Startup School 2008 – Friday

I’m splitting my post about my trip to Startup School this past weekend into two posts, as there is too much to put in one post.

On Friday afternoon, my wife drove me to the airport, where I barely caught my Virgin America flight to San Francisco. This was my first flight on Virgin America, although I had flown Virgin to London a couple of times before. I had booked first class seats for the trip, as they were barely more expensive than coach. The Virgin America First Class is AMAZING. It’s the nicest First Class I’ve been in, with the possible exception of when I flew to Australia on Quantas. The seats were huge, comfortable, and I could stick my legs out straight in front of me, and there was still 8-12 inches between my pointed toes and the seat in front of me. The chair itself is power adjusted, like my car, which is nice, and has a built-in massager. There is an overhead reading light, and a bendable LED snake-light that comes from behind the seat for more focused light.

The Virgin RED entertainment system is very impressive. There are large touch screens which fold out of the arm rest and allow you to browse an extensive list of live TV channels, on demand TV shows, on demand Movies, a large MP3 library (including some great electronic music I wasn’t expecting to find there), games, and more. On the way down I listened to some of the music, and on the way back I watched an anime movie.

The food was excellent. They offer a collection of tapas-like appetizers which were very good. For my dinner I choose a grilled vegetable ravioli with pesto sauce which was absolutely restaurant quality. Service overall was great.

I arrived into SFO on-time and was met in the terminal by my driver, who whisked me down to Palo Alto to the Westin I was staying at. The hotel was nice, and my room was great. However, they didn’t offer shirt pressing or emergency laundry services. Also, no ATM in the hotel, and if you want a cab you have to walk over to the next hotel, their sister hotel the Sheraton, and try to snag one there instead. I unpacked, and then grabbed a cab to head to the pre-StartupSchool meet-and-greet at Y Combinator that evening. I arrived around 8:30, and the place was PACKED. There were hundreds of people there, all talking to each other, which filled the main room with a surreal buzz.

I grabbed a bottle of water, and made myself a name-tag. I didn’t know a soul there, and I’m naturally somewhat introverted at large noisy gatherings like this, so I was a little worried. However, the great thing about this event was that virtually everyone else there A) was in tech, and B) didn’t know many if any other people there. When everyone has a common ground (tech), it’s easy to meet new people and join conversations. “Oh these people are talking about relative strengths and weaknesses of common databases? I can totally contribute to that conversation!”

I talked with a ton of people and must have given out about 40 business cards. I eventually ran into Paul Tyma, the owner of Mailinator, another temporary e-mail service, similar to 10MinuteMail. Mailinator was around first, so I’m the knock-off:) I actually never even looked to see if any sites like that existed before I built 10MinuteMail. We considered having a knife fight to settle which site was better, but opted instead to hang out and chat for a while.

Some other people/sites I met that night include David Parkinson and his EmptySpaceAds, Tim Robertson, Travis Cross and his OfficeTone, and many many more. Everyone I met was great.

As the last CalTrain left, and the crowd had thinned out considerably, I ended up heading over to Google with Paul, who took me on a late-night tour of the Google HQ.

Google is amazing. Very cool visualization tools, great digs, kitchens and food everywhere, laundry, mailing, etc… Every aspect of the building just screamed “We take care of our employees”. I know there’s lots of cynicism about many of those perks being there to “keep people working longer”, but frankly the whole feel is about making the employee’s life easier and less stressful, not trying to grind them up. All the free stuff is great, and of course every company needs a ball pit. This tour was definitely a highlight of my trip.

I finally made it back to my hotel, and fell asleep around 1 AM.





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