You Need To Be In San Francisco

In my efforts to find the right place to found my company i traveled to all the major High Tech Hubs, New York, Boulder CO and of course San Francisco. In this post i describe my experiences and why i believe San Francisco is the place to be if you are in the high tech internet industry.

As readers of this blog know i did a cold e-mail survey back in February to gauge the metrics for each one of the High Tech hubs i have mentioned. The metrics i surveyed are explained in detail in that post, but i will mention them briefly to refresh our memories:

  1. How easy is it to find a Tech or Biz co-founder?
  2. In what time frame will i be able to get seed-funded?
  3. Up to which point can i scale my company? (NY/Boulder only question)
  4. What’s the average cost for office space?
  5. What’s the average cost for living there?

I e-mailed about 10 people from each of the target high tech hubs and got various replies, ranging from ‘google it‘ to a deep analysis of what the situation is and how to find funding! (Hey PaulMikal, Steli Thanks!)

Truth be told, what i wanted to do in that “survey” was two things and none of them had anything to do with the questions i asked. I measured how responsive and helpful people were on each community, and i also had a very good excuse to e-mail people i wanted to draw their attention.

But for the sick geeks you are, here are the answers for these questions as summed up  from the people that bothered to answer them:

How easy is it to find a Tech or Biz co-founder? Coming from where i come from? 20 minus? Nearly impossible. Now multiply that by 10 for NY and by 500 for Boulder

In what time frame will i be able to get seed-funded? That is a silly question. Has been cross answered multiple times in Quora. Anywhere between three months and never, same applies to any community.

Up to which point can i scale my company? (NY/Boulder only question) In Boulder you can scale up to 30, max 50 people. Anywhere north of that would be exceptional and unlikely. For NY that would be up to 500 people for a really successful company. Limitations not only apply because of total human capital, but also of total venture capital available to support the growth.

What’s the average cost for office space? Boulder is ok, NY and SF compete on which is the craziest expensive for office space. Yet utilizing cool co-working spaces you can have a cheap kickstart for your startup.

What’s the average cost for living there? Boulder is the cheapest of the two, no car is needed, small town, everything within walking distance. NY is, well, NY, still no car is needed… SF is expensive and a car is needed, unless you stay in the actual city of SF were you don’t need a car but apartment prices well compete those of NY.

Wheels Down – Boulder Colorado

First stop was Boulder Colorado, the much talked about super high tech community. To any friend and family that asked me why the f*** i was going to the rockies i replied that Boulder is like Eureka, the small village with the crazy scientists 😉 To you my reasonings are best described by one of Boulder’s core persons, Brad Feld, in this post.

I stayed in Boulder for a week, attended most of their biggest events like Boulder New Tech, OpenCoffee and Boulder Ignite. The feeling and the Boulder people were awesome, welcoming, fun, atypical, original and relaxed. The level of high tech potency can match any other high tech hub with ease, Boulder has nothing to envy in that regard.

I landed in Boulder with the intention of founding my company there, as one of my ambitions was to get in the Boulder Techstars accelerator program on summer (now officially declined). One of my most important priorities was (is) to find a partner to found the company together (aka cofounder). It was that priority that i didn’t feel would be served well in Boulder that forced me to move on.

Talking with people there i got the feeling that the music had stopped and all the chairs were taken. While the pool of available engineers was small, the pool of prospect partners for me could be counted in fingers… and they were all into their second or first years as CEO’s in startups.

I also had two other sort of irrelevant facts that really broke my mood there, on the first day of my visit, my macbook fell off and the backlight of my monitor broke. That threw me completely off track and i completely lost my pace. Picture this for a moment, been preparing for this trip 3 months, first day i set foot on the US: *SLAP*

The second bad occurrence was that i dried up all my credit. In Europe it is illegal to give a price to an end customer that is not the final price, including tax, VAT and whatever…that is not the case in the US! Beware of that. A front price of 550$ for renting a car / month can easily result in a 1,500$ total when you reach the counter… Now add to that the fact that i couldn’t access my internet banking (no laptop) … The result? My credit card maxed out while all my funds were on the wire somewhere over the Atlantic ocean. I ended up having something like 50$ in my pocket, no credit, no other cash and a ticket to San Francisco. Needless to say that was excruciatingly difficult for me, yet hacking life is a trait that is required for anyone making the leap.

Where Is NY?

Ok, i set foot on NY just for 8 hours, barely enough time to sneak some cool tourist photos… promise to come back on that issue when i have first hand experience…

Why Not Boulder Or NY?

While Boulder and NY are vibrating up and coming high tech hub communities, they are, well, up and coming. Meaning they are not there yet. So if you have no specific ties with these communities there is absolutely no reason why you should go there.

What are specific ties? If Techstars (Boulder / NY) invites you, book the first ticket and be there ASAP. If you have an already planned secret agent there, that can incubate your life and business, by all means go! Secret agents include startup companies that may invite you to work there, but then again, that’s off topic and beyond the scope of this blog, we are entrepreneurs.

Why San Francisco

The general San Francisco Bay Area, also known as Silicon Valley, is a place of almost unlimited resources for technology startups. Substitute the word ‘resources’ with anything… people, events, mentors, funds, know how, experience […]

You could make it a full time job to network, the daily events are so many that they often overlap! You walk down the road and hear people talking about how to tackle a billion transactions per second, you open the radio while driving (driving is a downer, too much of it) and you hear an in depth discussion of how to raise your twitter engagement. The billboards on the road advertise cloud technology solutions…

Everything is Silicon Valley is build towards supporting innovation, entrepreneurship and helping people boldly go where no man has gone before! Your ideas will be challenged daily, you will go to your bed crying with your idea trashed and your self confidence under zero only to wake up with a new more evolved plan (thank you!).

Since you are reading this blog i am pretty sure you are aiming for the stars! That’s not bad, not something to be ashamed of, that is why you are starting your endeavor, sacrificing so many, strongly believing in  your success! You need to be to the one place in the world you can make your dreams come true…

You need to be in San Francisco!

Photo courtesy of Colton Witt PhotographyWe all Have Paths in Life, We Just Have to Choose the Right One.

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About thanpolas

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5 Responses to You Need To Be In San Francisco

  1. Steve says:

    Please don’t lump SF with SV. The two are very distinct. Having lived here for almost 4 years and having lived in both places, albeit both are a drive apart from each other, they are worlds apart in culture and daily living. While they are much closer in relation when compared to other places around the US, they certainly deserve their own comparison.

    • Hey Steve! Thank you for your comment!
      The scope of the post is a bit wider, selecting between larger geographies and talking about where you generally need to start your company.

      While i understand what you are talking about, yet i am pretty sure if you have a startup in SF and need to get funded you won’t bother driving down Sand Hill Road just because they are a world apart in culture 😉

      Maybe a more experienced resident than me (i’ve not been around for more than a month) could do a detailed blog post on the issue you mention and help guide people with more accuracy…

  2. Actually.. you need to be where your heart and brain is. And your power – at the moment -seems to be amplified in San Francisco. As they say in show biz “break a leg” my dear 🙂

  3. Another excellent post. You got us engaged thanpolas 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanasis,
    Having gone to school at Stanford and now living in NY, I think your assessment is quite correct. The high tech infrastructure is most mature in the silicon valley area. And the VCs like to have you near them so they can keep an eye on the companies they are funding.

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