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27 hours in Silicon Valley

A few days ago I blogged about the fact that I would not be traveling anymore over the next 2-3 months. However, I had to break that promise this week already for a sudden one-day trip to San Francisco. Right now I am on my way back, typing this somewhere above the Pacific.

After I decided on Tuesday afternoon to fly to California, everything went very quick and I boarded a plane on Wednesday around lunch time. The flight itself was a bit scary, as one of the passengers had a heart attack while we were at least 3 hours away from the closest airport. Luckily there were several doctors on board who stabilized the patient (an older lady). We arrived in SF on time at around 8 AM, even though we left with a small delay. Going through customs I got the usual amount of questions, especially about why I would travel from China to the US for just one day.

From the airport I went straight to the NewTeeVee conference, where Gary was speaking on a panel when I arrived. I had a huge black coffee in the lobby to fight my jetlag and worked on my email a bit. After Gary was finished a reporter from a San Francisco newspaper came over for a short interview, and then we left the conference to grab some lunch close to Stanford. In the afternoon we had several meetings, one of them on Sand Hill Road, the famous road where all major VC’s are located. It was my first time on Sand Hill Road, and I must say that the VC offices on the West Coast are not as nice as I had expected. Functional, but very different from the ones I have seen so far in Europe.

The last meeting of the day was at Apple headquarters, where we had a discussion with Steve Jobs. He is one of my role models, so I was quite excited to meet him in person. I told him among others that he should improve the service of Apple in China, and that he should personally visit China (he has never been here, but he said that he loves China). Maybe in combination with the first official store that Apple will open on the Mainland (in Beijing)?

After that meeting we drove into town and had a great sea food dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. I was quite exhausted after a night without sleep on the plane and a pretty heavy jetlag (SF is 16 hours behind Shanghai), and we went back to the hotel quite early. I was in bed by 11 PM, but woke up around 3:30 AM. I tried to go to sleep again but I was completely awake. I could not get a good wifi connection in my room, so zapped a bit on the TV. A total waste of time, but there was not much else I could do at that time. Around 5 AM I decided to go for a run to the campus of Stanford University. This turned into a 1.5 hour run (around 15 km I think) because it was a bit further from my hotel than I thought. I got a good overview of the impressive campus, it’s a very nice place. Then I packed my bag and had breakfast at a local donut shop with free wifi, where Gary picked me up later to go to the airport.

At the airport there was a huge line for check-in, and I was afraid I would miss my flight. But 45 minutes before departure (after waiting for more than one hour in line) they opened a separate line and I still got my boarding pass on time. At security it turned out that the airline had put a special code on my boarding pass, because of my strange travel behavior (buying a ticket a few hours in advance and only staying in the US for 27 hours). I had to go through a special testing procedure that I still do not fully understand. I had to stand in a cabin with my shoes off where they shoot air at you. I guess that is tested for chemical substances? Then all my luggage (inside and outside) was wiped with special paper and this was also tested. You feel treated like a criminal, but there is not much you can do, so I just sat back and looked at what they were doing. Nothing was wrong of course, and I arrived at the gate just in time for the departure of my plane to China. It was an intensive and interesting day in Silicon Valley.

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  1. Marc, Gary,

    Excellent Stuff!

    Lets see if the US and Europe start realizing that China is developing IP as well those days….

    Looking forward to see what will come out of it 🙂


  2. Marc, this is fantastic! you even met Steve Jobs, I’m so inspired. Thank you also for telling Steve to pay more attention to the Chinese market. Mac is a so much better productivity machine than any PCs, it’s definitely going main stream. I think big PC vendors should seriously consider supporting linux, because Microsoft is just hopeless in competing with Apple, it’s increasingly becoming a stigma to use windows these days.

  3. Great news. And you make everybody jealous and sad. Grrrrrrrr. Why you 🙂
    Everybody’s question is of course … why exactly did you have to go there and why exactly did you meet Steve Jobs? Will iphone … start distributing Tudou movies when they launch the device with China Mobile in 2008?
    Tell us all, my dear!

  4. @Marcel: Most IP is still coming from outside China, but this country will catch up fast. It may surprise the US, that still regards China as backward.

    @Lei: I also think Mac is much better than any Windows PC, but price will be an issue in China. On the other hand, Chinese are willing to pay for products to show off their ‘wealth’. Maybe Apple can fulfill that desire?

    @Jan: Your guess is as good as anyone’s 🙂 Sorry, but I cannot give any details.

  5. Marc, just had a look at your company website seeriously. Then I had an idea. Why not produce some simple flash educational videos to teach young kids web 2.0 tools like flash, or photoshop, these sorts of videos can be done cheaply and easily, they are also better than the traditional book learning. You can sell them cheaply online, or distribute them freely for publicity and advertising purposes. just a thought…

  6. @Lei: This idea already exists actually, although not specifically for kids (as far as I know). For Spill Group / Zlong Games ( is the serious gaming division of Zlong Games) it would not make sense to go into educational video’s. Focus is very important for young companies, and I don’t think this is a revenue or growth driver for our business.

  7. Sounds like a crazy trip, Marc.

    And thanks for giving Steve a “China slapdown.” How many times have I dreamed of that discussion, while paying 100% mark-up for a (probably fake) Mac power brick, or trying to get an iPod repaired in Shanghai?!?

    Get some sleep!