Silicon Valley – Week 1

October 31, 2011

One week after moving to Silicon Valley and I’m very pleased and relieved to say that I’ve found somewhere to stay! It’s in downtown Palo Alto, just a 5 minute walk from University Avenue, and even closer to Whole Foods (which takes food shopping to a whole new bewildering level of choice and healthiness). My new pad is also just a few blocks away on the same street from the HP Garage - pictured right - where Silicon Valley was born. Final cool thing about my “in-law” flat is that the previous tenant raised $27M from a well-known VC last month for his startup. Who knows, maybe that good fortune will rub off.

Finding a place to live

Finding accommodation in Silicon Valley or San Francisco is not easy. Like London, competition for rental properties and house-shares is intense. Trawling Craigslist 3 times a day, for hours at a time is not fun. In total I sent around 50 emails, viewed 8 places and was frankly extremely lucky to get the place I did; I saw the ad within an hour of it being posted and was the first to view the following morning – when I immediately took it. [As a side note this is my first time using Craigslist – what a terrible site – now I know why people wish it was for-profit instead!]

Work stuff

Apart from the joy’s of flathunting I managed to take in FailCon, which was awesome because it was people talking much more honestly than is usually the case at conferences; a couple of events as part of the UK Trade and Industry’s Cloud Mission to Silicon Valley, including an evening reception at the stunning Consul General’s Residence near The Presidio; an event with Vinod Khosla doing live office hours on stage (brilliant) and visits to both 500 Startups and Hacker Dojo in Mountain View.

Fun in the Palo Alto sunshine

Today I caught up with Finbarr Taylor, a fellow Scot, and after a nice brunch in University Cafe we visited four YC companies which were having open offices this afternoon. At Comprehend Systems we even ran into Paul Graham and we chatted briefly, where he did his best to encourage both of us to work for Comprehend. Good for Paul to at least try… he’s always supporting his startups!

Great first week, but next week the real work begins!


Bye bye London, hello Silicon Valley!

October 23, 2011

Silicon Valley

After two years thinking about it, today I finally arrived for good in Silicon Valley! When I moved to London 18 months ago I always knew it was going to be a stepping-stone to the Valley, but it’s taken me a while to make that next move.

I’ve moved for all the obvious reasons that you might think of, but above all I’m here because I love this place. The atmosphere, the energy and the buzz is like nowhere else I’ve been, and I’m looking forward to soaking it all up. (And also the weather).

I blogged just last week about why I believe location matters to any startup, and while I still think London is a good place to be for many, for me, Silicon Valley is where I need to be now. People often ask me if it’s really better in the valley, but unless you’ve been it’s difficult to appreciate it. The technology and startup ecosystem here stretches back almost a hundred years, although most people think of 1938 as the key moment when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started working on HP in a Palo Alto garage. Post-war, the “silicon” was put into the valley, when Fairchild Semiconductor pioneered mass-production of transistors, and this company later gave birth to Intel in the 60s. The Venture Capital industry started here as well, decades ago and remains the world’s largest concentration of risk capital, in fact most of them all work on the same street. Palo Alto is also home to Stanford Universty whose graduates have spawned tech giants such as Google, Yahoo, eBay, Cisco, Intuit, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, Electronic Arts and VMWare, to name just a few.

The main business drivers for my move are better access to that experienced tech talent and access to more funding, on better terms. There is a real shortage of both in London.

Why now?

I spent two weeks in the valley last month, my longest and best trip there so far. Lots of interesting things happened as a result, such as meeting SaaS experts, which will really help me accelerate Teamly, as well as seeing strong investor interest.

On my return to London two pivotal things happened, within 24 hours of each other:

1. I had lunch with another startup founder, who – speaking from his own experience – said, “there is never a perfect time to make the move; there will always be a better time just around the corner.”

2. Following Steve Jobs death, I re-read the text of his Stanford commencement address, and it just moved me to make this decision NOW.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

I realised the only thing stopping me from moving was me.

What are YOU holding back from doing now?

P.S. I’ll be back home for Christmas and New Year – hope to see you then!


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