A survival guide for young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

My name is Jade and I’m a Sydney-sider coffee addict that’s currently in San Francisco for two months to learn about what it’s like to be here in the heart of Silicon Valley.

I’m currently working on a startup called Homeful, to help people achieve financial freedom, escape the rental rat race and live in their dream suburb at less than what they’re paying for rent.

I’m in San Francisco with Startmate, Australia’s version of Y-Combinator, to see what really happens here in the heart of this city that conceived almost every iconic tech company that we know today.

I landed here a week ago and it has been a mind-boggling, whirlwind journey as a solo, female Aussie entrepreneur, trying to get people to pay attention in this city of lights and loud noises.

So what do you do to make the most of San Francisco? Well the preparation should start before you hop off the plane.

Ask everyone you know if they know someone else in San Francisco

Warm introductions are what makes the world turn in San Francisco. Getting into the “in-crowd” is difficult — Meetup.com is derided as useless. All the valuable events are invite-only, and require you to know other people.

As such, when you land, to get over your jetlag you should set up as many meetings as you can. And in every meeting ask who else they can introduce you to talk to. But always come to the table with a goal – mine is “I want to get into an US-based accelerator, and meet people with experience in building 3-sided marketplaces.”

Often, people here are so polite and eager to help, that you’ll always get a gold nugget out of the meeting. If not, then at least you’ve had a cup of coffee to help get over the jetlag.

You’ll find that given the time difference, you’ll be far more alert in the AM than the PM – 4pm is usually when jetlag kicks in the hardest.

If there’s someone in particular you want to meet, use Conspire.com to see who can introduce you.

Always send a follow up email

Always do this with everyone that you meet, and recite the two or three main things you learnt from the meeting and how that might drive your next steps forward. It is also an excellent opportunity to ask for another introduction to someone else.

Remember when sending a request for an introduction  to always do all the hard work for them and include a paragraph about yourself and what you’re looking for.

This is what I include in the emails to ask for an introduction:

Introducing you to Jade, from Homeful. She’s building a company to help people achieve financial freedom, escape the rental rat race and live in their dream suburb while getting out of debt. Homeful uses tiny houses renting out empty backyards to help people own their own house in their dream suburb at a fraction of the price and financial commitment of typical home ownership.

She’s looking for advice on {{insert your ask here}}. She’s in San Francisco for the next month, and would appreciate an opportunity to chat.

Short, snappy emails are the way to go. I’m not very good at this — but I’ve been using a plugin called Crystal Knows that has been great at helping me identify the personalities and “email preferences” of the people I reach out to.

Don’t go down 6th Avenue or Tenderloin – take Uber and Lyft

What shocked me the most about San Francisco was the micro-suburbs. We’re currently living in StartupHouse, which is off 5th Avenue (which is quite a lovely street with Westfields and hotels) —but if you walk one block down to 6th Avenue, it gets very weird. Fast.

I completely understand why Uber and Lyft worked so well starting in San Francisco. The need for “short commute” solutions, especially through Tenderloin, makes something that’s cheaper than taxis but easier than public transport a no-brainer.

Uber Pool and Lyft Line are also excellent ways to meet locals in the community. You’ll be surprised how often you might bump into another VC / founder in the car — so have a 2 minute pitch ready.

Visit through co-working paces to network with locals

If your goal is to meet people, a great way is to stay a week in different co-living and co-working spaces. The locals entrepreneurs all congregate around these “co-working hostels”, and you can get invited to the “insider events” and activities by being around the action.

Some examples of coliving spaces in San Francisco are:

  • StartupHouse
  • Embassy SF
  • Open Door
  • Saddle House SF
  • Krash.io
  • Chez JJ SF

And there’s probably way more. But maybe book a hotel in between your moves to recalibrate what it’s like to have a normal bed.

This article was first published on Medium.

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