I remember the excitement I felt when I left to Hong Kong in the summer of 2012. It would be the start of a new journey away from the failure of my previous startup. It would be a rebirth. The startup scene in the Bay Area in 2012 was more spread out with plenty of space like Hacker Dojo flourishing and many events around the South Bay.
It became too much. It felt very much like the thrill of trying speed dating for the first few times. Excitement, something new and plenty of opportunities seemed to lie in wait. However it soon became dull and tiring. People’s overly optimistic attitude felt unreal, almost like being in a rave party all this time. Hong Kong would give me a break and let my mind calm down I thought at the time.
Now that I’ve been back for several months, I feel like an outsider, almost outdated. Discovering the new “spots” and seeing that the whole startup scene sort of shifted north to San Francisco. Most young startups move there and fewer smaller startups in South Bay. This has created an influx of work force which has driven up prices and rents to staggering levels.
I asked a friend who works in the city of why this sudden shift and why some companies do not move down for cheaper office rent.
“There is mainly 2 reasons.
1. Most talent is found here in the city. If you move out, you’ll have fewer access and/or worst talent pool. Everyone in the world wants to come to city and thats where you find some of the brightest people.
2. The ecosystem is here. The chance of networking with other people and companies is too beneficial. Unless all the companies move south, you’ll be the only one and it will be like living on an island by yourself (if you do move south).
No one wants to be the first to make the jump to the island.
Also to save 30-40% on rent… Is it really worth it? We pay 10k in rent right now. If we found something south SF for 2k then sure! That’s enough saving for another hire. But to save 3k, it’s not worth it especially with VC money coming in so much”
Makes sense to me. I love San Francisco and its where individuality is accepted.
Another change I’ve notice is the attitude of founders. Founders nowadays seem to have big egos and many I’ve talked to very briefly at meetups seem to have a stick stuck up their ass. When you talk to them, it doesn’t feel genuine like they always have a sales mask on. I guess few more beers would help them to get rid of it but that seems like too much work. One founder even asked me to impress him. I’m suppose to impress you? Why don’t you impress me with your product? I have a lot more experience than you and I have yet to see something impressive from a kid like you.
However there are more startups than ever before and some offer very cool services such as one of my favorite Luxe, which offers on-demand (another word thats too used now) valet parking in the city. If you happen to sign up, use my referral code and we both get $20 bucks; JM1. Seems to be that there is a on-demand service for everything (moving, deliveries, house cleaning, gym equipment etc…) as we move into an on-demand economy.
Side note: On-demand services aren’t new in Hong Kong. People call instead of using apps but you can literally get anyone to do anything for you like moving, groceries, laundry etc…
Ill update back after I’ve settle in for a bit more but so far, I’m enjoying myself back in the Bay Area. The weather has been great and I’m getting a nice tan. Maybe someone will create an on-demand tan service…
Hi Jean, I just went to startup weekend and noticed mostly of the startup ecosystem are putting a face on the sales mask.
I guess that’s the fact in Hong Kong, I live with it.
But as me a Singaporean Chinese had moved to HK and settled here still have to learn the local culture here as I don’t read Chinese words neither.
I’m writing to you, as I’m a newbie to startup in Hong Kong.
I find there a senses of frustration where local future founders could not down to earth and start small to ground up..
There nothing wrong with startup small, where local future founders asking for big amount of operations cost. Maybe is the rent fact of the work space? I don’t know..
I sincerely like to meet you in person for a beer to chat or share my experience as a HK permanent resident for more then 8years+
My mobile +852 69766802
I totally understand what you mean. I saw the same thing when I was there doing my startup. Its disappointing but I learned to ignore it and focus on what really matters. Unfortunately I no longer live in Hong Kong as I moved back to the states. We can discuss further over email or if you ever come to visit SF. Are you planning to stay in Hong Kong or move back to Singapore someday?
let’s keep in touch and talk via email or social media.
i volunteer in startup weekend also