Guest Post

If you're going to San Francisco...

San Francisco city is a reflection of the famous rolling hills that pepper the landscape. It’s a city of wild contradictions. Eye watering wealth next to extreme poverty. Aging infrastructure next to world dominating rideshare companies. Killer street food next to restaurants serving food I’ve never heard of. And most importantly for start-ups travelling to SF, advice which leaves you thinking you’ll be the next unicorn followed by advice that leaves you curled up in a corner wishing you stayed in that cushy corporate gig.

I recently was lucky enough to travel to SF as part of the Plus Eight & muru-D accelerator program. Before leaving we were given advice like “VCs will just up and leave meetings”, “don’t walk at night by yourself”, “Americans can come across as rude”, “Australians come across as too slow” and my favourite “careful walking on human poo”. During my two-week adventure in SF I found all that advice to be well off the mark (apart from the human poo advice, that must be taken seriously). Not once did I feel unsafe, the locals were always polite and helpful and everyone we met with was more than generous with their time. In fact, most of our meetings went well past the hour mark and in some cases well in to the early morning hours ;)

Too be completely honest I went to SF a little anxious about getting my business idea ripped to shreds. In reality, this was the most refreshing part of the trip, and the biggest difference between American and Australian thinking (in my opinion). You could be speaking with a high-profile CEO or VC and they genuinely listen. Like really listen. The culture in SF is that anybody could have the next unicorn idea, so everybody listens. That is then followed by in-depth advice or any contacts they feel could help you. Or even better is when they don’t believe your idea will work “and this is why……”.

Sounds crazy but my most productive meeting was with a CFO who ripped our financial model apart.

Reflecting on the trip I’m even more positive that Australia is an amazing place to run a start-up, you just need to apply some American thinking to your company culture. If your only goal is to create the next unicorn then pack your bags, America will help you make it happen.

I run a travel company, so honestly believe you can learn something from all cultures and America is no different. Call me crazy, but there’s more to life than just money. Maybe people from SF should come down to Aus and learn a little something from our amazing culture.

That’s my two cents.

Paul Rowsthorn

Co-founder of Hopolla.com