Stuck in San Francisco Airport due to long delays of departures it’s time to reflect on what has been an amazing 4 days in the ‘Bay Area’. Without turning this blog intro a Traveller’s Guide to the West Coast I can honestly say that this part of the US struck me because of it’s laid-back culture, European-style architecture and nice climate. Although the latter can not be confirmed by myself because during our stay the biggest tropical storm of the last 50 years hit SanFran. Yes, it was raining, yes there was storm. But nothing like we sometimes experience in the Netherlands. Finally we found something bigger and better in our country.
The Bay Area obviously is known for the cradle of technological advancement in modern human history. It was here where the first computers were ‘born’, where small garage-startup companies became the heggemoths of nowadays modern computer technology. The first wave in the 80s. Think Apple, think HP. The second wave in the 90s. Think eBay, think Google. And now the third wave with the thousands of Web 2.0 companies, making the internet really revolutionize the way we work and live. And we were here, in the breeding ground of collective binairy intelligence, making this digital era happen: Silicon Valley (now, if that doesn’t sound apocalyptic, I don’t know what does…)
So off we went to our Final Destination, the Mother of all Motherships: Cupertino, headquarters of Apple Inc. In our newly rented convertable Mitshubishi Eclipse (BMW Z4’s were all rented out…) we drove 35 miles south passing by places of which the names have earned a permanent place in the modern fairy tale about the Rise of the Machines. Palo Alto (HP, Facebook), Berkeley University, San Jose (‘Capital of Silicon Valley’)
Cupertino, for that matter, is a place you don’t want to end up living. Sure, working in Cupertino is from yet another dimension (only in case your employer’s HQ is on Infinite Loop One) but the town itself is next to nothing. Apple has found a nice and quite place to settle down, and with an inmense complex of various buildings it determines the landscape of this little town. No other computer companies I know of have a Company Store where you can buy Apple goodies, mocks, T-shirts, pens, all with the world famous Apple logo embossed. Just to keep the brand experience alive. And they succeeded in that because from far, far away Apple fanboys (and girls!) travel to this sacred place to buy an exclusive and tangible artifact of the brand. Their brand. I even heard some guys from Holland visited the Company Store.
In reality of course, driving around Silicon Valley sounds more romantic than it really is. Sure, large buildings with huge signs of well known computer-related brands remember us where we are: Symantec, Yahoo, McAfee, Intel… It’s exiting if you realize the background of this area, but apart from that, these are just buildings. No rainbows of forever promising wealth, no cool dudes in convertables shouting out that they just invented the Next Big Thing in Cloud Computing, or frenzy VC’s (Venture Capitalists) scouting for the Next Big Thing in Cloud Computing. But that was all going to change the next day.
Jack Porter is a serial entrepreneur, as they call that in the Valley. Seven times CEO, Angel investor in tens of startups, multimillionaire and a well-known person in the Valley with a network our friend Shwen looks like an amateur. Jack has a friend, Randy, who has created the world largest community of Angels (Angel = person who invests in startups using their own money). And these Angels have collectively invested more than $200 million in about 200 companies. Many Web 2.0 companies would not exist without the financial injections these people provide. We had a meeting with Jack, and with Randy, to discuss one of our projects. Not to get funding, but to get advice how this business is run.
Jack and Randy know the game well, and enthusiastically they explain how the valley works. How you should set up your legal entity of your company, what you should do with your options, how many options you should submit and much, much more. It slowly became clear that we were very, very inexperienced in this Valley-talk, and we had to put our minds in the highest gear just to keep up with all the jargon throwed at us. “Do you know how Angels and VC’s determine the value of your company?”, Jack asked retorically. “They take the number of software developers inside your company, multiply that by $500,000. Then they take the number of sales people, multiply that by $250,000 and substract that.” OK, we got the message: nerds are important. The more nerds, the higher value your company has. “Make sure you have your CTO inside your company, that’s important. Without a CTO Angels would not even take you seriously…”. Thanks Jack, for the advice. Now let’s first figure out who will be the CEO, before getting into details.
Honestly said, Jack knew what he was talking about. And I don’t say that because he finds our idea “very valuable”, and that “this is the way the industry is moving towards”. Of course that will help in our confidence to go ahead, in whatever construction we’ll come up with. Jack has been in the investing-bizniz for more than 20 years and has a tremendous attention to detail. It was inspiring and exciting at the same time to be able to discuss you plans with Silicon Valley incrowd. Now being Dutch as we are, we need to stay realistic as well. Conceptually our idea has got a green light from the experts, now we still need to implement it.
But first we’re heading to Vegas. Tomorrow the BlogWorld and New Media Expo will kick-off and we’re excited to attend for the third time. Let’s see if the landscape of New Media is changing. We’ll keep you posted.