Working at a tech startup in Silicon Valley can be a rewarding experience for you. “Can be” because it all depends on you and where you work. Working in Silicon Valley is nothing like the Bravo TV show Start-Ups: Silicon Valley where all they did was party in a multi million $$ house in SF powered by Bravo network and in between pressed few keys and walla, millionaires. Far from it. Hacking & Hustling is what working in Silicon Valley is about. It’s about doing whatever it takes to get shit done faster. No compromises. And if you get involved with the right startup, rewards in terms of accelerated education and potential financial returns await for you in the distance.
Things to get into order
If you just arrived to the valley or are planning to get here, I highly recommend you start with the basics. It by no means guarantees you a job but definitely increases your chances.
LinkedIn is the business professionals network you should be on. LinkedIn is the worlds largest professional network with 225+ million members. If you haven’t heard of it you soon will. They are the Facebook for Business.
Setup your profile and fill it out listing your achievements. Anyone can just do a job under the wip. Few extend themselves. This shows through achievements.
Location matters – add “San Francisco” as your location. Even if you are not in the valley yet. This way you end up in LinkedIn searches.
Recommendations in your profile – this shows your work history is credible. People tend to fluff up their resumes and having credible people who aren’t your friends give you recommendation validates your story.
Keep it up to date. Use your LinkedIn feed (like Facebook) to post regularly on business related content.
This is something which showcases you. Your identity. If you can get your name as the domain name e.g. ernestsemerda.com is mine, than even better and you will reap additional SEO benefits.
On this profile page throw up links to your social networks, links to prior work like portfolio sites you built/designed and how someone can reach you. You may also integrate your blogs latest post and/or twitter feed widget. If you code you should have a link to your GitHub/Bitbucket account. Shows that you can code and understand the basics of distributed version control systems.
Blogs are not dead. Nothing beats the education you will receive from this experience. Your communication skills will improve, dealing with people via the comments (good or bad) will improve and it will allow a potential employer to get inside your head to understand you better. Remember, this is your brand. Don’t blog about cats chasing ponies.
Quality Blogging requires attention, detail and skills. Anyone can throw up a rehashed article or something in 140 characters. However blogging in a world of attention deficit and over stimulated individuals is tough. Productivity requires focus. Focus leads to Flow. Flow leads to getting shit done. Blogs are not dead. Only focus is diminishing. So blog! If you can blog I am certain you are an articulate, focuses, productive peep.
Don’t forget to comment on industry related blogs so you can reap additional benefits of inbound links and show others you are an expert in your industry.
I never believed in Twitter until i started using it. Twitter is a good way to connect with people fast. Use “Lists” to group industry people and companies. Lists are great and help you maintain focus in a world of tweets. Then engage daily via replies, favorites and retweets. Read up on twitter etiquette for standard protocols so you get the gist of this ecosystem.
Relationship building takes time. Never forget this. So engage early and frequently with true intention. If you do not have true intentions then you will become disinterested and fall off the wagon. Why do you want to come to Silicon Valley?
Klout calls itself as a standard of influence. Hook up all your online & social presence and use it as a guide to fine tune your social status of influence. This is more of a ruler than anything else. You always need a base to gauge your efforts.
You can see in the above picture my Klout score (58 as of writing this) and how it has steadily increased over time since I started using it early July. Remember this is a ruler to measure your social efforts.
A competitive landscape
In a competitive landscape like Silicon Valley, all this should eventually become habitual. Something you do daily to stay relevant & ahead in your industry. If this isn’t habitual, then build a habit of it. If this all feels too much for you than you are in the wrong industry. Or maybe you are not the right fit. Business in Silicon Valley is about people. You aren’t just selling your skills you are in the business of selling you. People want to know about you. So show and tell.
This is a city where you are measured by your works. If you have something to show then show it off. Otherwise go back to your room, close the door and hack something cool you can show the world that you are a doer and not another dreamer that cannot execute.
Good luck with your journey!
We are hiring @ Medlert!
We are hiring! Come and work at Medlert. We are in the business of SAVING LIVES. We are a Startup in the Health industry. We’re looking for world-class engineers and exceptional individuals, who are mission-driven, that want to help change the world. Visit our career page and apply today: https://www.medlert.com/about-us/careers
Startup School 2010 was a success! both on the quality of the turn out of entrepreneurs, speakers and the organizers – Y Combinator and Stanford BASES.
The day started on a nice crispy Saturday morning 16th October 2010. Breakfast was provided to all those that attended while the Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University was prepared.
The theater got packed out with many great minds of all ages – even entrepreneurs 12 years of age eager to start changing the world. The following are notes I took during each of the speeches + video. Hope you enjoy the content and find it as valuable and inspiring as I did.
Wow, what a great start to this day. Andy went over how Silicon Valley got to where it is today and then touched up on the following interesting topics:
The process in creating a business is in 3 steps: Discover –> Design –> Deliver
“Discover” phase has more value but typically less money is spent while moving to the right to “Deliver” has less value but more money is spent on it.
“The Horizon Effect”, also a topic in psychology, outlines how the majority of humans only purse goals which are in our horizon, stuff we can see, instead of stuff we cannot see. Aim past the horizon like Christopher Columbus did when he sailed past to the horizon only to find that he would not fall off the edge of the world.
Apple – spends the least on R&D ($1.2b) and consumer research. They trust their gut instinct to deliver super products. They also have less products to maintain than most companies.
Google – expects to solve the impossible. Most of their success today is attributed to the 1 day per week given to their employees to brain storm & prototype new ideas.
Innovation is the never-ending search for better solutions.
Most successful companies have more than 1 founder.
The best way to have a good idea is to have plenty of ideas.
When something makes you angry, write it down. Then find a solution to fix it – that’s an idea right there. The question then becomes “how do you filter many ideas into a few to action”.
Key to business traction: Make someone awesome so that they show it to their friends who too want to become awesome. Hence they end up using your product.
Finding a good co-founder is like there is now 2 of you doing this.
Early on you don’t need offices, go virtual with a product like CampFire.
Private offices eliminate idea generation and progress. It is detrimental.
User “Experience” is the most relevant, not the technology. You are selling the experience not the technology.
As a founder, optimize your business venture for happiness. Read book “Drive” which outlines 3 human needs: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Seek Freedom and Autonomy.
In the end, you want to have a choice and be happy about it.
Over drinks (after work) is where most ideas come from. People are more relaxed and free to let their imagination run wild.
Establish a business agreement (contract) at the very beginning of your venture. This should outline who does what and equity split. This eliminates nasty legal issues once the business becomes successful.
Books recommended by Tom for every entrepreneur to read:
Provide a service where users are happy and then monetize.
Entrepreneurs build and innovate companies and investors should be lucky to be a part of it.
Never forget its your company, the founder’s company.
Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur.
It takes guts but anyone can do it.
It’s crazy to start a company with 1 founder. It’s all about building a great team. And if you are a founder you have to build a great team some day so why not build it the day you start the company – the 1st hurdles to get over.
There is more in the videos below where Ron outlines his journey and the journey of great friends from Napster, Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Don’t be a cannon fodder. Work on things you love. Life is too short.
Key before you start your own music startup:
Artists are poor so they won’t pay you,
The market is totally saturated,
The economies are challenging with required payments to labels every quarter and lawyers waiting for you to become big so they can sue you.
If you want a good laugh and learn heaps about the risks of starting up a music venture then you should watch Dalton’s music business review (videos below) of his 6 years of building Imeem, what worked and what didn’t.
Had many unsuccessful launches but persistence got them through. Paul Graham stated “you guys won’t die, your like cockroaches”.
Michael Seibel from Justin.tv introduced Brian and his co-founder to the Y Combinator methodology and eventually to Paul Graham. Initially, Paul didn’t like the business idea. That changed quickly.
Brian used a classic motivation / psychology approach that Anthony Robbins teaches: “Whatever you focus on expands (you get)”. So he decided to focus on revenue by printing a positively inclined graph depicting revenue and pasting it on the bathroom mirror. This way it was the 1st thing he saw every morning and the last before going to bed to dream. It worked!
Paul Graham advised: “Go to your users”. So Brian and his co-founder flew to NYC, Washington DC and Denver and knocked on people’s doors to sell their service – “do you know how much your bedroom is worth?!”.
Then, David, Barry Manilow’s drummer posted his apartment for rent while he toured with Barry Manilow. This changed the direction of AirBnB and the 1st “wiggles of hope ~ PG” appeared. AirBnB launched version 5 of their product and started to be Ramen Profitable.
Today, AirBnB is in 8200 cities, 166 countries and traffic has started booming in the last 5 months.
AirBnB is now a “Community market place for space”.
All this started with an airbed in a living room to solve an accommodation problem.
The following videos are titled “Powerless and obscure” – 1,000 days ago (October 2007). How Brian started AirBnB and it nearly fell apart only to survive after the 5th launch. Very inspiring and educational.
Things To Do in Silicon Valley, The Bay Area & in San Francisco.
So you decided to visit Silicon Valley and/or San Francisco and want to know where to go. Here is a hand full of places in Silicon Valley and San Francisco you can visit during your stay. Of course there is plenty more to do and see then what’s listed below, but this should be a good start for you. Don’t forget to read public transport options so you know how to get around Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Things To Do in Silicon Valley (south bay)
Silicon Valley is suburbia, sprinkled like candy with many high-tech firm and great places to eat. It is nothing what you expect and must be experienced to be enjoyed.
University Avenue & Stanford University, Downtown Palo Alto You can’t go wrong here. There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at, shops to explore and Stanford University is just round the corner (across El Camino Real).
Stanford University is enormous. There are plenty of free shuttle buses from Palo Alto CalTrain (on University Ave) which can take you directly to and around Stanford University. The University is beautifully located on a large piece of land surrounded by trees, grass lands and mountains. You can freely walk through the grounds and enjoy the Spanish-colonial style building architecture. Drop by the library and the gift shop if you want to get yourself some merchandise.
The road leading out of Stanford University is called University Avenue and heads directly into Palo Alto downtown. Downtown is full of great restaurants and shops.
Some of my favorites places to eat there:
Cheese Cake Factory – largest menu of choices you will ever see. And their cheese cake’s are like no other. Simply delicious.
Zibibbo – outstanding food & presentation and they know how to match the wine to your meal. They are a part of a larger group called Restaurant LuLu. Their San Francisco LuLu Restaurant is just as superb.
Castro Street, Downtown Mountain View This is my home town and also another great place for dining and mixing with the locals.
Red Rock Cafe – if you want to feel experience a hackers atmosphere then this is the place to be any evening during the week. Grab an Avalanche (a better version of Starbucks Frappuccino), connect to the free wi-fi on your laptop and absorb the energy in the room. You will no doubt also find me there. Check out my post on Red Rock here.
East West Bookstore – known as a spiritual bookstore, it is the source for expansive ideas, a retreat from ordinary life, and a gathering place in support of community ideals and spiritual growth. It was founded by a monk by the name of Swami Kriyananda who is the author of over 100 books and the composer of over 400 pieces of music. If you are into spiritualism then you will find this place valuable + it’s across the road from Red Rock.
Some of my favorites places to eat at Castro Street:
Gelato Classico Italian Ice Cream – you won’t look at another ice cream again after having some of these. Try the Tiramisu Gelato, there is something super tasty about it.
Tomi Sushi – this place is a must for dinner. The sushi here melts in your mouth, it’s reasonably priced ($16 dinner combination) and the atmosphere & setup is authentic Japanese. including the chefs.
Santana Row is an upscale shopping, housing, dining and entertainment complex in San Jose, California. Westfield Valley Fair is located just to its north, on the other side of Stevens Creek Boulevard, and the Winchester Mystery House just to the west, across Winchester Boulevard.
Googleplex – a must! Located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View. You will see plenty of Google bikes around which the Googlers use to move around between the campuses. Something is always buzzing around here. From the T-rex in the courtyard, outside swimming pool to the university style feel atmosphere.
If you venture a tad down the road you will come across the Android complex with the large statue of the Android robot next to a cupcake and around the corner Mozilla & LinkedIn Corporations. If you run into some sheep don’t worry, they are working for Google eating cutting down the grass.
HP (Hewlett-Packard) & Symantec – because they are right next to each other on Ellis St in Mountain View and the HP founders are famous for having kick started what is known today as the Silicon Valley.
Facebook is located on 1601 S California Ave, Palo Alto. Although there is not much to see from the outside. See my post on Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol (OGP) where I have included a picture of the building. Again not much to see but if you have it on your to-do list then why not.
Attend a Meetup
If you have the time try to go to one of the popular meetup groups. There is always a buzz in the air, plenty of energy and interesting people to connect with + score a free pizza & coke. Read my prior blog post on which meetups to attend.
Recapping the popular meetups:
Hacker Dojo: Located around the corner from my place (in Mountain View) is a place for hackers to hang out and code. Also the home of Android weekly developer meetings and monthly presentations from cloud companies et al.
Yahoo’s LAMP meetup hosted every month to share Yahoo’s engineering efforts and provide an environment to learn.
Stanford Bases: Stanford University’s entrepreneurship group is one of the largest student entrepreneurship groups in the world dedicated to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond.
San Fransisco is a city of micro climates. You can notice the difference as you drive up 101 or 280 and the weather changes from a beautiful sunny day to overcast & cloudy. So check the weather online before setting off on you trip from the valley into the city.
Lombart Street & Zig Zag Street Lombart Street is famous for having steep hills. The Russian Hill part of Lombart Street intersecting with Van Ness Ave is the start of the most steepest hill in San Francisco. It must be driven up to be experienced. As you drive look back for a second to get a glimpse of the street’s sharp inclination.
Once you reach the top, you will be greeted by the most famous “Crookedest Street in the World.” with a 40-degree slope and tight hairpin turns. It is lined with houses and beautifully manicured gardens. It’s worth walking and driving down it.
It is the northern waterfront area of San Francisco and a famous tourist location. It is best known for being the location of Pier 39 & it’s blubbery sea lions, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, Forbes Island and restaurants and stands that serve fresh seafood, most notably Dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. It is also the place where you can organize a trip to Alcatraz (ref The Rock movie with Sean Connery) – which is clearly seen from Pier 39.
Cobb’s Comedy Club
My favourite comedy club! Headliners who performed at Cobb’s Comedy Club are regular guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. Many have their own comedy specials on Comedy Central and HBO and can be seen starring in movies and on television.
More here: http://www.cobbscomedyclub.com/
Samovar Tea Lounge
Fanastic place to start your day with a nice selection of teas. There are 3 unique locations: Samovar Yerba Buena Gardens, Samovar Mission-Castro, and Samovar Hayes. Yerba Buena Gardens is my favorite for it’s atmosphere and unique location.
LuLu Restaurant – great service, reasonably priced food and always fresh and tasty.
One Market Restaurant – awarded a Michelin Star for its excellence. If you have extra cash laying around this place is worth a visit.
Burger Bar – never disappoints, if all you want is a burger. Try the Kobe Beef Burger – it comes from Wagyu cow and the Kobe beef is rich, tender and juicy and cannot be matched by any other beef.
Vessel – located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square district, Vessel represents a luxurious lounge of signature San Francisco style and elegance.
RubySkye – another club located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square district in the famed theatre district, Ruby Skye is San Francisco’s premiere Nightclub and Special Event Venue.
More Things to do in Silicon Valley?
This should keep you busy during your visit. There are also great posts by the Y Combinator team on things to do while you’re in Silicon Valley here: