Adventures of a Foreigner in Silicon Valley; Part 2: Roof, Empathy and Connection.
Two weeks have passed since we settled to the quiet life in Palo Alto. It’s amazing how much work you can get done with close to no distractions, and when you’re in the right environment. The Bay Area is certainly the right place for us, and it keeps getting better: only last week we had two surprises at out office.
Our new neighbors moved in, and they turned out to be a Russian FinTech VC firm. Guess what, we’re a FinTech startup! They are quite new to bitcoin and blockchain technology, so we’re keen to teach them about this, and to learn from them about how FinTech VCs think. The same day, we realized we also share building with another bitcoin company we respect a lot: Coinalytics. It’s amazing to be surrounded with so many people working in related areas. While the tech community in Buenos Aires is super rich, it’s not as vast and deep as what we have here.
One of the biggest problems we had to deal with this weeks was finding a place in San Francisco. The end of September is approaching and we need to free our current apartment by October 1st. But unfortunately for us…
You can’t possibly imagine how crazy it’s to rent in San Francisco, unless you’ve gone through the experience. First off, prices are insane. For comparison, I used to pay ~$500 for a 3 bedroom apt back in Buenos Aires. Something similar would easily cost $5000+ in SF.
And the demand is super high too, so you’re competing with dozens of other applicants for each place. Some come into the market and disappear in a matter of hours! We were lucky to find a group of 3 European girls leaving their current apartment who are helping us take their spot. We still have to sort out some financial checks, though, and the system is mega-stupid.
With regards to work, we’re mostly talking with people. For a developer like me, it’s hard to spend 80% of the time not writing code. We’re trying to apply user-centered design principles that could be simply reduced to “listen to your users and try to understand them”. The amount of things we’re learning by just talking to people is fantastic. We’re also developing very useful skills in empathy and listening. This is an attempt to prevent previous mistakes where we built products for which there wasn’t a strong demand. We know we’re good at executing and building awesome products when we know what to aim for. We’re now trying to improve our aim :)
An invaluable resource for us has been speaking with our investors. If everyone in the Bay Area is open to help, they are especially so. It may not be this obvious when you start, but an investor is someone that not only believes in your team, but he has also put a lot of their hard-earned money at stake! They’re definitely going to help you in any way they can, be it via advice, introductions, talking about your company to other great people, and giving you access to many more resources (e.g: the apt I’m writing from). Really, most of the times, you just need to ask, and they’ll help with anything! If you choose smart investors (which you should, at all costs!), you’ll also have amazing feedback on your ideas, plans, ways to approach new situations, and strategy.
As a final comment, now that I’ve been here for almost a month, I’ve started to miss Buenos Aires. I decided I would deal with that problem in two ways, and it’s been working out pretty well so far.
First, I’m trying to make new friends here and have a somewhat active social life. I declared myself the company’s “Chief Happiness Officer” and I’m constantly trying to make sure we’re all motivated and well rested. People in the Bay Area are amazing, and many share our interest for tech and other nerdy things, so it’s easy to make friends. There’s also a lot of Argentines here who help us try to understand the weird SF nightlife (more on that in a future post, maybe).
Second, I stay in touch with my loved ones as much as I can: WhatsApp, Facebook, emails, etc. I’m doing 3 or 4 skype calls per week with close friends and family, and they really really help. It’s important to stay happy and connected to your roots, even from a “what’s-best-for-the-startup” perspective. Whatever helps the founders also helps the company. And talking to people in Buenos Aires makes me come down to earth, be thankful, and stay positive. Thank you to everyone supporting us from Argentina!