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The San Francisco Survival Guide for Aussie Entrepreneurs

I’m the San Francisco-based co-founder of the 24/7 WordPress support service, WP Curve. When Tasnuva asked me to share a few tips on how to have a good time San Francisco… I couldn’t resist. I’ll take you through a few useful tips to get the most out of your first visit to San Francisco.

Do your research

Instead of Googling ‘things to do in San Francisco’ while you’re waiting to fly out, do your research! You’re going to be super-excited on the plane trip, so download a few episodes of the following series to watch on the way. They will get you up to speed on the feel of San Francisco.

Show #1 is Full House. This show has everything: 80’s hairstyles, a catchy theme song and a cool house that is still a major tourist attraction… even though the series finished 18 years ago.

If you’re under 25, you have no idea what I’m talking about, so you can check out Betas instead. This tongue in cheek look at early stage startups stirred up strong opinions within the San Francisco startup crowd. It’s wickedly funny and I highly recommend it.

Round, round, get around… I get around!

You’ve done your research, the plane has landed and you need to get from A to B. Here are your options:

When you hear BART in San Francisco, it’s not a Simpsons reference. BART means Bay Area Rapid Transit and it’s the train system. BART is fun to use in sentences, you can try some variations of “I’m BARTing as fast as I can” and “How did you get here?”… “I BARTed”. People actually say it, so you can earn some local rep too. A BART trip from the airport to downtown San Francisco will cost you a measly $8.65. Take that – Cityrail, QR and Melbourne Skybus!

Once you’re in the city, the MUNI bus system is a great way to get around. Make sure you’ve got $1 notes or quarters ready to pay your fare to avoid the confused “where are you from?” stares from the overworked and underpaid bus driver. Your MUNI ticket is only valid for 90 minutes, but you will be surprised how far you can travel for just $2.

Your next option is ridesharing. There are two main players in the market – Lyft who are cheeky and Uber who are a little more sophisticated. I use Lyft, because the drivers are friendly, the price is right and the cars have pink moustaches. Lyft is also very easy to use:

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Lyft App

1. Open the Lyft app

2. Drop a pin on the spot you want to get picked up from

3. Request a Lyft

4. Get to where you’re going

5. Make a donation to the driver from your phone, no cash required! 

Uber / UberX have nicer cars and use ‘surge pricing’, which means a 2AM trip home might cost you a pretty penny. I haven’t used Uber yet, but my friends who use it have steady day jobs, fat wallets and well… more style than me. Furry pink moustaches are cool, right?

What about taxis? Are you kidding me! You’re an entrepreneur – get out there and help disrupt the market!

How can I meet other entrepreneurs?

San Francisco is the home of the startup and there are thousands of motivated and smart people working on crazy ideas that will change the world.

Your first option to meet likeminded folks is at meetups. They range from free to $30 a ticket, but if you’re paying, make sure they include beer and pizza. Startup founders have gotta eat! If you haven’t been to many meetups, check out 21 tips to hack your next meet up.

Hackathons are also worth checking out, especially if you know your way around the pointy end of a variable. They won’t be as exciting as The Social Network scene where they nail shots of tequila while cutting code, but my developer friends tell me they are a lot of fun.

I recently attended the BootstrapLive event organised by Sam Parr. It was awesome and Sam made the videos available from the night for free – check them out here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Protip – If you want to ask a question during a Q&A session at an event, try using a specific and well-researched question instead of “So, err… should I call myself CFO or CEO?”

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From left to right, you’ve got copywriter Neville Medhora, Back to the Roots CEO Nikhil Arora, Apartmentlist president Chris Herndon and Mixergy.com founder, Andrew Warner.

The next big event that everyone is talking about (and a few Aussies are visiting for) is Launch.co. My co-founder Dan Norris is a huge fan of the man behind this event, Jason Calacanis. From what I’ve read, Jason really knows startups and business, so I’m going to check it out. If you are too – get in touch and we can meet up.

If you want to keep up to date with upcoming events in San Francisco, subscribe to Startup Digest.

Where can I get some actual work done?

The answer to this question depends on your budget and how much you like American coffee.

The cafes in San Francisco are different to what you’re used to in Australia and if you’re looking for Euro-style coffee, you’re out of luck. I know hardcore bootstrappers who use coffee shops as their primary place of business. I worked from home instead of doing this, but after 3 months I got cabin fever and decided it was time to interact with other humans again. I moved into a co-working space.

These shared offices are everywhere in San Francisco and you can pay for a day pass if you want to try one on for size. It’s inspiring and motivating to see people hacking away on apps, products and ideas from dawn til dusk.

You can try the following co-working spaces on for size – WeWork (where I work), PariSOMA or Citizen Space.

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Dog-friendly bar in San Francisco

You’ve been riding around in your Lyft and schmoozing at events … oops, I mean working on your business. Now it’s time to have some fun!

San Francisco has a great night life, but here are a few things to remember when you paint the town red:

  • Go out by yourself – it’s fun and forces you to make new friends
  • Get an early start – bars and clubs the shut down at 2AM
  • Tipping is customary – look after your bartender and they will look after you
  • Keep an eye on your belongings – especially if you’re at a dive bar
  • If you hear someone say ‘A dog walked into a bar…’ – it might not be a joke

Where do I stay?

San Francisco rent is expensive.

Compare this view…

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Watson’s Bay, Sydney. Source: Shutterstock

With this view…

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San Francisco apartments. Source: Shutterstock.

San Francisco costs my wife and I an extra $500 per month for an apartment that’s marginally bigger. We got quite a good deal too! If you’re looking for a short term stay and you’re on a budget, find or make a friend in SF and crash on their floor.

If you don’t have friends in San Francisco, try Couch Surfing.

Failing that – jump on AirBnB. Be wary of the actual location you choose… Mountain View is a 45 minute drive to the city.

If you’re going to stay for a few weeks check out Craigslist – it’s a great place to find short-term rentals.

Places to go

Here are a few must-sees in San Francisco:

Golden Gate Bridge – you can get here on the bus and walk across. Keep an eye on the weather, Karl the Fog loves to roll in and steal your photogenic moments.

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Source: Shutterstock.

Golden Gate Park – a little known fact… this park is actually bigger than Central Park. There’s plenty to see and do – bring your lunch and go for an adventure.

Dolores Park – this was the home of hippies in the 70s and while the fashion has changed, the vibe has stayed the same. Head down here for a game of pickup basketball, frisbee or to relax in the sun.

Hungry? Thirsty?

Ike’s Place – these sandwiches are world class and great value for money, especially if you’re trying to minimise your cost per calorie consumed – wow! CPCC is a new startup acronym! Use the app to pre-order and stroll past the line up of 20+ salivating people.

Pier 39 seafood – there’s more crab, clam chowder and fish than you can poke a seagull at. There are also some cheeky seals sunning themselves, which is very entertaining and more fun than watching TV.

Minna St Gallery – there are a few popular styles of coffee in SF and I love Minna. They have great donuts, a cool lounge feel and are 2 doors away from my office.

3 bonus tips

  1. Bring a jacket – microclimates exist!
  2. Watch your step – there are a lot of dogs…
  3. Be prepared for hills – the gradient of this one is 30% +
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Steep street in San Francisco. Source: Shutterstock.

I hope these tips help you during your visit to San Francisco.

What else would you like to know?

Tell me in the comments. If I don’t know the answer, I will try and find it for you.





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