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The part of Silicon Valley that can’t happen online

Queena Kim Oct 31, 2013

The part of Silicon Valley that can’t happen online

Queena Kim Oct 31, 2013

In Silicon Valley, it feels like everybody’s always “meeting.” They’re “meeting” investors for coffee,  or having a “walking meeting.”  Steve Jobs was famous for those. And everyday, there are talks, conferences and private parties, where techies go to meet.

I went to one of those meetings recently. It was a dinner given by some of the partners at Google Ventures, which is the search giant’s venture capital fund. The fund invests  in start-ups. And investors are serious “meeters.”

The event was at Foreign Cinema, in San Francisco’s hip Mission District.  When I arrived, the hostess took me upstairs to a private room, where the cocktails were flowing. The event was star-studded, in a geeky sort of way. Kevin Rose from Digg was  there. So was Rich Miner,  the co-creator of Android. Both of them work for Google Ventures.

Miner told me he’d been on the meeting merry go round since 5 a.m.

“Today, I think I had about 10 meetings,” Miner said. “I took an Uber to San Francisco had a breakfast meeting with two of the co-founders of one of my portfolio companies.”

After breakfast, Miner was off to a board meeting for another company he’s funding. Then, he met with an ex-Googler who had an interesting idea for a start-up.

All this running around for face time is part of the tech culture, said Stephen Ciesinski, who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

“When you do start-ups, you’re not investing in a company, it doesn’t exist,” he said. “You’re investing in people who’re going to make this company happen.”

Ciesinski is also a general manager at SRI, which created Apple’s Siri and the computer mouse. Part of his job is to help techies start companies

“This is probably my 20th meeting of the day,” he said. “I was just over at Stanford showing somebody from Malaysia, he’s part of the prime minister’s office, I was showing him around.”

Then he was off to Cafe Botrone for a quick coffee with a Romanian entrepreneur. Ciesinski said it’s important to see entrepreneurs in action.

“How does a person react to pressure?” Ciesinski asks. “It’s also fun to see how these founders get along? Do compliment each other, do they correct each other. If they do correct each other, how do they correct each other. I’ve actually seen a couple of people get into pretty strong arguments and those are not companies I like to invest in.”

                                         Some San Francisco Bay Area network and deal-making hotspots:                                       

drawn by Apu Kumar, senior VP/chief deal hacker at BlueStacks & GamePop


Ciesinski said those moments, they don’t happen in conference rooms, where the meetings are sorta scripted.

Maha Ibrahim is a parter at Canaan Partners, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park. 

“I probably put a good 60-70,000 miles in my car every year,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said she clocks most of those miles driving the 60 miles back-and-forth to San Francisco, where there’s a thriving start-up scene.

“Silicon Valley is filled with what we call FOMO the fear of missing out,” Ibrahim said. “So everyone is constantly meeting, meeting, meeting, meeting in the event that that one incremental meeting will get you to that deal that you otherwise would have missed.”

A deal that just might be the next big thing.

“That’s right!” she said.  “The next big Google.”

Back at the Google Ventures dinner, it’s about 11 o’clock. Rich Miner, the venture capitalist, is on his phone.

“I’m sending a text message to another one of our CEOs to see if he wants to grab a night cap,” Miner explained.

And why not? There’s still another hour left in the day; plenty of time for another meeting.  

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