Embarking as an entrepreneur in San Francisco

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Hi everyone, I’m one of the three Martians that founded MarsBased, an offshore development start-up a development consultancy highly specialized in Ruby on Rails applications. Truth be told, however, my name is Àlex and I am from the beautiful city of Barcelona.

I quit my job on the 20th of December to pursuit one of my biggest dreams: travel overseas and get to know San Francisco. This way, I could learn about the city, the country, and expand the MarsBased gospel. I will stay here until the 1st of March. I am collaborating with Barcelona Ventures on its blog.

Because there might be other people like me, I’d like to give them some advice. I had little to no time to plan anything before coming, and that might as well be your case. Just make sure you read this blog entry on the plane, at least.

There are three big tasks you need to do in your first days. You can do all of them at once, or you can do them sequentially, depending on how good are you at multi-tasking. Here’s my two cents on how to tackle them.

First task: get the essentials

While you can technically secure a room from overseas, don’t rush it. It’s going to be cheaper to find it from here. Crash at a friend’s or else book a hostel room for some days. We’ll talk about this later.

In order to start working your way up from the very first day you need a phone. Use this tool to find your ideal voice&data plan according to your needs. Why relying on asynchronous communication (E-mail, AirBnB messages…) when you can just call someone while you’re actually heading towards your destination?

As for moving around, get your Clipper Card. It’s the San Francisco public transportation pass. Depending on your needs, you might want to acquire the monthly pass, which ranges between 60-70 dollars.

Full disclaimer: compared to some European countries, SF public transportation is very slow. Has a great coverage around the city and can get you everywhere, but just be aware that it might take more time than you thought. However, Google Maps is you best friend here: the public transportation estimations are really accurate.

If you’re travelling on a broader budget, you might want to take a look at these two fantastic apps: Uber and Lyft. They are carsharing apps that solve perfectly one of the main problems of this city: it’s difficult to find a cab when you need it.

Second task: house hunting

Once you’re up and running, you can devote all your efforts to look for a place to stay.

I mostly relied on these three sources:

  • Circle of friends (of friends)
  • AirBnB
  • Craigslist

Before I flew to SF, I did a small research through my Facebook contacts to check whether I had friends or close contacts that I might contact. Came across a couple of them, and send out some e-mails.

It was through a fourth grade connection that I found my private room in the quiet neighbourhood of Noe Valley.

I haven’t got much to say here: just be super-nice. Be yourself and tell them your story. Chances are, everyone has a friend which knows someone who’s friends with someone whose neighbour is looking for a flatmate. Just make sure you’re that flatmate.

As for the sites, AirBnB provides a nice selection of flats but a little more expensive than Craigslist. Just choose your target.

Be aware that San Francisco is one hell of an expensive city. As a matter of fact, SF is the most expensive US city for rent.

Prices for a private room downtown start from 1500 dollars a month. That is, four times more than what I’m paying for my room in Barcelona.

If you are looking for something cheaper, you can either take a look in more residential districts (further from the city center) or else in Oakland or Berkeley. These two smaller yet cozy cities, lie on the other side of the Bay. Depending on your needs, they might suit you.

San Francisco

Third task: get connected

This is a pretty hectic city. Everything happens very fast, and you’ve got to get used to it. It’s not that they rush things, it’s their rhythm. Love it or hate it, you can still take your “un espresso” or “una siesta”, but you might be missing out on important events.

My advice here is technology is your best friend.

From day zero, scrutinize Meetup and join loads of groups. Participate in all the events that might interest you even in the slightest. You never know where your best contact may spring up from.

From start-up stuff and entrepreneurial contests, to beer pong competitions (they call beer the social lubricant for a reason), there’s a Meetup group for everything.

On a more professional level, Eventbrite will get you other sort of events. Just choose your preferences and jump in.

However, it’s not only about joining events. Take a minute to talk to everyone you meet. Everyone has got a couple of minutes to chat with you, and will most likely hear your story.

In a city where everyone has worked for Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and many big others, you’d probably expect them to ignore small fish like you. Quite surprisingly, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Everyone is extra-nice around here and will introduce you to their group of friends. Act accordingly.

Ok, got it. Now what?

In my next blog entry I’ll highlight the best events I have attended so far and which ones I look forward to.

Stay tuned!

This post was originally published on Barcelona Ventures on 2014-01-10: Embarking as an entrepreneur in San Francisco.

Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit

Àlex Rodríguez Bacardit

CEO and Founder at MarsBased and Director at Startup Grind Barcelona. I run a team of 20 people, where I spearhead the sales and strategy areas. My background in consulting and development (ex-Deloitte, ex-VASS) and my international profile help me with the technical and the business perspective. I love loud guitars, cats, travelling and tacos.