8 Thoughts from a Techie on SF vs NYC


We take a quick break from the #WkofBks to bring something a little different for the Your Turn Challenge (Day #5, yes I’m behind). I just spent a week in San Francisco, seeing friends and working out of the Percolate SF offices. While they were fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about my time here. I spent nine years in the Bay Area, and four of them in SF, and none of the things on this list should surprise someone living in the Bay Area. But since I’ve spent the last year in NYC, these things jumped out at me as being noteworthy.

It’s a smaller world.

The magic (and for some, curse) of Silicon Valley is just how connected everyone and everything is. I stayed with my friend and Stanford classmate Bilal, who works at Optimizely. One night at the Caltrain station, I ran into someone else I knew from Stanford, who was also working at Optimizely, who I later saw when I got lunch at the office. While waiting to meet a founder friend for lunch , I ran into a high school friend who had started and sold a company to Comcast, and another high school friend who was getting her PhD at Stanford. The serendipity of encounters is one of my favorite things about Silicon Valley, but I’m sure it can sometimes feel suffocating. In NYC, the tech community is smaller, but somehow people aren’t talking to each other that much, or it’s just taking time to build up the relationships. I still feel like I might meet someone at a tech event and never see them again.

Getting around is hard, and Lyft/Uber makes a big difference.

Getting around SF (or Palo Alto) isn’t easy. BART doesn’t cover a lot of ground and the buses are slow and unreliable. There’s a really good reason for why Lyft and Uber found their traction here. I actually used Lyft Line a number of times and matched up on three separate occasions. On each one, the driver, the other passenger and I were able to have a friendly and interesting conversation. This is what we had always hoped to build at Ridejoy and while we ultimately shut down the business, it’s amazing to experience real-time short distance ridesharing for myself. NYC on the other hand has an extensive and fairly reliable public transportation system and plus a ton of cabs on every street corner.

People are more active but less fashionable.

I saw a ton of people running around outside during my visit, and heck I was invited to a hike at Pacifica that ended up being around 30 people.  The cold weather, the narrow streets, and the lack of easy access to hiking trails means it’s harder for New Yorkers to be active, unless they are part of a gym, yoga studio, or other organized fitness program. On the flip side, people like to stay comfortable, with their Lululemon pants, microtech shirts, and hoodies. NYC is definitely a better dressed and ultimately more attractive population.

It’s hard to find good sales people.

A couple people expressed the notion that it’s been hard to find great sales people for their company. I have a feeling it’s because if you’re a non-programmer/designer coming to Silicon Valley and you’re smart, hard-working and ambitious, you end up in a role where you’re not necessarily developing sales skills. You go into marketing, or operations, or product management. Whereas in New York, there seem to be a lot more jobs like media, finance, PR, where you develop skills like cold-calling, client-facing interaction, hitting defined quotas, working off commission, and these can form the basis of a good sales professional.

Not everyone wants to be a founder, or a even a manager.

As a founder and a manager, I can accidentally fall into the idea that everyone wants that. And while many of my friends are active entrepreneurs, or former/aspiring founders, some are not. And they are very clear about that. They enjoy, at least for the moment, honing their skill set as an individual contributor.

Knowing your strengths creates confidence.

This is less about SF vs NYC and just a thought about as the people I know gain more working experience, they are starting to see what makes them successful. They get to know what works for them, whether it’s thinking strategically about revenue generating opportunities, or user experience design, or doing viral stunts that generate incredible buzz. That understanding leads to confidence, because you can start to select roles and opportunities that work for you, rather than trying to jump at everything you see.

Once you’ve been CEO, everything else is easier.

Another city-agnostic thought was just from friend of mine who’s a few years older than me. He founded a media company, raised several rounds of financing, and sold it last year. After consulting with the firm for a while, he took a full-time role at a different company as a VP of Strategy and Operations. He’s basically the number two guy at the company. And I loved the way he put it. He’s doing a lot of great work at the new company and said that basically everyone thinks he’s a genius, and while he’s just thinking “Man, this is a walk in the park compared to when I was running my business as the CEO.” It’s an n of 1 but the idea sat with me.

You might see good friends every week.
One of my friends mentioned that she sees a group of friends every week for dinner. I was stunned. I feel like in New York, if you see someone once a month who you aren’t dating or working with, you’d call them close friend. While it indeed is so easy to get around in NYC, the sheer number of people and activities to do make it hard to schedule time with people on a regular basis.