I'm currently visiting Silicon Valley (I stay in Menlo Park) and San Francisco for 10 days. In Silicon Valley in particular, what's the best way to meet people and get an insight into the companies located here? Also, are there any sights that you really recommend seeing?
Thanks in advance!
Menlo Park is a nice area. If you want a chance to meet and possibly chat with some tech people, I would suggest heading to University Ave in Palo Alto in the morning to early afternoon hours. The two hot spots are Coupa Cafe (they have the best chai latte. Ask for the tiger spice) and Philz Coffee (really good coffee). You might have better luck chatting to them while waiting in line.
San Francisco would be the other spot to check out, but I am not as familiar with the techy hangouts. You can never go wrong with Philz Coffee though.
As for things to do, it really depends on what you like. If it's strange shops, then Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. If you want something to do near the water, check out Sutro Baths and Cliff House. If you want to do some grazing, then I highly recommend the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday morning. There are hundreds of breweries in the area too. Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery, 21st Amendment Brewery, and FreeWheel Brewing Company are some of my favorites. You are also 2 hours away from Sonoma and Napa if you want to try some good wine. And if you don't want to travel that far, Livermore and Santa Cruz Mountains have some great vineyards too. If you have a car, I would recommend the drive along highway 1 from San Francisco down to Santa Cruz. Some amazing views, and quiet beaches all the way down.
really though, there is a lot to do. Just let me know if you are looking for anything specific and I will try to help you out.
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Since you seem to care more about meeting people and learning about companies, I'll focus on that part of the answer.
One of the best ways to meet professionals working in tech is to attend meetups and events at coworking spaces around the city. Pretty much every profession in San Francisco has its own meetup. There are the sales and marketing meetups, the product management meetups, and the startup founder meetups. So just go to meetup.com and look for the type of people you want to meet. Most meetups are free, and many even offer free food and drinks.
Also, most big tech companies host events at their offices. I've been to several design talks at Airbnb HQ, a product management talk at Yammer Inc, and an alumni event at Facebook Inc.. With a little bit of research and networking, you can pretty much get a sneak peek into any company in SF.
You can also try to look on LinkedIn to see if you have friends or friends of friends working at interesting companies in San Francisco. People here are generally pretty friendly and welcoming, so I'm sure you can at least meet people for coffee and pick their brains for a while.
Hi Daniel! How exciting! Silicon Valley is filled with the most interesting and talented people.
For an authentic experience, I recommend this:
Walk around the Googleplex! While you can't enter buildings, Google is nice enough to let the public walk around the grounds. You can even stop by the Android sculpture garden, which has sculptures representing each Android update.
Visit the birthplace of Apple, in Steve Jobs' former garage in Menlo Park where he and Wozniak built the first Apple computer. Again, don't actually walk onto the property, but it's totally fine to view it from the road or sidewalk; people do this all the time.
Stop by the HP Garage in Palo Alto, often called the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley."
Catch a meal at Buck's of Woodside, notorious as the place for budding startup founders to schmooze with potential investors. Maybe you'll overhear conversations from founders of the next Facebook. ;)
Stroll around the Stanford Universitycampus. Besides being a place filled with smart, talented people, it's also extremely beautiful.
To meet people, you could try heading over to the Hacker Dojo.
Seriously, go to any coffee shop in Palo Alto, San Francisco, or Mountain View, and you're likely to run into interesting people who are dying to talk about their newest big idea. Try Red Rock Coffee Company on Castro Street in Downtown Mountain View, it's filled with techie people with MacBooks who might be willing to talk to you if they're not nose-deep in coding something.
I could go on forever, but I'll stop there.
Have FUN! Let me know if you have any other questions.
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I agree with University Ave in Palo Alto for meeting people. Bumping into famous strangers is hard, so I agree with the other answers about planning what you want to see and researching a bit first. Though VCs and startups do tend to visit Coupa Cafe.
As for understanding and appreciating the history in Silicon Valley, I'm reminded of a few good sources on the web: Business Insider 14 Sights You Must See and Paul Graham's What to See in Silicon Valley though I'd absolutely emphasize the Computer History Museum which you can see in a few hours after walking around the Googleplex
To meet a concentration of current startup companies, you might look to meetup.com for whatever it is you're interested in - there's a ton of things going on every week.
Hacker Dojo is the fastest way to get a good sense of the people in the Silicon Valley.
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