Guest Post by Ryan Johnson.
Just last week I went to the SoMa district of San Francisco to check out Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP), which is situated between startup giants Twitter and Square. As I was talking with Catherine Robinson, director of KLP, I reflected on how much my wife Vicki and I have accomplished in our first month in San Francisco. We moved to San Francisco from Wellington in November to advance our startup, ProFellow.com. It’s incredible how far we’ve come – figuratively and literally!
ProFellow is dedicated to helping people find and win professional and academic fellowships. Since stepping off the plane, we’ve had a stacked calendar of meetings, events and conversations with new and established industry partners as well as advisors with expertise in our industry. For example, we’ve met with 10 fellowship organizations and held a networking dinner in SoMa for alumni of prestigious fellowships. We’ve also participated in several startup events, such as the SFBay Startup Weekend, and even met the founder of the international Hackers and Founders Meetup, who was thrilled to learn more about the Wellington chapter that I help co-manage. Vicki even spoke to a large captive audience about fellowships at the American Geophysical Union conference that just took place at the Moscone Center downtown. We can see the direct impact to our new sign-ups, which have nearly doubled since moving to the U.S.
For an entrepreneur living and working in San Francisco is extraordinary because the city is teeming with founders. You meet new people every day who will both celebrate and commiserate with you on the ups and down of startup life. It’s something every entrepreneur should experience. For early stage startups, I recommend checking out KLP’s program, which helps get you to San Francisco and arms you with a plan so you can make the most out of your time here.
Also, through Geekplane, an early stage startup focused on travel exchanges for technical help, Vicki and I are offering a free two-week stay at a private room in our flat in central San Francisco in exchange for some added features to our website. Email me (ryan[at]profellow.com) to learn more!
Ryan Johnson, Cofounder of ProFellow.com
When you mention the name Silicon Valley, for a lot of people it conjures up images of tech wizardry, flashy multi story high rises – some sort of hi tech utopia. And it is a tech utopia, well sorta. For a lot of New Zealanders, landing at SFO, jumping on Highway 101 and heading south to Silicon Valley, can feel like a bit of a disappointment. There is no “Welcome to Silicon Valley” road sign or the ubiquitous visitors centre full of t-shirts and coasters. Silicon Valley is home to some of the worlds largest and most influential tech companies and it is enormous – 1500 square miles of companies, housing, test facilities, venture capitalists, accelerators and strip malls.
Leaving San Francisco we jumped on the 101 and headed south to Facebook. We parked up at the new Menlo Park mega-campus to say hi to Wellingtonian Andrew Pope, one of the talented engineers based there. Andrew works on ensuring that Facebook’s 1billion+ user base has complete and timely access to their FB page updates. The campus culture reflects its unique Hacker Way approach, and the buildings and outdoor spaces reference the creative and open environment they have embraced. It was no surprise that we saw Mark Zuckerberg on campus. What better way to launch our KLP Facebook pagethan to grab a bite of lunch with Andrew and to write on Facebook’s own real-life wall. And lunch? Mmm delicious Portuguese food cooked in one of Facebook’s staff cafeterias. We can confirm that they do look after their employees’ stomachs rather well.
Driving past more manicured driveways to the next city, Mountain View. Famously home to another of the tech world’s giants, Google. Its headquarters are set out in a huge sprawling campus where modus potare are a fleet of very colorful Google bikes. Don’t try to trespass, they know where you live, what your house looks like, and which brand of kitchen blender you’re contemplating purchasing. Best to move on.
Some more miles on the freeway brings us to our last stop, One Infinite Loop, Cupertino (tech people are crazy about infinite loops…). Here we are taking a look at the design forward powerhouse, Apple. Their headquarters look, well, much the same as the other sprawling campuses we’d seen all over the valley. Of course, you can’t judge a Macbook by the cover, and we all know the inside is where the magic happens. There is a gift shop where you can hand over some dollars in exchange for novelty t-shirts and pens made by the Apple gods.
Well,120 miles and we are heading back to San Francisco. If you are thinking of checking out Silicon Valley or you are making appointments to visit companies in Silicon Valley, make sure you allow plenty of time between meetings and seriously consider driving. The Cal-Train from San Francisco is good, but you will still need to criss cross the valley to head to your destinations. There are few places that are walking distance to anything.
There’s no denying that the sun drenched peninsula has fostered a tech industry now unrivaled anywhere else in the world. The big guys are all here, just don’t expect them to invite you in for a cup of tea. Unless of course you know a Kiwi that works at one of them, then you could be in luck. Thanks Andrew!
KLP’s Facebook page is now up and running. Like Us on Facebook to keep tabs with all the latest community happenings.
Go Vocab founders Michael Dowse and Jeremy Geros headed back to Wellington a couple of weeks ago, but before they left, I sat down with them to get a feeling for what they had learnt during their time here at KLP.
Michael and Jeremy won the BNZ Start-Up Alley prize at Webstock which gave them a month at KLP plus money for most of their expenses. They were impressed at just how focussed San Francisco is on technology – and it really is a wholly immersive experience. Standing on Harrison St, tech billboards are visible in every direction. Main stream network channels like NBC Bay Area cover all the latest technology news, there is an app for almost anything you can think of. You don’t order a taxi – you Uberit. Feel like some truffle fries – then Get it Now. Need that “thing” done now – Task Rabbit.
Coffee at The Creamery or SightGlass Coffee is an immediate introduction to how entrepreneurs venture capitalists, consumers and job seekers keep this community an active and exciting environment. Both Michael and Jeremy commented that they have very general skill sets, primarily web design. They were blown away at how specialised people’s skill sets are here. Most nights Michael and Jeremy headed out to events like Airbnb Meetups where they meet with other entrepreneurs and listened to inspiring stories at Airbnb Fireside Chats.
Read more about their experience at KLP and how winning the BNZ Start-Up Alley prize at Webstock will accelerate Go Vocab here.
Guest Post written by Christian Hirsch founder of Mohio.
Since I started a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Auckland in 2007, I always took an applied approach to my research. Being able to address real-world problems with new software tools has guided much of my work. Now seeing the results of this research form a startup is extremely exciting! Recently I had the opportunity to be based at Kiwi Landing Pad for a few weeks and explore opportunities in the US market for our early-stage startup Mohio.
My research at the University of Auckland was focused on the intersection of Software Engineering, Knowledge Management, and Visualization Tools – and we could see commercial applications from early on. Since completing my PhD last year, I have been working on bringing the technology to the market with the help of UniServices. Mohio, still in its pre-launch stage, will be positioned in the “Social Business Intelligence” domain.
During my time at the University, I was also involved with the Spark entrepreneurship challenge – a great platform for students to turn ideas into startups. Prior to my stay at Kiwi Landing Pad I had also spent some time at Stanford University, attending the Stanford Ignite programme, where I gained insights into the entrepreneurial environment of Silicon Valley.
The Kiwi Landing Pad was the ideal next step to learn more about opportunities in the US market and refine our business model and product. It was a great base to connect with people, conduct market validation for our technology, and attend industry conferences in the area. Catherine at Kiwi Landing Pad has been very helpful for getting us in touch with the right people and for further developing our strategy. My visit to San Francisco was a great opportunity to evaluate the market and establish important contacts. It has added invaluable input to our startup from a global perspective.
Once ready for launch, more information about Mohio will be available at: www.moh.io
Second week in, I’ve been trying to get a sense for the SF start up community at large.
Here are some links to some of the more interesting spaces I visited this week;
A) If I wrote about all of these places, this would be a very LONG post – check out the websites if you’re interested in visiting SF, they’re worth your time.
B) This is by no means an exhaustive list, far more to come.
C) ALL of them are within walking distance.
Co working space on 11th st (We’re on 5th) – Spent a day here on the ground floor, nice crowd.
2- Rocket Space
A “Tech + New-Media Only” shared space, a lot of activity going on here.
3 – NextSpace
These guys are popping up all over the country, looking forward to finding out more when I visit next week.
4 – The Hattery
These guys are a little bit different, in that they’re more product-focused. Check the (very pretty) site.
5 – The Hub
Another co-working space that seems to be sprouting up across the country, these guys tend to have a more ‘social entrepreneurship’ angle in terms of what kind of startups they house.
One thing that becomes quickly apparent is people’s general open-ness to sharing, so remember to bring your own ideas if you’re going to be attending meetings at different places, and be willing to share your thoughts and opinions on others as well.
Next week: An information diet for the busy entrepreneur.
Kiwi Landing Pad
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