I am sitting in seat 47E on British Airways flight 285 to San Francisco. The seatbelt sign has been switched off, and people are beginning to move about the cabin.Behind me, two entrepreneurs pass an iPad between them, already engaged in an ancient Chinese board game called Go. Across the aisle, a CEO settles down to watch The Social Network, now required reviewing for business visitors.
After months of planning, we are on our way at last. Welcome to WebMission, the week where 18 entrepreneurs from around the UK get to spend a week on the West Coast of the US, exploring as many opportunities as possible, meeting investors, partners and the media. Some of them may wish to keep those seatbelts fastened!
A range of partners have come together to make this week happen. From UKTI and the Technology Strategy Board through to international law firm Orrick, it would not be possible without some great sponsors. The companies pay their own way, so this is not a free ride!
We will visit Twitter and Microsoft, and meet up with Techcrunch and new incubator KickLabs. The companies, who were selected from more than 100 who applied, will be pitching to VCs on Tuesday morning and we are co-hosting a San Francisco Drink Tank (the event which began in London) on Wednesday.
I think it's fair to say that the week will be pretty busy, and I'm hoping that some of the mission companies will be able to share their experiences with you as the days go by.
The one thing I have learned on WebMission is that there is only so much you can plan in advance. Sometimes the best opportunities come from where you least expect. In a way, I hope some of the participants relate to the line in The Social Network: "We don't even know what it is yet...We don't know what it can be. We don't know what it will be".
Strangely, one of things I'm looking forward to most it catching up with some of the Brits. Michael and Xochi Birch sold Bebo almost exactly three years ago. We'll be hearing about their latest ventures and plans. Andy McLoughlin, founder of Huddle, attended the very first WebMission and has recently moved to San Francisco. It will be good to hear the lessons he has learned and the things he wishes he'd known sooner.
Most of all, I'm looking forward to spending a week in the company of some really interesting entrepreneurs.
Looking around the plane and seeing the conversations already taking shape, I predict they will work hard and play hard. I think that we're in for a good week.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a film to watch and a couple of hours of precious sleep to catch before the adventure begins...
Two WebMission companies will be blogging daily from San Francisco: Gareth Williams, CEO and co-founder of Skyscanner and Max Williams, CEO of Pusher (no relation!) will be keeping you up-to-date with all the gossip, connections and lessons from WebMission 2011. Tune in later for the first updates.