Another Completed Trip: Thoughts

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VentureScape 2013.

As I type this out, I am sitting at SFO about to head back to Denver. I have been in San Francisco for six days (roughly), and, the original intent of the trip was to attend VentureScape 2013 Office Hours yesterday and spend the rest of the time meeting with friends, colleagues, etc.

The plans have changed since early last month though: my parents take an annual trip to California and when they heard I would be back in SF during this time period, they decided they would also travel out at the same time. Plus, this year was one of those special years where Mother’s Day fell on the same day as my brother’s birthday.

So, the trip became a family-oriented one rather than friends-social-business-oriented. I am perfectly fine with the way things turned out, but am also disappointed I was not able to meet with folks I had said I would meet with when I was next out here.

Well, the timing was not right for that; and, as one Twitter follower said to me, “Family is priority.” It’s true; my parents aren’t getting any younger these days (and neither are we). Over the weekend, we went to a winery in Livermore and did a small tasting; went to Hakone Gardens to look at the bamboo garden; ate good seafood and good steak; and generally enjoyed the drive around Silicon Valley. It was a good time with my family; couldn’t trade it for anything else.

I was able to meet with a few friends, but only a few. A few had to cancel but I found that to be no big deal considering I was pretty much a flyby visitor.

It was a good trip, and probably my last trip to the Bay Area for the year…unless something else harkens me to the area. Although I am disappointed that I was not able to see a lot of friends, I am also okay with that. Life happens, and just have to go along with the flow.

(P.S. My post about VentureScape will be next week)

#Launch2013 – Thoughts Post-Festival

Mustache pic with Liz H. at the Try it Local booth.
Mustache pic with Liz H. at the Try it Local booth.

Whew. It’s already a week after the Launch Festival in San Francisco. I’m sitting here, sipping on green juice and wondering how the week just flew by. When I first decided to go to Launch, my intent was to go spread the word about TAOpivot to others in the Bay Area; you know, do some networking like I usually do.

What I didn’t expect was for the conference to be MORE than just that! I was so excited to go to Launch that I started following the #Launch2013 topic and pinging people to see if we could meet up. Once I got to the event, I was doing part live-tweeting of main stage sessions and also continuing to message other attendees to try to meet up.

Yup, I out-tweeted the @Launch account.
Yup, I out-tweeted the @Launch account. Stats from Epilogger.

So, after the first day, I unintentionally out-tweeted the official @Launch account. I was stunned and … well, didn’t expect for so much to happen out of that.

Oh, the horror!
Oh, the horror!

Days 2 and 3 consisted of me maxing out my tweet limit (I was locked out of Twitter for an hour…oh the pain!), lots of requests to meet up from other attendees and Demo Pit startups, and … just AMAZING connections. By the end of Day 3, I felt like I had a whole new family to go home to. It was sad to see the Concourse getting cleaned up…I felt lost afterwards. *cue the violin*

Got recognized at The Creamery! New friends Crystal & Terri & me
Got recognized at The Creamery! New friends Crystal & Terri & me

Ok, the actual Launch festival: Jason really hit it out of the ballpark. Fireside Chat with Chamath was so awesome (and so many quotable things….”Jason is a fungus”). Inspiring Accelerator and Angel Investor panels. Fun demos from companies launching at the festival! There were plenty of startups to visit in the Demo Pit that I couldn’t hit up all the booths. I felt the buzz of hope, change, life! in the air. It was nice to meet other likeminded people and chat about our similar yet different struggles in our startup lives.

My badge
My badge

And: the Digital Detox booth. Oh my gracious. This was probably the most brilliant booth there was: leave your mobile devices/laptops/etc. at the entrance and go inside to be blissfully unaware of the buzz around you. I loved trying the different tea and getting into lively discussions with other attendees without having anyone pull out their phone. There was also massage in the back area: complete with didgeridoo sound healing from my new friend, Brandon Waloff. (See Vine vid here:IMG_7330)

Pigeon.ly's mission is so unique: helping divided communities come together!
Pigeon.ly’s mission is so unique: helping divided communities come together!

What could have been improved? The timing. Every day we started later than expected; I missed a lot of the Skills Stage and Office Hours sessions because the Main Stage ran behind. Poo. The Diversity in Tech panel could have been more than just a whine-fest–it only touched the service of the topic. I know many other female founders felt that there could have been more female representation via launch demos, panels, and judges. I’d like to see a bit of balance there, too.

Overall, I really enjoyed myself at Launch. I loved meeting people from all over the world and just .. knowing we’re all in this together. Three days is all it takes to make some lasting, meaningful connections. Three days can change your life, as it did for me!

9 Lessons Learned So Far at #Launch2013

Vivek Wadwha with the Diversity in Tech Panel at Launch 2013.
Vivek Wadwha with the Diversity in Tech Panel at Launch 2013.

Today is a special post from yours truly (and maybe Wednesday’s as well): this week I am in San Francisco attending the Launch Festival. So honored and grateful to be here, thanks to CoFounders Lab. Anyway, today was Day 1 and already I’ve met so many people and pitched the hell out of Denver’s startup scene. Also, I’ve learned a few important lessons, listed below:

  • Show up 10 minutes before Registration officially begins – I still had to wait in the “cold” weather, but I was able to get in to have enough time to eat some pastries, drink coffee, and chat with a few founders.
  • Do not walk up to fellow Coloradans after seeing tweet – Somebody from Fort Collins, CO was standing in line behind me and tweeted a pic of the line, essentially including my presence (my back) in the photo. I walked up to this person after I got my badge and introduced myself. Said person gave me a look for saying “I found you on Twitter.” -shakin’ my head- I didn’t reconnect with the person afterwards because he seemed uncomfortable that I was so forward with my intro.
  • Tweet a lot, get called a bot – I sent out a lot of tweets this morning/most of today with the official hashtag #Launch2013–beating out the official Launch account! During the VC Panel, I received tweets from other attendees saying I was a bot. First time for that to happen to me! I suppose I have quick thumbs … apparently the number of tweets I wrote were “humanly impossible.”
  • Wear gold-tipped shoes – Seems my description of my outfit wasn’t entirely unique except for telling others I was wearing “gold-tipped shoes”. One fellow founder jumped up and screamed “GOLD-TIPPED SHOES!” when she saw me walking by her table. Differentiating factor? :P
  • Ethernet cords are still very useful – Many attendees were complaining about the wifi, but the Launch team prepped for the outcry with tons of ethernet cords supplied. So, if I had brought my MBP, I would have been able to be on computer, tweet, and do work.
  • Learn to navigate mazes to get food – A fellow founder and I had trouble locating the Google Entrepreneurs breakfast goodies .. we thought it was a bad joke that the only ‘breakfast’ we’d get was coffee. But then…we found the magical food section, hidden behind black curtains. After that, we became the food-direction masters, directing others towards the hidden treasure.
  • Make a tentative list of startups to visit in Demo Pit – The Demo Pit has so many companies! When I walked straight into the pit I got a huge sense of overwhelm. I should have made a list so I could hit up my favorite startups first! Well, I luckily have two more days.
  • Do not trust “booth babes” – I didn’t know what people were talking about…but now I know. There was a booth with women dressed in military fatigue, tall pumps, and provocative stockings. They looked like Barbie Dolls. And the whole booth was just offensive….anyway, @Jason got rid of the group so we won’t be seeing them tomorrow.
  • Tweet to other attendees to meet up, make awesome connections – Have already met so many people at Launch, all by reaching out via Twitter. Twitter definitely breaks the ice more easily. Then people know I’m a nice person, not weird :P

The conference runs for the next two days, so I’m sure my Wednesday update may have more lessons (or just plain amusing moments).

 

Why I’m Choosing Denver over San Francisco

Earlier this morning, I tweeted out something I had said to a friend last night at the Startup Denver Female Entrepreneurs meetup.

Vowed to @jonrrossi that I am never ever ever getting back together with #SF . #Denver has my heart completely!

I was talking about my upcoming trip to San Francisco to attend the LAUNCH Festival Mar. 4-6 and how I wanted to get TAOpivot‘s name out in San Francisco. Jon looked at me as if I had grown a second head: “Now WHY would you want to do that?”

No, I’d never think to move back to San Francisco. I’m visioning a branch of TAOpivot out there eventually, but I wouldn’t move headquarters from Denver at all.

Explaining where I’ve lived before to others as I meet them out here, people oftentimes seem confused as to why I’d choose Denver over San Francisco. And when I try to explain why I moved here, it’s even harder for me to articulate.

P1090378My four years spent in San Francisco were a mixed bucket. Mixed blessings. I moved out there right after college, bright-eyed and hopeful. I soon found the job market there highly competitive and, at every job I applied to, I felt I was an outsider coming in.

I was lucky to have a few friends who lived in the Bay Area to make my move a smoother transition; also have relatives out there, so that didn’t hurt either.

Still, during those four years, I always felt on the outside looking in. I had many wonderful experiences learning about life there; but I also learned that San Francisco wasn’t my place to establish my base. I didn’t feel a sense of community there.

And rent was just so damn expensive.

I fell in love with Denver in late 2008, when I traveled here on a whim to see Dir en grey‘s last concert on their US tour. The concert was advertised as being in Denver, but was actually at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood. I mulled over my decision earlier that week, wondering if I was being crazy for going to a place I’d never been to before and all by myself.

I went ahead and booked the tickets and flew out to Denver. I studied the RTD system and got around town via the buses. I noticed people were different in Denver: at the concert, the fans were actually nice to each other. We moshed a little and I accidentally hit someone during the concert; I apologized and the person said, “Oh, don’t worry about it.”

The previous week, when Dir en grey was in San Francisco, I was clawed in the face by another fan because I was taking “her” guitar pick that Die (one of the members) had thrown out. Also, the fans in SF just seemed more rabid and self-serving.

That was the only aspect I had noticed on that short trip to Denver, the kindness of strangers. But it was enough to move me past the tipping point and make me start looking at graduate programs in Denver. I wanted a ticket out of San Francisco after that; due to circumstances that came up in 2010, I had to stay longer in SF than I wanted to.

Sip n Paint, January 2013.
Sip n Paint, January 2013.

But in August 2011, I finally got to Denver as a resident. And I don’t regret the decision at all; in Denver, I have found the warmth I’d longed for in San Francisco. I have found the sunshine, the mix of urban, suburban, and even rural life in the surrounding areas outside of Denver proper. I have found my community and really feel at home here. I like going to events and running into people I recognize from other areas of my life; I like that small-town feeling I grew up with, without all the vicious cliques and gossip. I like being anonymous when I want to be in certain parts of the city.

Also, Denver’s cost of living is so much more affordable than San Francisco ever will be.

So, for the long story of it all, this is why I’ll always choose Denver over San Francisco. West Coast can have the fog lovers scratching by in close quarters; I’ll take Denver’s sunshine and happy people anytime.

[Friday Fun] 7 Ways to Embarrass Yourself in San Francisco

My friend & I, San Francisco July 2007. Being tourists...
My friend & I, San Francisco July 2007. Being tourists…

I just had to get this out; so many pet peeves of mine have come up regarding San Francisco, or, how outsiders think of San Francisco. Several of these things below I committed myself when I first moved there in 2007. Here’s a little list for you to follow so you won’t embarrass yourself when you get to the City by the Bay:

  1. Call The City [San Francisco] “Frisco” or “San Fran” – Oh. My. Goodness. This drives me CRAZY every time! San Franciscans are very very sensitive to the way the City is referred as….”Frisco” and “San Fran” are NOT proper. Say this in front of a SF resident, get something tossed at you. Even I, who no longer resides in SF, get super-peeved when I hear people referring to SF that way. Always stay safe and say “SF” or “The City” or just plain “San Francisco”. You’ll get more points in fitting in that way.
  2. Make the mistake of walking hills for two blocks – Yes, I did this when I first moved there. I remember looking at a map while apartment hunting; saw that, once I got off the bus, I only needed to walk a few blocks this way and that way. Little did I know….this involved the hilly streets in Nob Hill. Oops. I was panting by the end of my trek and I didn’t even get the apartment there. Note: I was panting after my walk because this was way before I got acclimated to Denver’s higher altitude.
  3. Think MUNI & BART mean the same thing and go the same places – Another one of my mistakes. Actually, before I even moved out to San Francisco, I thought BART was the only transit system in the city. I remember asking people on a Livejournal community (Oh….so long ago) about good places near BART stations in SF. I got a lot of confused responses from people. I arrived and realized oops….BART = Bay Area Rapid Transit. I should have been asking about MUNI instead (also, there’s the Golden Gate Transit and several other Bay Area transit systems running amuck within the city).
  4. Take a MUNI train the wrong direction and end up in a bad neighborhood – Ok, this didn’t happen to me, but I’ve heard this happening before: PAY ATTENTION TO WHICH DIRECTION YOUR TRAIN IS GOING. Usually, the “Outbound” trains are going towards Sunset/Ocean Beach. “Inbound” is going downtown. The only line that’s a little different is the T line….and please, you don’t want to make the mistake of taking the T Line the wrong direction. You might end up in a really bad neighborhood.
  5. Prior to arrival, make a comment about how San Francisco is “sunny and warm” – Such an assumption about San Francisco and California in general: San Francisco is foggy and “cool” for the most part. Temperatures range from 50 – 70 degrees year-round. Denverites, you’ve already heard me comment on how the weather is there: 50 degrees in SF is when people wear their huge winter jackets. In Denver, we wear shorts at that temperature. ;) Anyway, don’t be fooled to think all of San Francisco is ALWAYS sunny like Downtown/Chinatown/Fisherman’s Wharf. The city has many micro-climates, so you may be riding a MUNI train from downtown to Ocean Beach and come across patches of foggy neighborhoods, sunny neighborhoods, and even cloudy neighborhoods. Always be prepared for the micro-climates!
  6. Not realizing the high cost of living before you move here – Oh yes; one of my biggest mistakes, but then again, I had just graduated from college and had no idea of how different the cost of living was throughout the country. I landed in SF, went apartment-hunting, and found my first studio by Pier 39. Monthly rent? $1,450 … and I thought that was cheap. Oh…naïveté. Do your research beforehand! Ask any locals about certain neighborhoods if you can; generally, I’ve found living by the ocean (the Sunset or the Richmond districts) is relatively more affordable than living in SoMa or anywhere downtown. To find much more affordable places, you will have to look outside of The City, but then you’ll need to factor in commute time if you work in SF.
  7. Think Bay Area = San Francisco – Ok, so San Franciscans like to think they are the only ones that exist in the Bay Area. But, don’t fall for that trap: the San Francisco Bay Area consists of many more cities and land than you may think. The North Bay is connected to SF via the Golden Gate Bridge; the towns up this way range from rustic to slightly ritzy, depending on how north you go. The East Bay is connected to SF via the Bay Bridge; go here for Oakland, Berkeley, etc. Walnut Creek is a nice little town out east. Then, there’s the Peninsula, Silicon Valley, and the South Bay: generally, South Bay refers to San Jose area. Silicon Valley and the Peninsula are all the towns in between SF and San Jose.

And there you have it: a not-so-definitive guide about San Francisco and how to draw less attention to you, the tourist or the newbie in the city. Take heed of these guidelines, and soon you’ll be able to fit right into the crowds in SF.