Our CEO, Claire Burge, recently spent a month in San Francisco, a city considered to be one of the largest tech and startup centres in the world. In conjunction with other startup hubs like Boston and Dublin, San Francisco is a thriving centre of innovation, especially given the number of global companies that have started here and have their headquarters in the city.
After a intensive month of both planned and spontaneous meetings, this is a summary of what Claire had to say about her experience in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, as she prepares for another trip to the city at the end of the month:
1. San Francisco has its own business style
Unlike many cities, where business meetings are very formal, San Francisco’s business culture is 100% personal. Think a last-minute casual catch-up over drinks in a trendy new bar with some of the biggest names in tech, or high level CEO engagements around a table at a dinner club. Beyond business relations, work in San Francisco is also about making friends, and making sure to have a good time in the process. Experiencing these kinds of connections reaffirms the way we as a business approach productivity, and the value we place on the human side of work.
It’s difficult to get your head around how easy it can be to make these kinds of connections. Instead of formal introductions, in San Francisco there are spontaneous text messages from business mentors that will get you into an Uber on a whim to meet up with a group of well-known CEO’s. Instead of wishing for more time to really delve into the deeper business questions, in San Francisco there are meetings that turn into 48-hour road trips to Mexico, with intensive strategy and mentoring sessions directed from the right-hand passenger seat.
2. San Francisco is full of smarts
There’s a reason the city is known for innovation. Spending time in the city means meeting and speaking with some of the most educated people in the world, who thrive in a collective of engaging and inspiring individuals. The tech industry by nature breeds this kind of diversity, as people from diverse backgrounds are attracted to the city, which then feeds this eclectic and intellectual culture. With these kinds of people also accessible on a social level, San Francisco can also be truly appreciated for being a hub of genius.
3. San Francisco has its own hierarchy
While business interactions can be casual, friendly and accessible, there’s still a clear distinction between certain kinds of companies in “the valley”. An old-school business gender hierarchy still exists in many spheres, with a more traditional approach to productivity and success.
In addition to that, there’s a more superficial layer to technological development, including apps that serve a superficial purpose, and might be very popular, but don’t really speak to true needs or add long-lasting value. Our company mission and values resonate more strongly with a third sphere of businesses in San Francisco, which I believe are truly focused on changing the world, and whose values speak to a broader global purpose.
4. San Francisco is its own world
While some of the most inspiring examples of innovation begin and develop in the city, it’s true for me that much of this happens in a vacuum. While many of these developments offer value within this environment, something that concerns me is that many of these applications are tested for a wider uptake inside of a closed bubble, without consideration for what value will be added in a different context.
While an incredible experience, and one that has opened doors to so many more interactions and avenues to pursue in our growth as a business, it’s interesting to consider all of the positive and challenging aspects of a thriving and invigorating city, one that we all hope to spend some time as a growing and dynamic company.