After our early morning yesterday, the class was ready for a chance to sleep in. We convened at 10:00 a.m. for one more book report, where Jacob presented on Guy Kawasaki's "The Art of the Start". We spent a lot of time in small groups, discussing the ideas presented in the book. After conversing as a whole class, we then watched a video of a speech that Guy gave at a conference several years ago. It was a surprisingly fun and entertaining way to start the morning and get us thinking about new strategies in successful entrepreneurship.
A Morning at Golden Gate Park
After the presentation, we had about three hours to kill before heading to a business tour. A few of us have been wanting to check out the nearby Golden Gate Park so we decided to head over there. Katie, Kari, Devin, Erik, Tyler and I changed into comfortable clothes and began the hard hike up the hilly streets of San Francisco. In all, it took us about 25-30 minutes to walk there, and when we finally arrived, we were greeted with the sight of lush plant vegetation and a beautifully-landscaped pond. The Golden Gate Park was worth the (literal) huffing and puffing that it took to get there.
We continued on along the path, hoping to find what was called the Conservatory of Flowers. Because of an admission fee, we didn't end up going in, but we did get the chance to walk along the beautiful flower gardens around the outside of the building.
We then continued along the path, hoping to find the Japanese Tea Gardens - which had been fervently recommended to us by an old couple we met while visiting Coit Tower yesterday. We ended up walking through the courtyard of one of the museums inside the park and passing by the intricately designed bandstand area. While Devin, Kari, and Erik paid to go tour the tea gardens, Tyler, Katie, and I stayed behind and opted to explore the bandstand area more. There were several beautiful fountains placed throughout the area and strange trees in front of the bandstand.
After we were done exploring the area, we realized that we needed to start thinking about heading home. Katie and I worked together to weigh the options: we could either walk for over 45 minutes up steep hills or try to navigate public transit and get back to the house in about 30 minutes. We opted for the public transit, so we met back up with everyone and found a bus stop. We made it on the bus and then hopped on the subway, successfully making it back to the Castro area just in time for us to make some quick lunch, change back into professional attire, and then rejoin the rest of the class to head to our mid-afternoon visit at SafeGraph. We then hopped back on the subway, and on the way to SafeGraph's office, we were happy to also pass Uber HQ and a large Twitter office, which unfortunately, we did not get to tour.
We made it to SafeGraph, where we were introduced to Jack Franson, a 2009 Luther grad who works as a software architect at SafeGraph. SafeGraph is a start-up data company of about 25 employees with the mission of providing innovators with access to data. They sell or donate their data packages to academia, the government, GIS services, and more. We also were fortunate enough to be able to also meet with the company's CEO and serial entrepreneur, Auren Hoffman.
After having the opportunity to talk to both Jack and Auren, I felt like we got a lot of good insight as to why they both preferred working for small companies. It seemed like they both enjoyed the exciting and unpredictable atmosphere that comes with working for a startup. When I asked Jack about how he dealt with huge tasks that he felt unqualified to do, the advice he gave resonated with me: you should approach the problem as if you ARE going to solve it and then spot check the issues that arise appropriately. He said "you never know how far you'll be able to get using this method." Jack also echoed a familiar piece of advice we've been hearing: the most growth and improvement happens right outside your comfort zone, and that we need to teach ourselves to be okay with facing uncertainty.
Overall, our visit was pretty good and it was definitely valuable to see another end of the spectrum of startup companies. During the trip, I've found that each business we've visited has something new to teach us - even if the information we gain isn't explicitly from the people we talk to, but is instead learning that comes from the vibe we get while sitting in their office space and hearing about how the employees we meet with talk about their experiences.
Following our visit, we hopped back on the subway and headed back toward the Castro. We arrived back at the house, quickly changed into more comfortable clothes, and then Devin, Kari, Katie, and I headed back to Safeway to pick up supplies for tonight's group dinner of pancakes. Luckily for us, we were still within the time range to take the subway for free as a "transfer" (because it was within 90 minutes of our last ride) and so we got to save ourselves a mile or so of walking, which was nice. We eventually made it back home, and then after a short break, it was time to start cooking!
We enjoyed a delicious dinner of pancakes with a wide variety of toppings (or rather, "side dishes" if you're weird like me and don't like fruit on your pancakes) including syrup, peanut butter, chocolate chips, strawberries, blueberries, clementines, and of course, whipped cream. Over dinner, we were constantly joking around and laughing as we sang along to some of our favorite music in the background. The rest of the night was spent jamming before I headed up to my room to get working on my blog and tying up other loose ends for the evening. Tomorrow we'll have our last business visits of the trip, which seems crazy. It's gone by so fast!
Excerpt taken with permission from Anna's blog.