Earlier this year I had the opportunity of spending some time in Silicon Valley and experiencing first hand the phenomenon so many times analyzed. It wasn’t my first time there, and for sure not the last one, however as I was working at a startup in that moment it was even more touching.
I remember planning my trip and having my boss at that time pushing me to seize the opportunity, to get into meetup and look for networking events, to reach out to people and invite them for coffee, to join Startup Grind, to pay attention to what was going on around me and learn from everything. All these suggestions definitely paid off.
San Francisco and its surroundings are full of breathtaking views and sceneries, I never got tired of taking photos of the golden gate bridge, of exploring each neighborhood, of wondering around and landing in a different cafe each time. Man, they have a cafe culture up there.
Soon after I learned that the coffee is just another excuse to talk about business. Here we see going out for a coffee as a social thing, there, not as much. Coffee means business. It was amazing to sit for a couple of hours at a cafe and witness every table, how really serious conversations about partnering together, about profitability, investments, sales, just happened over a cup.
On their side, cafes, realizing this, started to offer different amenities for these restless entrepreneurs building their businesses on the road. There are cafes that rent meeting rooms, or office space for the hour, others provide spaces with chillout puffs and coaches… while there are some that decide to put some boundaries on their quiet classy space and ask laptops not to be pulled out in the tables over the windows.
I was amazed at how innovation was in the air. Every corner you turn, every road you take, you see people sharing, building, creating, and most importantly, connecting. There is always a new app to try, a new tool, a revolutionary idea to hear out.
Also, the valley is all about connecting, building your network, and making your time living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, as effective and efficient as possible.
I had the opportunity of meeting many people, I remember one, that quite exemplifies the above, he was working on a full-time job, had his side business and after work, he was heading to a meetup event as he was a speaker there. By the end of his day, he would have spent 12 to 14 hours working on building his career. Quite impressive, and for my latin sense of life, a little bit too much.
The meetup experience was revealing as well. People join groups and gather once in a while. There are always some entrepreneurs that would share their expertise or simply tell their story of life. They are all very open, and also very honest with feedback. I attended a couple of product demos and felt in an episode of Shark Tank, the audience was very critical to the MVP they were shown, and I’m sure the one on the stage was taking advantage of this free consultation.
Another thing to reflect upon the valley is how inclusive they are, it’s all about diversity, the more diverse the more room for innovation, and that is what makes this land in earth unique. They are part of the US, yet they embrace immigrants, in fact, the majority of the entrepreneurs are not American. They have great ecology conscience, and also they are all about health and exercise. Not exactly what one pictures of the north.
I dare say that not everything that glitters is gold, and that applies to the valley as well. While the part of me that thrives on innovation was kind of in heaven while there, learning and breathing in as much as it could; the part of me that enjoys the simple things in life, that likes to connect without an agenda, that values life and understands that living has a lot to do with enjoying every moment, that part of me was a bit off those days.
This brings to my mind a study that was performed in New York I guess, where people were asked about happiness, and their answer was that is not happiness they care about, but about being entertained. If asked in Silicon Valley, my guess is, the answer would be around being successful, seeing their business running, being effective, well connected, nothing against it, however, I personally choose to be happy.
Next month I’m heading to Israel and I’m so curious to compare these two models, to dive deep into their culture and way of doing things, and as always, take good things from each experience, meet as many people as possible, take a lot of photos, and learn and grow.