Bay Area notebook - January 2022
UK/EU   |   31st January 2022

Bay Area notebook - January 2022

Into the Valley

After an absence of two and a half years it was exhilarating to get back to San Francisco.

Despite our flight being delayed for three hours at Heathrow, 11 hours in a mask on the plane, the usual wrangle at customs control and then Dante’s circle of hell that is car rental at SFO, we finally made it down to Silicon Valley.

Over dinner at Nobu we reconnect with Matt Cdebaca who runs Renaissance North America. After two years of Zoom it’s easy to forget how inadequate that medium is when it comes to forging the relationships that are so important in our business.
Downtown Palo Alto is eerily quiet. Even the iconic Apple store (the original) is empty. Spooky.

It seems many people are still WFH, the long term consequences of which are being wrestled with by all of the investors and companies we meet over the next few days. What’s the ideal office / home work balance? Do we still need to same amount of office space? Do we still need to be in the valley if most of our staff are WFH? If our staff are WFH we could employ them anywhere in the world…

We mull this over with Elizabeth Patterson, Talent Partner at Sapphire Ventures over tapas in Mountain View.

Her talent team has grown to 12 over the past few years as the fund has quadrupled in value. It’s a pleasure to be working with their portfolio and we discuss our ongoing work with Degreed, the fast growth learning experience platform.

On our final night in the valley we head across to Redwood City for dinner at Milagros, the LatAm diner. We are joined by serial entrepreneur Raj Marya. Millfield educated Raj and I try to explain the rules of cricket to Texan Matt. No miracles here.

In the City

We check into The Battery Hotel, the stylish creation of Michael and Xochi Birch the founders of Bebo (remember Bebo?). The Battery is a private members club with 14 suites. The Battery is how Soho House should be.

Like SH there are no phones or cameras allowed, and no laptops after 6pm. Perfect for the tech crowd who flock the courtyard in the January sunshine.

Over drinks we get talking with Syed Ali, an executive with payments platform Toast.
Like many of our conversations talk turns to Crypto. His view is that crypto might eventually disintermediate the card companies and banks if someone like Coinbase can establish a credible payments system for retailers. They’re being charged up to 6% by the card companies whereas the crypto rate is less than a third of that.

Will crypto go mainstream or be legislated out of existence by federal banks and governments? Some of the biggest bets in Silicon Valley are being placed on this.
Onto lunch with Atli Thorkelsson and Madison Tye from the Talent team at Redpoint Ventures where we update on the work we’re doing with their portfolio company Crossbeam, the data platform that recently raised a $76m series C round led by Andreesen Horowitz.

Like Palo Alto, San Francisco seems quieter than before, a sentiment echoed by Atli and Madison.

Walking around the city the homelessness and mental health issues, whilst shocking by European standards, seem no worse than when we were last here, but anecdotally you hear that petty crime is rising. Hard to say from a three day trip but to this Londoner the streets of San Francisco still seem pretty safe, even late at night.

T-shirt weather

After six days of meetings we have a final Saturday of R&R before heading back to London. We decide to rent some bikes from Blazing Saddles at Pier 39 and cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito for lunch.

The bridge is full of cyclists, including the aggressive  MAMILs (middle aged men in Lycra) we’re so used to in England.

It’s 70 degrees in Sausalito and we enjoy a final lunch at Scoma’s on the waterfront before heading back downtown on the ferry with fabulous views across the bay, the bridges, Alcatraz and downtown SF.

We head over to Mayes bar on Polk for our last evening in town to watch the 49ers take on the Packers up in snowy Green Bay.

The 300 strong crowd are getting well oiled. Interesting to see George Kittle shirts (the 49ers tight end) outnumber those of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Mayhem erupts as the 49ers win with a last second field goal having trailed all match.

It seems an apt end to our journey, San Francisco, still alive and kicking.

Tony Willis
Founder & CEO


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