What's Your Problem?

I’m a Startup and I’m Relocating to Silicon Valley

In honor of the start of the Spring 2016 cohort, we present a very special edition of our startup advice column, What's Your Problem?

We turned to alumni from our last cohort for answers to the following question:

I'm a startup founder who's decided to move to Silicon Valley. What should I consider when relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area?

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David Wilson of Asimmetric, moving from Cape Town, South Africa:
Expect to pay a lot for pretty basic, short-term sharing accommodation: around $1,500-2,000 per person per month. You can save if you share with more people. Commuting saps time and energy, so try to find a spot near to where you’ll be working and taking most of your meetings. Berkeley and parts of Oakland are a better value, but you’ll need to travel to Menlo Park or Palo Alto to meet investors, and that can take up to two hours each way.

Make sure at least one person on the team is actively meeting new people and getting to know them. Your reputation and network are really important here, and you need to invest time and effort into them from day one. Chat to everyone you can. Most people are friendly and helpful.

Don’t forget to enjoy the city. It has so much to offer. It’s really easy to get caught up in work — it took me ten weeks to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s a challenging environment right now. If you’re a foreigner or don’t have a track record in the Bay Area, it’s going to be more difficult for you, especially when raising money. But after spending a few months here, we’re convinced it’s the best place to establish and grow our startup. And that’s going to be the same for many other founders. Keep at it!

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Ksenia Vinogradova of flipflic, moving from Tartu, Estonia:
In brief, I would say that the number of startup events taking place daily in San Francisco and Silicon Valley is so overwhelming that it was hard to choose between them, and it’s very important to avoid useless events. For a newcomer, they all might look interesting and promising, but I would strongly recommend planning ahead, and doing quick background checks on organizers and speakers, and most importantly reaching out to the Highway1 community for feedback on events. You need to spend time in the best, most efficient way, given how much each day costs you.

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John Pamplin of Compression Kinetics, moving from Memphis, Tennessee:
Public transportation will get you where you need to go as long as you have plenty of time to get there. MUNI is never on time and takes forever to get anywhere. BART is the way to go if you need speed; I’ve found that BART + walking is the best way to get to most places. If you need to get somewhere faster, grab an Uber or Lyft; it’s not much more expensive.

San Francisco is an amazing city to explore! Grab your backpack, start walking, and make sure you talk to everyone. In this city there’s a good change the person you’re talking to is a fellow founder, a VC, or has the exact expertise you need.

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Alina Balean of Luma Legacy, moving from New York City:
Cherish your Saturdays: really try to spend one day exploring the city or doing something for yourself. I didn’t do this until almost the end of the program, and in retrospect, I should have taken a few hours away from work to reflect.

A lot of realtors were unwilling to rent us a place without meeting us in person. I’d say try airbnb for the first two weeks and push hard to sign a sublease. Avoid bunk beds if you can.

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