Before Christmas I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco and to combine fun with some interesting discoveries regarding our aims for GearedApp. Even though it has taken me a while to get round to this blog post, the topic itself offers enthusiasm and excitement for us tech lovers who are constantly trying to get things right within our startup business.
During the trip I met a lot of interesting people ranging from those who run startups like myself, to those who work in big enterprise organizations. I found that regardless we shared dreams and opinions.
To begin the week, I finally got the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the founder and CTO of Weendy, Yiannis Varelas. Weendy is a fast growing community based weather network. Yiannis is a person with passion and vision about his product and our conversations were concentrated around technologies and business growth. Regarding what we do with GearedApp, it was really interesting to discuss cross-platform technologies like Appcelerator Titanium and its limitations. After sharing our experiences on the topic, we concluded that Titanium is a great platform for prototyping or for a first release, but for more complicated applications it is better to use native programming environments. Additionally, we shared the stress and the problems that occur within a startup company, and also the excitement that you get when your digital “child” achieves things.
After this, I grabbed the opportunity to visit the headquarters of oDesk. oDesk is a big and dynamic online marketplace for remote/freelance jobs. There I met the founder and CTO, Odysseas Tsatalos and the Principal Data Scientist/ Architect Panagiotis Papadimitriou. What made a big impression on me was their simplicity and direct attitude. These people seemed really happy and passionate with what they are trying to achieve. It was a really great opportunity to see how a big organization operates and to talk with employees. I attended a meeting with Panagiotis and his colleagues, which was a great chance for me to present what we do at GearedApp and the potential markets we want to dive into. A valuable outcome for us was their advice on how we can improve the services we provide and the discussion about our dynamic business model. Finally, I got a big surprise when I bumped into an employee of Google who was visiting a friend. I jumped at the chance to speak to an expert and asked a lot of questions such as “how does it feel to work for Google?” and “what is it like working with algorithms for machine learning?”. I had a mixture of curiosity and enthusiasm throughout the conversation but I was pleased when I realised the simple, down to earth attitude of a person who works in an organization like Google.
Another opportunity and equally interesting conversation emerged while I was in a bar in the center of San Francisco. This was with a data scientist, Ankan, who just started to work for LinkedIn. Ankan is a really motivated and funny guy and while at first we were chatting about cocktails, eventually we stepped into to my favorite topic – algorithms! We talked for a while and eventually ended up discussing behavior, which was quite cool!
It is really important that during every conversation we have, especially when we do business and we want to reach people with our products, not to forget the humanistic side. These meetings and opportunities that took place in the other side of Atlantic Ocean have provided us with influence and feedback on our goals and aspirations for our Edinburgh-based company. On one hand we are in a startup environment, with the pressure of achieving good products and services on our shoulders, on the other we have the stress of generating enough income to allow us to continue on this route. Although we have an idealistic impression about Silicon Valley, I have to confess that it is a highly competitive and very different environment that we are not accustomed to in Europe. The mentality there is highly motivated towards taking risks and being innovative. The reinvestment of profits and capital into new companies makes San Francisco a unique place for business, products and success, not only in terms of income, but also in seeing your dreams come true. On the other hand, there are the people that work for these organizations, who have begun with an idea, nurtured their start-up and watched it grow into a global company with thousands of employees around the world. Universities like Stanford prepare graduates for contributing to these companies and become the entrepreneurs that will create the next generation of tech innovation.
In my mind I have hundreds more pictures from this trip, and there are many blogs that are specialized in the analysis of Silicon Valley, but for our new startup, the people we meet along the road are especially important to us. The purpose of this post was to present some of these people and the environment I experienced during my Californian adventure, and to start a conversation on how can we create a healthy and fast growing business environment in Scotland and around Europe. There are certainly many ways in which we could adapt to the Silicon Valley way, but we have to investigate the ethnography and cultural aspects of the European society.
Feel free to tell us your opinion and experiences. We are really keen to listen to all of you out there and cooperate and focus on the bigger picture of our business environment.