I didn’t know that I didn’t know anything: Valley myths debunked
By Goh Ai Ching July 11, 2012
PIKTOCHART, helmed by the wife-and-husband team of Goh Ai Ching and Andrea Zaggia, was the grand winner of the Silicon Valley Comes To Malaysia (SVC2M) event that began last year and wound up last month. Goh, in Silicon Valley on a one-month study and networking tour sponsored by Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) and StartupMalaysia.org, writes about her on-going experience:
Everyone has a lot of assumptions about Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It's not good to have expectations and assumptions and I know that now. Top Few Myths Debunked Completely in the first week of Piktochart's visit:
1) People are cut-throat like in The Social Network movie.
We got invited to a dinner in someone else's house through an email introduction. Would you invite someone to your house with the first email intro? Probably not.
In Silicon Valley everyone is super-helpful, regardless of backgrounds and what they do best, etc. They are very willing to make an intro even though they do not stand to gain anything.
Not really. People dress surprisingly well and they wear expensive hoodies and sneakers. So the sloppy look is all a misconception -- because the clothes are all covered in bling$$.
They also tend to party really hard. I guess the developers do this to a lesser degree but every startup is 20-30% product developers and 60-70% marketing/ business dev/support.
(Click to ‘embiggen’ Internet Troll infographic).
3) SF is sunny, beautiful, with flowers and green all over.
The weather has still been the biggest shock. Andrea lived in Venice which is one of the foggiest cities but NOTHING can beat San Francisco. The clouds are so low you can touch them. It's usually about two storeys’ high and you can never get a good view of Golden Gate Bridge.
4) Stanford University is packed with a lot of people.
Despite its huge size, it almost seems like all the space is wasted as there are not many students around! Is this the summer break? But it is definitely not as pictured in movies and TV series where the halls are packed with students etc.
5) Silicon Valley celebrities are difficult to find or locate.
I went up to one guy during a networking event and introduced myself and then asked "Where are you from? (which startup)" and he replied with "I'm the managing director of AirBNB."
This shows the level of connectivity and how easy it is to get access to the "celebrities" of Silicon Valley. There are plenty of them roaming around, we might not know their faces but they are not shy nor do they hide from the limelight.
So far, I have not heard of people who met Mark Zuckerberg in parties, but I am sure that in in all the events we attend, there are plenty of people who have the potential to be the next Zuckerberg.
6) Everyone knows SF like the back of their hand because of the amount of time they spend here.
Almost 90% of the people who work in Silicon Valley come from all over the world. They are known as "transplants" and not many who were born and bred in SF. It's a truly amazing fact that shows how much of a melting pot this place is.
Another interesting fact I heard – one in two venture-backed companies in the Valley (or America as a whole, I cannot remember) has a C-level executive or co-founder of Indian descent.
7) Things in America are generally expensive.
Food and services are generally VERY expensive. But I can safely say that products are so much cheaper here. Andrea went nuts at the Apple Store, dreaming about every single screen he would buy when he makes it in the Valley. Clothes are generally found for less than US$20.
8) A lot of successful startup founders are all drop-outs.
Contrary to the popular belief of how startup co-founders all drop out of colleges and universities, there is a great number of successful founders we have met who are MIT, Stanford and Berkeley graduates.
The general advice is, stick to university and finish up your college degree. It's still a great credential and stepping stone before you head out for your own business.
Goh Ai Ching is the CEO and co-founder of web start-up Piktochart. For more on her trip to the Valley, check out the company blog here. Internet Troll infographic courtesy of getsatisfaction.com
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