I’M IN SAN FRANCISCO BABY!
Howdy y’all! It’s like midnight in the UK as I’m writing this, but out here in gloriously sunny San Francisco it is about 4pm, about 29ºC and I am on my 4th coffee of the day, because that is what runs in the veins of West Coasters and i’m trying to fit in!
It’s my 9th day in San Francisco and I have learnt A LOT in the last week:
- Jet Lag is the worst thing in the world. I have only *just* managed to function on West Coast time. It doesn’t get light here until pretty late.
- Pumpkin Spice is like a religion out here. There is pumpkin spice in preeeetty much everything.
- Americans are super polite, and very helpful. People actually smile at you in the street and make conversation with you in coffee shops. It’s a little bit scary, coming from London where everyone scowls and avoids eye contact!
- Food is cheap. Denny’s have a $2 menu, and it gets you quite a lot!
- Homelessness is prolific. Every street corner has it’s own homeless person. And they like to scream. A lot. It’s a little disconcerting. I have perfected the art of walking quickly and avoiding eye contact, though this hasn’t stopped them from singing at me.
- Pretty much everyone has a Macbook.
- But more people have Android phones.
- Everyone knows someone who works in tech. Most of those know someone who works for Google, Facebook or Twitter. The others run their own start ups.
- Not including tax in prices for things is the dumbest thing ever. Sort it out, America. It’s ridiculous and frustrating!
- People start decorating their houses for Halloween in the first week of October. And they spend a small fortune on the decorations. It’s scary. And not in the traditional Halloween way.
But I wasn’t sent out here to learn about the American obsession with Pumpkin Spice, I was sent out here to learn more about the West Coast tech start up world – how it functions, where it lives. This is the home of the start-up. Sometimes affectionately referred to as Beta Town because there are so many new apps and services in development, and everyone is willing to try them out in the hope they might be the first to latch onto the next big thing.
On my second day in SF I visited the WeWork flexi offices in SOMA (South of Market) to get a feel for what it could be like if Avanatta established an office out here, possibly within one of the WeWork buildings. It was interesting – a large room where start ups can enjoy a speedy wifi connection, all you can drink coffee and tea (which turns out is quite a lot!) and weekly events for entrepreneurs including mixers, socials, talks and demos from other businesses and experts in the start up and technology fields. It’s quiet though – working in a shared space you feel the need to respect other peoples need for peach and quiet, which is both wonderful and annoying when you want to talk a call with colleagues, clients or friends. They also pump out the A/C pretty high, which makes for a pretty chilly afternoon when you don’t have a jumper with you! However, the amazing opportunities to network with people is indisputable – everyone there is working on something interesting, and everyone knows someone or something which can help you in your quest for success. But similarly so, there are some people just keen to hear and learn about what you’re doing from a ‘poaching’ point of view. I was warned about it before I came out here, and have made sure not to give away the secrets of our product to the wrong people!
There is also a flexi office service out here called Bespoke CoWorking which I think i’m going to try out later this week. It’s based in the Westfield Mall on Market Street (yes I was out shopping when said discovery was made, can you blame me?!) and it’s a 24/7 coworking space which focusses on tech and retail. There are private offices, dedicated and shared desks and conference rooms available. There is also (from what I can tell from the pictures) a climbing wall. A CLIMBING WALL! Why? I don’t know, but I’ll report back after i’ve given it a go.
As you will know, Avanatta has a Zero Trollerance policy towards trolling and cyber bullying. I’ve been speaking to a few people out here, students and parents, about what they have experienced in the realm of online abuse to get an understanding to see what we are up against and how schools are attempting to educate and prevent this online nastiness from happening, if at all out here in the States. When speaking to one parent, it would seem that some schools have nailed the whole preventative bullying thing, while others have such a bad problem that suicides are a common occurrence as a result of bullying. Whether this stretches to online bullying too is unknown, but I think it’s safe to assume it would be.
One thing I have learned is that while you can police it from an admin point of view, actually getting the relative authorities involved is a harder matter. Hannah is a 16 year old volunteer moderator for her schools social site and told me about a troll who has tried to solicit to underage girls on multiple occasions. Because this troll bounces his IP address across the globe, and because laws are different across the world, one countries paedophile is another countries eligible bachelor! This has got me to thinking about the obstacles that come with policing behaviour on social networks and messaging apps. It is my belief that we have a responsibility to protect out users from predators and criminals, and we can do whatever we can to keep these nasties from interacting with others on our platform, but what about in the real world? Do we need to just accept that we can’t protect everyone, even when we know who the baddies are?
From a female point of view, I have also been looking into girl-on-girl bullying. Knowing how mean girls can be (the movie Mean Girls could be seen as mild in comparison to real life, trust me!) I find it interesting the psychology behind female bullying. Girls by nature are a lot more conniving and covert when it comes to bullying. We’re sneaky. We use subtly to make others feel bad, whether it’s a look, a small inflection in our tone of voice, or possibly even saying nothing at all. Girls over analyse everything because everything we do has a meaning. When men say women are complicated, it’s because we are. And we know how mean we can be. And in some cases, our meanness is actually just a case of personal survival!
Most cliques have a leader; a Queen Bee. Self preservation dictates you don’t mess with that Queen Bee because she has the power to make life very difficult for you. So in turn, if she is bullying someone you will either join in on the bullying or stand aside and let it happen, through fear it will happen to you.
Equally so, not doing anything and taking the exclusion approach can be worse than the nasty interacting, but how can you measure that? The subtleties of exclusion that may not be visible unless you’re in the middle of it, and can be more hurtful than name calling and rumour spreading. It’s a difficult one. Girls are mean, and from the research i’ve done, they are some of the main perpetrators of cyber bullying.
I’ve been doing so much over the last 9 days it’s difficult to put it into a post which won’t bore you, so i’m going to sign off and report back again before I fly back to the UK on Sunday. Until then, i’ll be enjoying the San Francisco Indian Summer heat (Hurray for iced coffee!) and immersing myself more in the world of the West Coast!