What I Learned in San Francisco

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If you’re a startup founder and you’ve never been to San Francisco, stop what you’re doing right now. Now go buy a plane ticket, and pack your bag. By the time you finish reading this, you’ll be glad you did.

People had been telling me for ages to go and visit the bay area. I heard people there work with a sense of unmatched urgency, that you can feel the energy in the air, and the density of startups is mind boggling.

At a certain point in time a few weeks ago, I made up my mind and bought my plane ticket. It was time to visit Mecca. But we knew it wouldn’t do any good to fly out there, sit at a coffee shop and wait to meet interesting people. Luck favours the prepared.

We knew we needed to reach outside of our limited network to meet new and different people. So we did the natural thing — we posted to HN, and asked the community, “Can we visit your startup in San Francisco?”  Low and behold, we got our first taste of the SF startup community, and got invited to over 30 startups.

We visited so many startups that it’s impossible to mention them all here in detail. But there are five groups of people who went above and beyond and to whom we are truly grateful:

1. Segment.io — These guys are awesome. They signed up for Kera a while back and we’ve been chatting ever since. When I told them we were coming, they asked where we were planning to stay. Ian convinced me not to stay at a hotel, and instead crash in their hacker house. I was floored by their generosity, and I seriously hope I can host them up in Toronto some day. They’re not just customers anymore, they’re my buds.

2. Launchrock — I can’t wait for when Launchrock releases what they’ve been working on, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. All I can is that Jameson’s crew has some of the best energy I’ve seen anywhere, and they all have a sense of curiosity I could feel immediately. Jameson also wins for finding us the best coffee in SF.

3. Chute — All I can say about Gregarious is that he’s a magnetic leader. He has the chutzpah that every founder wants to have. It’s rare that you meet a guy that can be a customer, a mentor and a coach.

4. PagerDuty — Alex is a Canadian founder who is now based in SF, and he was kind enough to have us over, and talk with us about how he’s built his startup, PagerDuty. After we spent some time getting to know each other, he made some incredible intros on our behalf and I definitely owe him a few when the time comes.

5. Optimizely — I got a random email from my old high school buddy Matt. Turns out Matt (who I hadn’t spoken to in ten years) just had a baby and is also Head of Sales for Optimizely. We spent a full hour with him and Pete talking about proxying websites, pricing models, and value propositions. Optimizely is killing it and they’re inspiring us to do the same. 

To the teams at Twitter, Crowdflower, Dr. Chrono, AeroFS, Medigram, Betable, Gigwalk, Xobni, Zillow and others who invited us over, I want to personally say thank you.

What I heard about San Francisco turned out to be true. People are working hard over there, there is a ton of energy, and there are so many startups in such a dense area that it almost feels like a city within a city. It’s rare that you feel at home in a brand new place, but that’s exactly how it felt.

But what truly impressed me most about San Francisco were the people we met. They were generous, helpful, and most importantly - curious. Almost every one of them asked how they could help out, who we wanted to meet, and how we could work together.

Thank you San Francisco, we’ll certainly be seeing you soon. In fact, we’ll be back for Lean Startup Conference.

Max Cameron