San Francisco has the Shanghai vibe

I’m sitting in the lounge at SFO airport waiting to board a flight to Tokyo, after a busy couple of days in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. I was here mainly for the Game Developers Conference (GDC), but I actually did not get to see much of it because of an overloaded schedule with meetings. In total I spent about 30 minutes on the expo floor and I did not see any of the presentations that I had planned to watch. I guess that’s normal if you attend a conference like this, because you finally have the opportunity to meet all your industry peers in one place.

The trip itself was absolutely worth the long flight. I arrived last week Friday morning at 9 AM and spent most of the day in meetings (a good way to forget about the 15-hour time difference between SH and SF). I also made a 1.5 hour walk around town, from Union Square to Coit Tower and back. On the weekend I worked at bit in the morning and went for a run (I got up very early because of jet lag) and did some sightseeing in the afternoon.

On Saturday I drove to Napa Valley and visited the Robert Mondavi winery, and on Sunday I drove part of Highway 1 along the coast. The Bay area is a stunning place to live, you have everything here: beautiful nature with hills and beaches, a nice but relatively quiet city (SF is more like a town, especially compared to SH), a good nightlife (restaurants, theater), and excellent sports opportunities (you can even go skiing in less than 3 hours, you can see the snow covered mountains while driving south on 280). And the weather is nice, fresh air, clear skies and a good temperature.

But best of all is the entrepreneurial vibe that I feel here. The vibe that I am missing in Holland (and in most of the world for that matter), but that I am so used to in China, is here as well. People think in opportunities instead of in risks. People are not afraid to fail. There is a start-up culture, especially in area around Stanford University (Palo Alto etc.), which is very inspiring to me.
I talked to several VC’s and angel investors over the past days and am surprised about the number of new start-ups here. Of course I should have known about it because I’m following blogs like Venturebeat and TechCrunch, but I somehow had the wrong impression that the recession would have had a negative impact on start-ups. I don’t feel that’s the case, but please correct me if my first impression is wrong.

I would not mind spending some more time here and maybe even doing another start-up in the future. But that would mean I would have to leave China, and that won’t be an easy decision. It won’t happen soon because I have no intention at all to leave Spil Games Asia, but who knows what the long-term future will bring. Life is full of opportunities, you just have to make sure that you grab the right ones.

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  1. Do you feel there is any difference between the American entrepreneurial vibe and the Chinese? Perhaps that would be an interesting subject for another blog post. What do you think are the benefits of Silicon Valley for a startup compared to say Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen? Just presence of many other IT companies?

    I’ve never been to Silicon Valley myself, so I could be totally wrong on the following. My impression is that SV is still ahead, but China is moving much faster and will eventually overtake SV. I wouldn’t want to trade the pace of developments in China for anything in the world.

  2. Glad you enjoyed your time here in Palo Alto and San Francisco. I think the Silicon Valley is a pretty unique place that will continue to hold its own in vibrancy and innovation, even as Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen (and other innovation centers) continue to develop!

    I meant to reach out and see if you had a few moments to meet up (my office is 3 blocks away from the Borders Books you pictured) but sounds like you were incredibly busy (and I was too!).

  3. @Thijs Good question, more something for a new blog post than to write in a comment. I think what makes the Valley such a vibrant place is the combination of lots of other IT start-ups, many VC’s and smart young people, combined with the relaxed atmosphere and lifestyle (which is still lacking a bit in China). I don’t think either place will overtake the other, they are very different and will exist next to each other.

    @Elliott There’s a good chance I will be back in the next couple of months, will let you know in advance. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on the Valley and the pros/cons of setting up a business there.

  4. Do you know of meeting groups or events which entrepreneurs frequent in Shanghai?