Archives for category: Technology

I decided to take a trip to San Francisco for July, partly because I was getting pretty tired of the Boston tech community, and partly because I won’t have the same opportunity to come back until at least December (if not June) (reason: college). From my past four weeks here in the great state of California, life isn’t completely different from Boston: I’m spending most of my time here working and cooking and waiting for the subway.

But there are a number of more interesting things at play that do cause Silicon Valley to have the reputation it does as the premier place for startups (and founders) to be.

The environment: “you better be hauling ass right now” attitude. Silicon Valley really sets the tone of startups. I can hardly walk in the city for a day without noticing a startup in the basement of some office building with engineers tapping about. The atmosphere is a mixture of the “hauling ass” attitude and knowing that 80% of the people you know here are working on or at a startup. And there’s a mutual understanding among this group that each one is working hard towards success.

Something that Silicon Valley has is the idea of moving fast. Everyone here moves fast. Startups are launching every day. Engineers are pushing code every few minutes. Acquisitions are happening weekly. If you’re walking in SoMa or down University or California Aves in Palo Alto, there’s a massive amount of startups just like yours around. So many people around you are focusing on building a disruptive product, or increasing conversion rates, or designing experiences. In this environment, it’s hard not to be inspired to get back to work, whether that means answering emails, or pushing code, or setting up a meeting with a potential client or investor or advisor.

Because of this environment, work feels great. There’s this thirst for success that Silicon Valley has, imposed in various ways. Your friend is doing stuff at this startup that’s making the headlines. Your other friend is the founder of a startup that just got half a million in angel funding. And when you hear that, you know you want that too. And you know that the only way you’re going to get that success is if you start hustling right damn now. There’s a rush of endorphins when you’re bombarded with what might be in your old hometown (Boston, for me) the stuff of legends, but in fact happens all the time in the Valley.  Work gets boring when we forget that when we work, we’re getting that much closer to success. Doing work means working toward success. Success feels great, and as a result, work feels great. Everyone here believes that the work they do is awesome, and they inspire others to do the same.

Events… and some of the most interesting things are the most serendipitous. This is something I kind of expected, but it still rings true. Events happen all the time here, in so many areas and so many meetups. If you want to attend both a huge TechCrunch August Capital party as well as a super-focused group of startup entrepreneurs that are focused on the idea of lean startups and failing fast, then hitting up a random night at a bar that your friend organized that an angel you’ve been wanting to talk to is also attending, this is the place to be. Anywhere else, and it’s like experiencing theater without being on Broadway. Or clam chowder without being in Boston.

Randomness is a huge thing at play in Silicon Valley. A lot of events happen on a whim (and services like the excellent Plancast only help you somewhat keep up with the scheduled ones). In most places outside Silicon Valley, stuff like my friend texting me and letting me know there’s a Heyzap party that’s going on tonight and I should go, resulting in meeting an incredible amount of great people. There’s so many brilliant and well-connected people here, and it’s so easy to meet them.

Close proximity to people you want to know and meet—and the ability to get introduced to them. An incredible amount of people really worth knowing are here. Advisors, fellow startup guys, founders of the company you want to partner with, angels, venture capitalists, and just smart people working on amazing things. For example, as I was spacing out thinking about database design at Starbucks, the guy next to me pulled up Hacker News and later mentioned he was a founder of a Y Combinator company. Or, perhaps something that could become one of the most important relationships I’ve ever revived:

Two weeks ago, I crashed a party held by a guy that worked at Zappos I didn’t know, only because I saw that Francine Hardaway was attending on Plancast. I did a panel with Francine Hardaway about how generations have been affected by technology and vice versa at Gnomedex three years ago. As we caught up and chatted about everything, we delved into business in China, which she vehemently urged me to pursue. I’ve never been really huge about China, but she persuaded me to talk to Dave McClure and her other friends from the East Asia group on Geeks on a Plane (a conference-hopping air vessel with, well, geeks aboard). This stuff happens here. It’s this dynamic that makes amazing things happen.

Live a life here, too. We all need a time and place to relax and experience life. San Francisco to San Jose, the bay is an incredibly dynamic environment for social activities as well as places to go to reset (at least from my limited experience. I’ve been told (by Abby) to stay away from the beaches up north because you’d have to bring a sweatshirt. Not unlike Boston beaches.) Jane H. from Twitter introduced me to an amazing dance event in Palo Alto called Friday Night Waltz; I hear there’s a massive nightlife culture going down at Mission; the different neighborhoods in the city have their own special feel. It’s cultured and it’s an amazing place to lead that thing-on-the-side-of-doing-work that we call life.

Five reasons Silicon Valley’s right for me—and could be for you. We’re creating the future of technology, and this place is the catalyst.

I just read John Gruber’s article ‘First to Do It’ vs. ‘First to Do It Right’. It talks about how Apple is, essentially, going to be “the first to do it right” on video calling. This brings up an interesting situation:

We currently can make calls from devices such as N900s (over Skype) and HTC EVOs (over Fring). It’s already been established that such functionality exists and has existed, but nobody’s been able to get it right. In other words, the manufacturers that currently have tried video calling have established video calling as something that industry onlookers have described as “it’s been tried before, and it always fails. nobody uses it.”

But why is it that when the iPhone 4 is introduced, everyone that I know that is getting an iPhone 4 is “excited about the video calling” and “will be using it all the time”? Why is it that people that aren’t into technology at all are talking about the iPhone 4 video calling functionality in the break room? Why is there, all of a sudden, a belief in the idea that video calling can be resurrected by Apple and FaceTime?

There are a few reasons, none of them mutually exclusive.

  1. The simplicity of FaceTime adds greatly to its appeal. John Gruber argues this point in his article, and compares this to the video call procedures of the HTC EVO with a quote from David Pogue’s review of the HTC EVO.
  2. Apple’s track history in making perfect experiences. Subconsciously, do we think back upon Apple experiences, and draw extrapolations on those experiences regarding their future products, such as FaceTime? Compare this to if Microsoft launched a front-facing camera on their new KIN line of phones. Usually, when people think Apple, they think excellent user experience, whereas Microsoft—which reminds me of Windows Mobile and even the clunky and slow KIN interface—they’d be thinking the opposite.
  3. Advertising of the FaceTime feature as a flawless, seamless experience (see video below.) Especially the fact that they included FaceTime as a prominent feature of the iPhone 4, whereas the HTC EVO—even though there was a lot of chatter about there being a front-facing camera—with other phones, didn’t.
  4. Is it the first real video calling solution that normals have been introduced to? Have normal users really been introduced to mobile video calling before the iPhone?

As I step on the subway, I take note of society around me. I love the subway. It’s one of the best places to explore one’s curiosities about society and the world. However, today I notice one thing.

Everyone is connected.

Through mobile.

Let’s take a step back. Let’s look at mobile from the big picture standpoint. Mobile is what connects us. It is what breaks barriers of distance and time. It allows humans to communicate notwithstanding the normal constraints of communication. We can call, text, or MMS anyone we know in the world.

Everyone around me there are mobiles. iPhones, Blackberries, Nokias, Motorolas. All of them connected in an international network that connects all people to each other.

What is so amazing about mobile is that it is the first technology to connect people wherever they are. As opposed to before.

It’s a completely revolutionary technology. Mobile. 3 billion subscribers. And we’re just getting started.