Not Your Average Meetup
My weekend began on Friday evening with me manning a demo table at the Startup & Tech Mixerin the wine tasting room at Tank18. It was a far cry from the traditional beer and Papa John’s meetups back in London.
The event included a ‘Geek2Chic’ fashion show by local designers. I think this is the first time that I have ever seen fashion models and software engineers in the same room together.
Late Nights, and Early Mornings
After the mixer I headed off to a “Data Dinner Party” hosted by Todd Farrell from Floodgate. Floodgate were one of the first investors in Twitter and Todd is working there on all things data. It was great to sit down to dinner with other members of the data science community. I had an interesting conversation with Conal Sathi who is a Data Scientist at Slice.
Slice scans your email to identify the invoices and receipts that you receive and then scans other people’s email to provide you with notifications of price drops on your recently purchased items. I thought that using individual email accounts in aggregate like this was a very original approach to a data acquisition problem.
As you can imagine, all this talk led to quite a late evening. I knew I had another event to go to on Saturday, which I had in my diary as an all day demo event in Santa Clara starting at 9am. Santa Clara and San Francisco are at opposite ends of the Valley and it takes over an hour to get down there. Not the best of news when you’ve just rolled in late!
I figured that if it was just another demo table then I could probably give myself another hour of sleep and arrive at 10am as there is usually breakfast and welcome talks for the first hour. However upon closer inspection I saw that it was not, in fact, a demo table but a structured pitch event on a big stage! And who was first on, bright and early at 9am? You guessed it! Me. So much for being able to sleep in!
After what was more of a nap than a good night’s sleep, I was up and out the door at 7:30am to make it down there on time to the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs & Startups’ meetup for their Pitch & Demo Day contest. We were one of the three companies that received an award so I guess it was worth it!
The Shutl Story
I made it back to the city by early evening, and went to grab a bite to eat with two fellow brits: Andy McLoughlin from Huddle (who you’ll remember from last week) and Tom Allason the founder of Shutl. Shutl allows online retailers who have bricks-and-mortar stores to offer shoppers delivery within minutes of purchase.
When a shopper chooses Shutl at checkout, Shutl assigns the order to a local courier who collects the order from a local store (rather than a warehouse) and then delivers to you when you want. Tom has a lot of experience in this area, as his previous company – which he founded with Jay Bregman, now Founder and CEO of Hailo – was eCourier.
Shutl is launching soon in the US and Tom tells a very interesting story about some of the differences that he has experienced in doing business in the US versus the UK. Shutl is now very popular with retailers in the UK as it helps them compete more effectively with Amazon. But it was not always that way.
When Shutl started in the UK the team had a hard time helping British companies understand that what they were offering was a competitive marketing advantage and not just a delivery logistics solution. Apparently the experience has been very different with the US market. Early on, Shutl began to get enquiries from US retailers asking when they would be bringing Shutl to the States. Having not yet achieved everything that they wanted to achieve in the UK, the team in London felt that they had to brush off these enquiries with a simple “coming soon” response.
But the demand from the US continued to grow. They knew they had to start the move when US retailers were flying executives out to meet them on multiple Falcon jets because the corporate insurance policy would not cover that many executives being on the same plane! A very different experience to the UK where they had to push to their customers, in the US they were pulled by their customers. Tom believes that US companies are always seeking competitive advantage and simply like to build new stuff whereas in the UK we can sometimes be a bit too happy with the status quo.
Andy brought Tom and me along to a housewarming party for Tim Bradshaw – another Brit and The Financial Times technology correspondent in San Francisco. The party was a lot of fun, especially when we got down to playing Cards Against Humanity, which was introduced to me by the ex-pats as “a very San Francisco game”. Turns out that it started as a kickstarter project and has really caught on out here.
It works a lot like Apples to Apples, in that one person plays a question card and the other players submit an answer card and the person who asked the question chooses their favorite answer as the winner. To do well you have to play the person: are they the sort of person who would enjoy a clever answer or a dirty one? My personal favourite combo was the following. Question: Before Michael Jackson died, in his last moments he thought about ____? Answer: Michael Jackson.
The Boss is in Town
On Sunday I was joined by my CEO David White and one of our developers Chris Alexander. The two of them will be out here until the end of August going to different events helping me to drum up some excitement about our company.
We had a nice catch up on all the things that have been happening on both sides of the pond over coffee. I hope they like being busy, because as you can see there is a lot to do out here…even in the weekends!