Archives For events

Last week at the PandoMonthly event Ben Horowitz was the main guest. He is one of the partners at Andreessen Horowitz, one of the big new VC firms in the Valley. Little history, Ben and Marc ran Netscape, and he has only a little pain left over from the battle with Microsoft in those days:). Their firm is kicking everybody’s behind with their model that gives companies not only money but also the infrastructure and network to become successful. Besides extremely smart he is also very down to earth and funny.

Some of my favorite quotes of the interview:

  • “If you don’t have winning product, it doesn’t matter how well your company is managed, you are done” – about founders being CEOs
  • “Even if you succeed, if you built a company that everybody hated working at, what have you done?”  – about bad management style
  • “Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time” – about the competition of Andreesen Horowitz and a Drake quote
  • “To me the piece sign is just the trigger and the middle finger” – about VC’s approaching him wit their fingers in the V-sign
  • “..If you don’t have courage you have no virtue because all these other virtues never get activated”
  • “Women tend to be more confrontational then men”
  • “The difference between a hero and a coward is not what you feel, you both feel terrified. It is what you do”
  • “CEO’s are not born, they are made”
And read this blog post that got also featured on Techcrunch about The Struggle.

And yes, Sarah sings way out of tune 🙂


This article appeared first as a guest post on The BeMyApp blog.

About a year ago I decided to move from Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Silicon Valley. I had tried to start my previous tech company HelloInbox in Amsterdam and that was hard. Nobody was doing startups, there were no investors that were willing to take risk so I and my co-founders were on our own. After having spent a week here I already knew I had to move to Silicon Valley if I wanted to succeed. Everywhere I went I ran into entrepreneurs starting new companies, everybody was really open about how and what, and totally willing to help out. I heard about numerous early stage investors that understand startups, know the chance of succeeding is much smaller than failing, and still are more than willing to invest in you.

So there I was, had moved over to San Francisco to pursue my dream of building a kick ass company. I needed to start networking, and became pretty good at finding the great events to go to. Besides that, I went through the program of  the incubator Founder Institute. Incubators/accelerators are great because they teach you a lot, but also introduce you to local seasoned entrepreneurs that will help you and give advise on how to start your business.

So getting in contact with fellow entrepreneurs is not that hard. However, I also needed to get in touch with fellow developers to build my team. Engineers are a little more difficult to get in touch with, they don’t like chit chat that much. Hackathons are great for that. There are just developers, very few business people that want to sell you their stuff. These are my 5 reasons why I like to go to hackathons:

  1. meet fellow hackers. As an entrepreneur but also as just an employee, you need to know people in your field. You will definitely learn from your fellow hackers, designers and idea people. Maybe you will hire them, they you, or learn about a great job opportunity. Three days working 12-15 hours with lots of Red Bull and beer will make sure you get to know them pretty well.
  2. learn to build something in only a few days and get results. Sometimes spending more time on something does not improve the product. Being forced to build something tangible in only a couple of days forces you to focus on the most important features. You will be surprised how far you can get.
  3. work on different projects than your current project. Maybe you have already poured months into your current project, with many more to come. Stepping away from it and try something else will clear your mind and let you see what other possibilities are out there.
  4. try out cool new technologies. You get try out new stuff like Ruby on Rails, Backbone, ARC or API’s like Twilio’s or Foursquare’s that you haven’t used before. It is a great learning experiment, no previous software that it has to work with and no boss telling you to hurry up when you are diving into something new.
  5. have fun! Ha, yes real hackers enjoy working on code in their free time and so do I. Hackathons create a relaxed atmosphere (in particular after midnight and some beers) in which your work feels like a hobby again.

So what kind of hackathons do I like? I like the more structured ones like BeMyApp. As proof, I already attended 2 and will do so again this weekend (February 24th 2012). I need a goal and a bit of pressure to create something, so having a panel that will judge your work at the end of the day will certainly take care of that.

Now hackathons will seldom create great software that you can build on for years and are not meant for that, as Dave Winer should have known. You might end up with a good idea, a first prototype and a great team and think in the high of the event that you will be a 100 million dollar company in a year. OK, GroupMe is a known exception, but more often you have had a great time and met some great people that you really got to know.

See you at the next BeMyApp event! No doubt it will even be better than the previous one featured in this Wired article.


So you are new in Silicon Valley, a foreigner fresh off the boat with a big dream to build your own tech startup. Got your place via AirBnB or Craigslist. Now what? Where do all the cool startup dudes hang out and how do I get in touch with them? Well fortunately enough there are a lot of events going on that you can attend for (almost) free. A lot of activity is going on in San Francisco nowadays, same in Mountain View or Palo Alto. If you haven’t picked your place to live yet I would recommend San Francisco btw.

Here is how to find out about the good events:

  1. Subscribe to StartupDigest newsletter. These guys rock, they will send you a list of all great events with sometimes discount codes
  2. Subscribe to WebWallFlower. Not the same league as StartupDigest, but still useful
  3. Create an account with Plancast and follow the active dudes like me. Plancast imports event from Meetup, Eventbrite and Facebook events, links them to your FB or Twitter friends or the persons you subscribe to on Plancast. Excellent service
  4. Check out, and sign up for interesting groups
  5. Look at, and make sure you integrate your Facebook account to get recommendations

There are a few recurring events that are always good to attend:

  1. SF NewTech SF’s oldest and biggest tech event
  2. Hackers and Founders. Great monthly events with lot’s of actual hackers instead of just dreamers with ideas:)
  3. SF Beta – great location and food

So how to meet people? Well fortunately Americans are very approachable. Just walk up to them, introduce yourself and ask “What do you do?”. Nine out of ten times you will have a good conversation. Listen to what they do, try to relate to them and tell them something about yourself that is interesting for them. Have your business cards always with you and ask theirs. A LinkedIn request is more than normal to send the next day. As easy as it is to start a conversation, the same goes for ending. A 5 or 10 minute conversation is pretty long already, on a given night someone might speak to 10-15 people. So expect to be asked for your business card or be told they see someone they really have to talk to someone as a signal it is time to move on.

Some other tips to meet people: work from bars like Coffee Bar. It is not exceptional for these places that you buy a coffee and a muffin and work half a day or more there. These working bars have good wifi, a reasonable amount of power outlets and let you stay around for a long time. See this Quora thread for more coffee shops to work from.

Also subscribe to Let’s Lunch. Let’s lunch will hook you up with someone that is from the same field like you are, depending on your LinkedIn profile. I got my desk office with by meeting the CEO on a LetsLunch lunch.

Last tip, research the cool companies out there, follow their founders on Twitter and see where they hang out. Mission district is packed with bars like Zeitgeist where you might actually run into one.

Ah or take a Silicon Valley tour, Steve Blank approved.

Ps. A big thank you for my Dutch friend Ronald Mannak for introducing me to Silicon Valley.