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May 16, 2016

What I Learned in San Francisco & Silicon Valley

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You have to go San Francisco / Silicon Valley ‘aka’ the “Bay Area” to comprehend it. It's an ecosystem of progress and entrepreneurialism; one that seems to lack ego despite the incredible success of the region. Having spent a short period of time in the Bay Area it is clear why some of the most successful companies in the world have come from this area.

Bay Area "way of thinking"

There is an obvious culture of backing yourself combined with an absence of any negative stigma around failure. Failure is viewed positively; I was told that it's only a failure if you didn't learn anything from the experience hence the term “fail fast, fail forward”. One person said to me "I recently killed my previous start up and since then I quickly uncovered another problem to solve and I have raised angel funding and I'm moving towards launching my next tech company shortly." This showed me that with a willing mentality there are angel investors readily available to back smart concepts and make them possible. Despite the extreme wealth people remain very humble, very approachable and happy to give you time and support. I was often asked by people, "how can I help you" and this was done in a genuine way. This is labelled "paying it forward" and this seems to be widely adopted and believed in at all levels.

My impressions of Bay Area

To provide some context, I've seen the ramp up and intensity of the mining/ Oil and Gas boom however I've never witnessed anything like the Bay Area. Company offices resemble university campuses, within these offices you will find cafeterias, bars, gyms, music rooms, haircuts onsite further to the fact that these offices sprawl for blocks and blocks! This is a result of success however it is also the product of the “war for talent”, salaries rise and perks become the norm as tech talent is bombarded with calls to move to new employers on a regular basis. I was told that Uber allegedly spend $25k per person per year on perks and almost certainly Google seem to hold the title of benchmarking what perks are on offer. People get paid well however in the absence of stock (share) growth then the extremely high cost of living (particular accommodation) means the remuneration gap with Australia and New Zealand is closing given our rising salaries and lower cost of living. The only confronting thing I found in San Francisco is the amount of homeless people which is very apparent. That aside it's a good city and we also spent time around Mountain View, Palo Alto, Cupertino which are nice however at risk of being biased the lifestyle in the cities across Australia and New Zealand give us a real advantage on the global stage for attracting and retaining talent in my opinion.

Why am I writing this?

I wanted to write this as I think there are elements of what we've seen that we can bring to Australia and New Zealand. I encourage our entire ecosystem to come together to make the most of this innovation movement. This extends to policy makers, those providing sources of capital and the people and the companies driving innovation. It's an exciting economic cycle to be part of however we can't take it for granted as we are in a global competition to attract and retain talent and companies with many incentives now available from grants, tax concessions and other enticements. Despite capital becoming tougher to come by (given the market correction) for start-ups in the Bay Area it's much more readily available at better valuations than what we are seeing in Australia and New Zealand. In time I hope this changes to ensure our local start-ups stay local and with this the jobs that are created. Ultimately the companies in this tech space create many jobs and revenue for government. I believe we are seeing an innovation revolution and we are all exposed to it whether we choose to accept this or not and I think is important that we make the most of it.

Finally, in the spirit of “paying it forward” if I can provide any additional details of my trip and/ or help anyone else in anyway please let me know.

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