@andrewchen

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Meeting people in Silicon Valley

My family and I moved to Seattle when I was 5 years old, and I grew up there, went to school there, and generally have had my social landscape shaped by that experience. It was a very interesting foundation in which to compare the new experience of meeting dozens and dozens of Bay Area people.

Seattle people versus Valley folks: Brothers lost at birth
In general, the vibe here is very similar to Seattle, and the people are similar too. San Francisco city roughly maps to Seattle, and Silicon Valley roughly maps to the Eastside. Currently I’m living in Menlo Park, down in the Valley, and wherever I go, I see packs of nerds acting and talking in a familiar way – except here, they wear Google shirts and not Microsoft fleece jackets.

The entrepreneurship culture
And of course, there’s the matter of the much vaunted Bay Area culture. There are, of course, more entrepreneurs here than in Seattle. But at the same time, the percentage breakdown of good entrepreneurs versus bad entrepreneurs versus tech poseurs seems about the same. For every guy incorporating a company from Stanford, there are 100 that are brainstorming on it, and 200 that are blogging about it :) At the end of the day, a lot of tech people have normal jobs here – after all, there are 10,000s of employees locked away at companies like SAP, IBM, HP, Oracle, and other huge companies. Entrepreneurs are certainly still in the minority.

A network built for introverts?
Navigating the social network here has been interesting – there are lots of overlapping few-to-few connections. For example, my friend Noah and I might know a lot of the same people, but neither of us know that fact we know the same people. I think this is driven by the "quick intro" culture here, where you meet a lot of people once or twice for coffee or a quick lunch or whatever, without context elsewhere in your life. It’s for this reason I often hear the question, "Oh, how do you know X" over and over again. That said, one interesting implication of this is that most people are only 1 or 2 hops away from an experienced entrepreneur or a VC. So if you’re tinkering on a website for fun, and all of a sudden 100,000 people join the site, you can find experienced advisors quickly – this was never the case in Seattle.

Moxie prized over experience
Another interesting factor has been the sheer number of 20-something entrepreneurs running around, many of them with venture funded companies. Let’s face it – in Seattle, smart people from Stanford and MIT only go there for one reason: Microsoft. So by the time they go in, buy a condo in Kirkland, do some skiing, and go from Program Manager to Group Program Manager, they’re pretty old! And definitely more risk-averse. The kids here come from Berkeley, Stanford, UCSF, and numerous other schools around here, and start companies from an early age. Young folks here are treated as equals here, and taken very seriously, whereas in Seattle I constantly got advice to "get more years under my belt."

All in all, it’s been a great experience – a couple subtle surprises here and there, but overall, it’s a very similar culture to the one I left.

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