Why we are taking our startup to Hong Kong and other crazy stories of 2011

This year of 2011 has been more eventful for me than the 20 before it. Literally it has been crazy. Here is a fast forward of 2011 for you:

In January I joined Joel, who founded Buffer, to manage the Buffer Twitter account, besides my studying in the UK. I quickly became sucked in, took over marketing (I had no clue that is what I was doing at the time) and worked full time. I dropped out of College, we moved to San Francisco, raised money, and hired our first employees.

Trying our best to stay in SF, we couldn’t grab one of the last Visa’s and got kicked out of the US. So starting next week, we will move to Hong Kong and try our luck there.

It’s been crazy. And it’s been a lot of fun. In fact, it has definitely been the best year of my life thus far.

I wanted to pick out 3 stories to describe this time here in Silicon Valley and which lessons I have learnt from it:

 

How we moved to San Francisco without money and knowing anyone

It was a foggy afternoon in July that we first set foot onto US grounds. Fully jet-lagged we made our way to some AirBnB place we booked for 1 week with some savings we had left over. Our thinking was this: “We will get a cheap flat within a few days and be awesome.”.

Not quite. Neither the “a few days”, nor the cheap was true. So we kept on sleeping on couches until we finally found a flat. Joel and me shared a room, one in the bed, the other on the airbed. It was, erm, bootstrapping at it’s best. When we moved between AirBnb places once we even took the bread with us. Yeah…I know.

A person I am particularly thankful for is Hiten Shah (Hiten is the Co-Founder of KISSmetrics and an advisor to Buffer today). Fresh off the boat, we had no clue how to best speak to investors, meet the right people and so forth. Hiten, barely knowing us, took the time to meet us, encourage us, connect us with a lot of great people and more. Through a strange turn of events, he helped us to land a place in the AngelPad incubator, which meant a lot of pressure being taken off our shoulders, especially financially. It all worked out after all.

What I learnt: The most important lesson from this experience for me was this. To push yourself to the next level you have to make yourself feel uncomfortable, very uncomfortable even sometimes. This works best if you take this attitude:”It will always work out.”. Why? Because it will! Always. =)

 

How we met Guy Kawasaki and brought him on board

The second story is mostly to explain why it is so valuable to be based out of San Francisco as a startup. Here is what happened.

Joel wrote a most complete guide on how he went from idea to paying customer within 7 weeks. Guy Kawasaki found and liked the story. He posted it to Google Plus. I got in touch and thanked him for posting it. At the same time, Daniel Brusilovsky had connected us with the founders of Evernote. Evernote invited us to attend their conference in San Francisco to chat with us about potentially collaborating.

At this conference, Guy Kawasaki was the keynote speaker. We caught him after it and showed him Buffer. He liked it a lot and we started chatting about future ideas and what his thoughts are. After this, we kept in touch and he linked us up with more people, gave us more ideas and is now a full advisor to Buffer.

What I learnt: The most valuable aspect of Silicon Valley might just be serendipity. You can bump into anyone, anywhere and this can lead on to the most crazy happenings. It also keeps your mind open. If you are willing to speak to anyone, help anyone and connect with people as often as you can, I feel you are on the best path to make the most of living in SF.

 

Why we are moving to Hong Kong

As the last story, I want to explain to you, why we are now moving to Hong Kong for the next 3 months:

We initially applied for H1B Visa’s for this year. Unfortunately, just the days before we sent off our application, they ran out of them for this year. Not to worry is what we told ourselves. The obvious question then was: where are we going now?

Here is what we did. We pulled up Google Maps and looked around the world to find out, where we wanted to go. Hong Kong, amongst some other great places seemed to be the most exciting one, so we went for it. That’s it.

What I learnt: Being in a position, where you can look at the globe and decide which spot on this planet you want to go next is incredible. It expresses the freedom and independence I am looking for in life better than anything else. Whenever someone asks me from now one, what it is that I am looking for in life, I will point them to this moment: Looking at the world and deciding where to go. Having no one that tells you what to do and nothing that holds you back from not doing it.

 

This is my year in review of 2011. Or at least short snapshots of the most awesome moments. It’s been totally crazy, and more exciting than anything else ever before.

Writing this post has also had great effect on me, as I could reflect deeply upon what happened. I hope some of the experiences are useful to learn for you too. What have been your top moments of 2011?

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