.”
— Anthony Bourdain