Curious to find out whether Silicon Valley is the place
to supersize her business, Anna Lewis has moved from London to San
Francisco for three months with the co-founder of her start-up
ValoBox.com. This is her blog about her experiences in the
The first piece of advice we got when we arrived here was, "say
yes to everything", so last Saturday when we were invited to a
slightly random-sounding party in Mountain View we thought we'd
give it a go.
While I was hanging out by the ridiculous array of free food and
drink, I spotted a young, nerdy-looking guy, who also seemed a bit
lost and awkward. We got chatting and it turned out he actually
co-founded the company hosting the party, which was to celebrate
closing a $30m funding round and kick-off their next big hiring
spree of thirty employees. And they haven't even launched a product
Much later, we ended up crashing at the office/home of ClassDojo, a UK
education technology start-up, following too much drink and
late-night gourmet scrambled eggs. The next morning I woke up on
their office sofa surrounded by Macs, giant whiteboards and the
Polish intern who lives in the shed and had just come in for a
I feel like this pretty much summarises my experience here in
California so far: intensely geeky, fairly bizarre, but ultimately
a lot of fun.
My co-founder and I have been in San Francisco Bay for two weeks.
We came here with the goal of broadening our minds and the growth
prospects for our new venture, ValoBox.
We're living in the city of San Francisco, a 40 minute drive
from Palo Alto. The two places are actually very different -
San Francisco is much trendier, less geeky (though it's all
relative) and there's lots of other business and culture around the
place. In Palo Alto, as one entrepreneur there said, there are
fewer distractions. However, the most striking characteristics
about the people in both places are their friendliness and
People are extremely willing to help you out if they can. Within
the first week we had some free office space sorted thanks to the
UK-based business Huddle, which has a satellite office in San
Francisco. It's very near Union Square and the iconic cable cars of
a city where everywhere is up a massive hill. We've had loads of
handy introductions to people's friends and contacts who might be
helpful, and we even managed to score some free kitesurfing
gear until we buy our own.
You also get the feeling that everyone, whether in a small team
that is hungry for growth or an established business set on world
domination, is pushing themselves to the max. Everyone seems to be
trying to get as much out of their time as possible - life's too
short to do a job that you hate, right?
In terms of work, the move has definitely been keeping us busy.
We still run CompletelyNovel.com, a book publishing hub
connecting independent authors and readers, and we need to talk to
other members of the team and our customers in the UK. The eight
hour time difference means getting online from 6am to try and catch
a decent amount of overlap. Thank the Lord for Skype.
ValoBox, our new venture, is all about delivering a better way of
monetising quality content on the web. Starting with a
pay-as-you-go model for eBooks, which lets you pay only for the
pages or chapters that you need, our goal is to make accessing
premium content as easy as accessing a web page.
We have spent the first couple of weeks connecting with and
meeting a bunch of people who work in book publishing. We also went
to a start-up incubator called RocketSpace where there was a panel
discussing the future of publishing. There's been a lot of
enthusiasm and some great feedback on our product. Our plan for the
next couple of weeks is to meet with more people on the technology
and investment side.
So, just to round up, here are three things I've learned in the
1. Go big or go home. This applies to business, coffee and
supermarket food. The default size for everything is 'bucket'. No
wonder these Californians love their fitness fads.
2. If you're finding somewhere to live in San Francisco, you
need to learn to love Craigslist. Sifting between rental listings
by an inordinate number of vegetarians, cat lovers, and '420
friendlies' (look it up) is what you'll spend a big chunk of your
time doing when you arrive.
3. The name Oli (as in short for Oliver) doesn't exist. This is
tricky for Oli, my co-founder.
Follow @Anna_CN, @Valobox
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