Dam Venture
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The Great LA-ification: 5 Lessons San Francisco VCs Need to Learn from Los Angeles

I’ve been spending at least a week a month in SF over the last 6 months, and I honestly don’t love it. I love the tech ecosystem, the public transit, and the large VC community. But the city and the culture in the venture ecosystem seem like they’re missing a lot of the things I love in LA. As I get closer to moving I’ve been reflecting on what I want to bring to SF VC culture, and it comes down to injecting a bit of LA into SF VC. These are my big lessons I plan to carry with me.

  1. Not everything good has to be tech:

I think my biggest issue with SF has always been that every single thing in the city centers around tech. I’ve stopped telling people that I work in venture capital, not because I’m afraid of being stereotyped or profiled, but because literally every person I tell decides that it’s the ideal time to pitch me on their startup.

Dead serious. I’ve been pitched in Lyfts, at parties, and most infamously, by my future landlord.

SF is obsessed with tech in an unhealthy way, and so much so that individuality and creativity slowly becomes washed out.

So if you’re a VC in SF let me ask you:

Do you actually enjoy biking and rock climbing? Or is that just what all your friends do?

Do you actually like paying $40 for a casual meal at a fast food restaurant? $2300 a month for rent?

Are mission burritos good? Or did your friend who works at Meta tell you that they are?

And if you dreamed at night, could you dream of something that wasn’t money or power?

Mull it over.

2. You can have fun in your own city:

The weirdest trend I noticed about SF VCs is that whenever you ask them what they love about SF, it’s never SF itself. They’ll always say “there’s great hiking!” (the hiking is a two hour drive away) or “I love Napa!” Nobody ever says: “I love to spend my weekend in the Marina” or “I love running on the Embarcadero.”

The funny thing about L.A. is that it’s a car-based city and I know many people who live here and are perfectly happy without a car. You don’t have to go to Orange County or San Bernadino to have a good weekend, you can do that in Venice on the beach, or in Santa Monica at the pier.

The best food is in the city, not in San Jose. The best hikes are in San Gabriel, in Los Angeles county, not in Yosemite 3 hours away.

Basically, I’m trying to say that you don’t have to leave Los Angeles to find something everything love.

San Francisco should find the same.

3. Studied negligence is a better style than fratagonia:

My biggest irk, and my biggest point of confusion entering VC has always been how to dress. The lesson I’ve learned? It’s always better to be the most-underdressed at an event, and, most of what we consider to be “formal clothing” doesn’t even look nice to start.

To paraphrase Stephen DeBarry: there’s nothing wrong with a blue blazer. Doesn’t mean I want to rock one every day.

SF style is untouchable, weird, and oddly pretentious in an uncomfortable way. I never know if I’m supposed to be wearing a blue blazer, a grey Patagonia vest, or anything in-between.

The beauty of L.A., and the beauty of L.A. style is that I can show up wearing an “anti boba boba club” T-shirt and still be dressed in the top decile of formality at an event.

There’s an LA art of looking nice, without looking like you tried to look nice, and even more-so, without looking like everyone else too. This applies to one’s personality as well.

4. It’s OK to be a little basic:

Look, I hate L.A. influencers as much as the next guy.

Here’s the thing though, and the thing we can all learn.

Just because something is basic, doesn’t mean it’s bad.

My favorite brunch spot, and the favorite of many L.A. VCs is a place in Venice called Great White. Is it basic? Absolutely. It’s an all-white cafe with trendy brunch food presented on too-nice of dishes.

And I love it. I also love the pink wall, neon signs, the lights at LACMA before sunrise, and every single plate of avocado toast that I’ve ever had.

Basic isn’t bad, and you don’t have to be contrarian to be amazing. A lesson for brunch, and a lesson for investing.

5. Live your life a quarter mile at a time:

Perhaps my hottest take in this article (especially considering the competition of Die Hard, Mulholland Drive, and La La Land) is that Fast and Furious is the greatest Los Angeles movie that’s ever been made.

In the first movie, the main character, Dominic Toretto says:

“I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.”

I like to live my life the same way. What I love about L.A. is that most of us do.

We’re not obsessed with trying to get to the top, even if that is our end goal.

We’re not a workaholic culture, or a rat race.

We’re trying to enjoy the moment, and the future that comes with it. Ten seconds at a time.

I hope some day San Francisco can discover that too.

I’ll leave you with one other quote from Dom:

“The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room, right here, right now. Salute mi familia.”

And though I’m moving, the most important people in my life right now are the people right here, right now, in Los Angeles. The time I’ve spent here has truly made me into the person I am today, and for that I am eternally indebted to the the City of Angels.

Salute, mi familia.

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Andrew Chan

Andrew Chan

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Senior Associate at Builders VC (https://www.builders.vc/) obsessed with transforming pen and paper industries through advanced technology.