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Where to See Silicon Valley (paulgraham.com)
215 points by ssclafani 1296 days ago | comments


baguasquirrel 1296 days ago | link

This is spot on, but at least tell them to not take the spots with the outlets if they're going to visit Red Rock? How we going to work there now?

Edit: Bah. If we're going to out one coffee shop, then why not the others. There's Dana St, also in Mtn View. Peet's at across El Camino works as a spillover. Verde Tea has nice drinks but the wifi seems to block you after an hour and you can't get Google Wifi inside. The other bubble tea place across from Red Rock is open later than anything else on Castro but it's a bit dingy inside and you likewise can't pick up Google Wifi inside.

If you work late, there's the Starbucks at El Camino and Lawrence which is open till 1. Any proprietors here? We need more shops open till 1.

In Palo Alto, there's Philz, which has the best coffee I've ever had in my life. The Peets up the street is also supposed to be a decent place to hang out. There's also Mitchell Park which is nearby to both.

In 'tino, there's the Coffee Society. The Peets down the street is also a surprisingly good place to work, and the Whole Foods has free wifi. There's also some Donut shop next to the Apple HQ which never seems to close but the stuff they have there is so-so. But if you just need to get out of the apt to work, it will do.

In general, the Peets are nicer places to work but the wifi will only last an hour.

That's all the ones I know. Anyone got any others?

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rantfoil 1296 days ago | link

For a hacker I cannot imagine a more amazing gift to oneself than the gift of ever-present Internet access via Sprint/Verizon/Whatever via USB dongle or expresscard.

It's ~$50/month -- but I would definitely give up lattes and buy black coffee for it.

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moultano 1296 days ago | link

Or, any Android phone running 2.2 on a carrier other than AT&T. Instant wifi hotspot.

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benmccann 1296 days ago | link

One of the best things about my Nexus One, which comes with free tethering and can act as a WiFi access point.

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Todd 1296 days ago | link

Verizon also has a MiFi card.

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ora600 1296 days ago | link

Which in my experience is horribly broken.

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cpr 1296 days ago | link

Yes, google "Mifi disconnect" and you'll find endless stories of Mifi problems with the wifi mode (it works perfectly in dongle mode), across carriers: Verizon, Spring, Virgin Mobile.

Bottom line (sad to say, since I own two): the Mifi doesn't work in wifi mode reliably. It drops offline every few minutes, breaking your ssh connections and any downloads in progress. It does reconnect within 5-10 seconds, so it sorta looks like it's working to your average undemanding browser user.

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baguasquirrel 1296 days ago | link

Every Peets manager in South Bay hates you now.

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zackattack 1296 days ago | link

I personally recommend CLEAR, which works great and has 4G coverage in places that the website doesn't even say!

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philwelch 1296 days ago | link

I had CLEAR back when they were called Clearwire. Many corporate name changes are designed to escape a poor reputation, and I have no doubt this is one of them. If you have CLEAR and you move to a part of town with poor reception, you drop packets. And, thanks to how TCP works, dropping packets == sabotaging your connection speed forever. And canceling my service with them was pure stress because they operate on a contract/termination fee structure.

Maybe they've improved since then, and maybe it's worthwhile if you just want a mobile solution and can pay for a home internet connection on top of it, but I remain skeptical.

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wallflower 1296 days ago | link

CLEAR is great except you cannot stream Netflix

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pmorici 1296 days ago | link

I have Clear and stream Netflix.

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wallflower 1296 days ago | link

Argh. I guess I need to edit the post to say if you are in a good coverage area (I'm not) - you can stream Netflix with no latency issues.

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pmorici 1296 days ago | link

Ya, it's no FIOS but With 4 bars on my modem's signal indicator Netflix usually works well. It's a little dodgy when it rains. Try moving your modem around your house and setting it at different angles. I initially had it in a position where it got three bars I moved it across the room and set it at a slightly different angle, now I get 4 bars and it's nearly twice as fast.

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aarghh 1296 days ago | link

The best coffee in the South Bay is at Barefoot in Santa Clara.

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ora600 1296 days ago | link

Agree. I live in MountainView and still drive there for the coffee and ambiance.

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natch 1296 days ago | link

Not just in the South Bay. They are perennial winners at the annual bay area barista competition, where judging is done by other baristas, so they have a lot of cred as one of the best coffee places in California.

That being said, their new layout is a step down. Their slogan is "serious coffee, happy people" but now with the new assembly-line-style counter setup the people seem less happy.

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seiji 1296 days ago | link

Free coffee: http://hackerdojo.com/

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catch23 1296 days ago | link

FYI, Dojo'ers are coffee snobs. We buy green coffee and roast it. We have a good selection of different single-origin beans in our kitchen.

We also have 24/7 access!

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lsc 1296 days ago | link

well, we have all the equipment and a few snobs; my master plan to get others to roast beans for me daily and keep coffee on tap has largely failed, but we do have most of the equipment (we've got an espresso machine but no milk steamer... that's about all we're missing.)

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whakojacko 1296 days ago | link

Further east, there is also a Coffee Society in Campbell (in the Pruneyard Shopping Center)

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astrange 1296 days ago | link

> The other bubble tea place across from Red Rock is open later than anything else on Castro but it's a bit dingy inside and you likewise can't pick up Google Wifi inside.

If you mean Tea Era, that's no reason not to go - it's one of the best places in the area. Who wants coffee anyway?

It's certainly not a great place to work, if only because someone will be annoyed that you're using up one of the 4 or so seats.

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drewda 1296 days ago | link

Tapioca Express ("TapEx" to its teenage regulars) is the one across Villa from Red Rock. I agree, it's always got a few flies buzzing around and the drinks are a bit too syrupy.

Now, Tea Era, that's the good stuff, especially the cheese milk tea. Seriously.

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dcurtis 1296 days ago | link

I'm surprised that San Francisco is only mentioned in passing. This list seems to me like the old view of Silicon Valley. (Or, maybe, if you had to describe the valley geographically.)

It feels like the new Silicon Valley is in San Francisco, and that its heart is in Soma (or the Mission).

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pg 1296 days ago | link

The reason I made it about Silicon Valley in the literal sense (rather than the sense in which "Silicon Valley" means the intersection of startup and Bay Area) was simply to keep it a manageable length.

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adityakothadiya 1296 days ago | link

SF is primarily a hub of Web-based companies - consumer applications. Though there are many big players down in Palo Alto/Mountain View. Also, startup doesn't mean only web-based startup. There are thousands of hardware and enterprise software companies down in San Jose/Santa Clara.

Here is the stack geographically, that works quite well with stack of software.

San Fran: Web based apps

Palo Alto/Mountain View/Cupertino: Web based + Desktop based software

Santa Clara: Enterprise + Desktop based software + EDA software + Hardware

San Jose: Hardware

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cpr 1296 days ago | link

Since the biggest employer in San Jose is Adobe, the "hardware" moniker may not be the best.

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_delirium 1295 days ago | link

Adobe's a big employer, but Cisco is the largest private-sector employer in San Jose, at least according to the city's numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose,_California#Top_Employ...

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cpr 1295 days ago | link

Wow, was I off! Thanks for the correction.

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crsmith 1296 days ago | link

Milpitas/Fremont: clean tech

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nostrademons 1296 days ago | link

Kinda ironic, since that's right next to the city dump.

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elai 1296 days ago | link

People who live with filth can be super clean to compensate.

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mikeryan 1296 days ago | link

Could San Francisco be close, but not the Valley?

I grew up in the Bay Area, back during the late 90's early 2000s you had multimedia gulch in the SOMA but there was definitely a gap between SF and about the Oracle campus in Belmont. I, personally, always considered Oracle the southernmost end of Silicon Valley (I still do). But even then you had a bunch of startups in the Foster City area. EA was over there for some time.

SF is definitely happening right now. Its interesting I worked for TechTV back when it and SEGA were the two main companies in the building that Zynga just rented (TechTV and Sega had portions of floors its insane that Zynga needs the whole damn thing) but for my money its not part of Silicon Valley.

Also my personal addition to the list is Bucks of Woodside

http://www.scpr.org/news/2010/08/01/checking-a-tech-bellweat...

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Goladus 1296 days ago | link

I liked this essay specifically because it wasn't about San Francisco. Living on the east coast and never having been to California, I've heard a lot about San Francisco but not a lot about the valley itself. Mostly, my impression is that the valley is Stanford plus suburban sprawl and a lot of tech companies. This was an interesting perspective.

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leeskye 1296 days ago | link

Silicon Valley is becoming the San Francisco Bay Area. There are many startups in SF, East Bay (last year's startup school was at Cal), North Bay, Peninsula, etc.

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johns 1296 days ago | link

For people outside of SV/SF, this is definitely the prevailing mindset. I've been all over the country the past 6 months meeting startups and developers and unless you've been there or lived there, Silicon Valley == Bay Area.

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seldo 1296 days ago | link

Totally. I would be careful not to equate density of startups with success of startups, but the two biggest startups since Facebook (Twitter and Zynga) are both SF-based.

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seiji 1296 days ago | link

But, but, but -- SF isn't a valley. If you want to claim a new term, let's say Startuptopia, to mean "the place where I think stuff is happening," then fine. That's your twisted prerogative.

Don't become someone who lives in SF with no viable transportation who pretends anything south of SFO doesn't exist or is meaningless because of the unfamiliarity.

The article is exactly as advertised (alternative title: "The Top 9 Things You Can't Afford To Miss In Silicon Valley!")

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aristus 1296 days ago | link

The terminology bothered me too, when I first came here:

http://carlos.bueno.org/images/valley-geography.jpg

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mtviewdave 1296 days ago | link

As someone who grew up in San Jose, the map on the right is definitely wrong. In Bay Area geography, "The Peninsula" starts at the SF city limits, but ends with Mountain View and Los Altos (inclusive). Basically, the 650 area code.

I also would not think of anything north of Menlo Park as "Silicon Valley".

I must say, though, that I'm always a bit amused at the people who get bent out of shape at the mismatch between literal geographic terms in the Bay Area and the actual physical geography, as if it's only Californians that do that. San Francisco isn't part of The Peninsula in the same way that Brooklyn isn't part of Long Island.

I would think that people would be more bothered by all the north/south freeways that intersect each other at right angles.

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hugh3 1296 days ago | link

I would think that people would be more bothered by all the north/south freeways that intersect each other at right angles.

No, I'm more concerned about the part of I-80 West up near Vallejo which is also labelled I-580 East, and vice versa.

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pvg 1296 days ago | link

What is it with the cromulent word 'atmos'? Second time in a pg article. Atmosphere too hard to type? Personal shorthand slipping past the proofreader?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JpwjnMFlJI#t=1m33s

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RiderOfGiraffes 1296 days ago | link

Having worked in television, "atmos" is a semi-technical term with a specific flavor and specific baggage. This article uses it reasonably (but not entirely) accurately.

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pvg 1296 days ago | link

Ah, so you're saying it's a silly affectation rather than an abbreviation.

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RiderOfGiraffes 1296 days ago | link

In the contexts where I've worked it's a genuine piece of jargon, a technical term that implies more than would the term "atmosphere".

So when used in that context yes, it's not just an abbreviation, but no, it's not a silly affectation. It's interesting that PG's usage matches (closely enough) the baggage-laden jargon version.

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pvg 1296 days ago | link

Right, I meant out-of-context usage (if that's what this is) would be a silly affectation like if one started inserting technical sailing terms into one's speech for no good reason, arrr.

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durbin 1296 days ago | link

whats your prob?

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petercooper 1296 days ago | link

Chillax..

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aiurtourist 1296 days ago | link

Why not bike Silicon Valley? This area is very bike accessible (just stay off the sidewalks), and lots of engineers love bicycles anyway.

Stanford University - You can't drive around Stanford without being cut off by bikes, so why not ride one? And if you want a good ride while you're in the area, do "the loop," which is Alpine Rd to Portola Rd to Woodside Dr.

University Ave - I'd avoid this on a bike because it's always ridiculously busy. However, Palo Alto has lots of casual suburbia rides, and note that Bryant St is a "bicycle boulevard" -- lots of it is usually car-free except for the locals, and it'll take you to Charleston, which runs into the Google campus.

Sand Hill Road - A good ride with some reasonable hills. Take this road south to Portola and then try the gold standard of climbs -- Old La Honda Rd. If you can make it from Portola to the stop sign in less than 30 minutes, you're in good shape. Less than 18 and you're Lance Armstrong. Don't go down Old La Honda, though -- go north on Skyline a bit and take 84 down since the visibility and view are better.

Castro Street - This place really wants to be a hip, urban center, but believing whether it is is up to you. Bike here and, like PG said, stop at Red Rock. Or grab a gyro and some baklava from the Gyro House, which is terribly underrated.

Google - The Google campus is so bike accessible that they provide clown-like bikes for employees to ride around. Hit up the main campus and see the dinosaur and, currently, granite head sculpture exhibit. Of course, you should probably show up with someone who works there and can throw in a free lunch.

North of Google - If you're biking from Palo Alto to Google or vice-versa, cut north through the Shoreline Lake reserve and the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. Keep your mouth closed during the spring months so you don't inhale a cloud of gnats.

Skyline Drive - A mixed bag. In the morning this is beautiful, and when the fog clears you can see the entire valley. It's epic. Unfortunately, the road is used as a testing ground for Porsche and motorcycle lovers -- people have died, and I have more than one friend who was almost hit.

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whyenot 1296 days ago | link

Instead of following Skyline drive, another (safer?) option is to go up Page Mill, cross over Skyline, where Page Mill turns into Alpine Road, and then down through the Douglas-fir and redwoods towards the ocean. Once you get on the other side of Skyline, there is very little traffic and the views are tremendous. On the way you'll pass by the Heritage Grove, one of very few remaining groves of old growth redwoods in our area. Stop for ice cream in Loma Mar, or if you don't mind the crowds, head to Pescadero and Duarte's for some artichoke soup and a slice of pie.

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ora600 1296 days ago | link

As a fair warning - going up Page Mill requires being in very good shape. Its 30-60 minutes of climbing, some of it steep.

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koblas 1296 days ago | link

Personally I like the reverse, up and over at either Kings or Old La Honda down 84 -- then Pescadaro to Alpine and down Page.

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russell 1296 days ago | link

Skyline Drive: avoid it on a bike, as he says, there are crazies. However there are 30,000 acres of parks and hundreds of miles of trails and roads off Skyline. El Corte Madera a few miles north of the 84 junction (Alice's Restaurant) which 10's of miles of old logging roads. Good hiking too.

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jf 1296 days ago | link

It looks like this was inspired by the Ask:YC question "How do I make the most out of Startup-school?" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1753141).

To that end, if anybody is interested in taking a tour of the Silicon Valley before or after Startup School, let me know and I'll make it happen. (I've organized something like this once already. It was a blast: http://hackspedition.org/sv)

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lsc 1296 days ago | link

eh, I might be talked into driving people around. I'm local to the area (my office is maybe 50 yards from the hacker dojo.) and I have a 7 seat minivan.

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arfrank 1296 days ago | link

I would definitely be interested in such a tour. How many people were you thinking you would want to come for it to be worthwhile of your time?

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jf 1296 days ago | link

any number x, where x is a positive integer greater than 1

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arfrank 1296 days ago | link

Well x=1. Let me know if x++.

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jcnnghm 1296 days ago | link

I'd love to do a tour with other people that are going to Startup School.

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il 1296 days ago | link

Mee too! Maybe 1-2 days before or after Startup School, I imagine many people will be flying in for a week or so around the event.

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jf 1296 days ago | link

email me (you don't have contact info in your profile)

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jf 1296 days ago | link

... email me if you're interested.

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webspiderus 1296 days ago | link

I, too, would be interested.

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pjmurray 1296 days ago | link

This sounds cool. I would also be quite interested.

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iamwil 1296 days ago | link

"In case you can't tell, the founders are the ones leaning forward eagerly, and the investors are the ones sitting back with slightly pained expressions."

I like pg's new humor.

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abossy 1296 days ago | link

I also enjoyed this one: "The buildings are all more or less the same, their exteriors express very little, and they are arranged in a confusing maze... These buildings are a pretty accurate reflection of the VC business."

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gluejar 1296 days ago | link

You CAN see the city from Stanford, on a clear day. If you go up the dish trail (counter clockwise) your uphill slog is rewarded, just before you turn left, by a wonderful view of San Francisco skyscrapers in the distance. On the rare days of good visibility, it's one of my favorite spots in the world.

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dasil003 1296 days ago | link

If you have a little more time my favorite view is from Skegg's Point near El Corte de Madera (http://www.openspace.org/preserves/pr_ecdm.asp) above Woodside (Take King's Mountain Rd and turn left at the top onto Skyline).

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smithbits 1296 days ago | link

I'd add Fry's Electronics and WeirdStuff Warehouse. If you came to the Valley from the sticks like I did they are wonderful wonderful places.

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jasonlbaptiste 1296 days ago | link

Story of my first trip to Fry's:

Myself and my roommate (another startup guy) were pretty hungover. I think it was some launch party the night before or just playing Halo with drinking rules. We were sitting at Gelayo Gusto in Mountain View. We had no furniture at the time and our TV was this crappy trinitron we got from Good Will. (Keep in mind, we somehow negotiated a ridiculous deal on a townhouse 3 bootstrapped entrepreneurs could never afford otherwise). We decided it was time for furniture or electronics. My roommate suggested we go to Fry's if it were electronics. I said: What's Fry's? Fast food? His response? Screw furniture, we're going to get a TV, and you NEED to experience Fry's. $1000 later we walked out with a 50 inch TV and saved $100 of it to get some lawn chairs + a tent for the living room. Some of you may have even stayed in this tent before. It was kind of the guest house we set up, inside the house.

Tent picture: http://cl.ly/fbb39c0b2477b483de73

I have a ton of stories like this. My year in silicon valley was without a doubt the happiest time of my life.

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Psyonic 1296 days ago | link

Great story! Why'd you move away?

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whakojacko 1296 days ago | link

And you can't forget Halted in Sunnyvale.

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Uhhrrr 1296 days ago | link

Do you mean Haltek in MV? I think it's gone now. But that was indeed a wonderful store.

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drewda 1296 days ago | link

No, he means: http://www.halted.com/

Profiled in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/technology/personaltech/05...

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wallflower 1296 days ago | link

> “Hal [founder of Halted] remembered them driving around barefoot in a Volkswagen van,” Mr. Ellingson said. “They [Wozniak and Jobs] were a couple of young, scruffy-looking guys. He said, ‘I don’t want to give these guys any money.’ ”

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rdl 1296 days ago | link

I'd include: 1) Hacker Dojo (conveniently near YC!) -- a slightly-more-corporate hackerspace

2) Computer History Museum

3) Weird Stuff and the other used hardware vendors

4) Drive by the "HP Garage" in Palo Alto

5) Facebook's new offices

6) In-N-Out

7) The Old Pro in Palo Alto

8) Drive by Moffett Field (and go inside if you can; there are events there a couple times per year)

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progrium 1296 days ago | link

Define "slightly-more-corporate".

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lsc 1296 days ago | link

I would assume the OP means corporate compared to noisebridge. Now, I've never been to the place but I hear it is even less formal than the dojo.

If the dojo is corporate, though, I'm a CEO.

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rdl 1296 days ago | link

Yeah, corporate compared to noisebridge. Uncorporate compared to most other places, although I would still say the dojo is a little more corporate than a lot of other hacker spaces (in a good way).

I like both noisebridge and hacker dojo.

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lsc 1296 days ago | link

I think "corporate" might be the wrong word. I agree, though, that it is much more business oriented than, say, a linux users group, or many of the other social places I hang out. It's more like the culture you see on hacker news than the culture you see on LKML.

but it's very oriented towards small companies; while there are a lot of people with funding there, we also see a fair amount of bootstrapping.

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derwiki 1296 days ago | link

The Old Pro -- the only sports bar I've ever been to that charges cover. I'd recommend going next door to NOLA and using that ten bucks on a few drinks instead.

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rdl 1296 days ago | link

Weird, I've never been charged cover at Old Pro.

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idoh 1296 days ago | link

San Andreas Lake came first, and then the fault was discovered and named after the lake.

(talking about the 280 section of the essay)

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cperciva 1296 days ago | link

I'm pretty sure the San Andreas fault came first. It just wasn't discovered first.

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_delirium 1296 days ago | link

The coast is cold and foggy? Maybe if you're all the way up in Half Moon Bay. ;-)

It does seem like it's declined in its role in startup culture lately, but it's spawned a good share of startups--- Seagate, SCO (pre-patent-troll era), RF Micro, Plantronics, etc., are from the coast. Would be interesting if anyone had a guess as to why there's less of that now than there was some years ago. There are still a bunch of profitable (!) indie-game studios, at least (the folks behind Bridge Builder, Gish, Super Meat Boy, Aether, Bit.Trip, etc.).

Judging by the commute traffic on 92 & 17, it seems quite a few people who work in the valley still live on the coast, too, but it's quite possible they're mostly 9-5 rather than startup types.

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points 1296 days ago | link

This was a large culture shock to me (Coming from the UK). We see California as some sun drenched beach babe area.

Imagine our shock when we visited some beaches and they were full of fog so you couldn't see, and the water was yellow and frothy. I guess we were still too far north, but it seems like to get a half decent beach you have to go down to Santa Cruz or further.

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_delirium 1296 days ago | link

Yeah, the public image is Los Angeles / San Diego beaches. Santa Cruz is pretty warm though (well, the air, not the water), and usually sunny. How close it is depends on where you think of as "silicon valley"; from San Jose/Cupertino/Saratoga/Los Gatos it's closer than SF is, but gets increasingly far if you're up in, say, Menlo Park.

You probably don't want to go further south, at least for warmth--- Monterey and Big Sur are beautiful, but about as cold and foggy as Half Moon Bay.

A tangent: biggest CA culture shock for me was visiting Hollywood and finding out much of it is closer to a ghetto than to its glamorous mid-20th-c. image.

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progrium 1296 days ago | link

A friend regarding Hacker Dojo not being mentioned:

  well, he hasn't visited it.... ever, right? heh
  i mean, i guess you can't blame him
  it's a really long way from yc to the dojo
[Google Maps has it at 5 minutes away walking distance]

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jasonlbaptiste 1296 days ago | link

Just reading about these places makes me dearly miss the Valley. Outside of startup culture, it is just an absolutely beautiful place to live. If you haven't visited, I suggest you do. You won't regret it.

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points 1296 days ago | link

I must have been to a different Valley :/ The majority is dull concrete sprawl. Each to their own of course, but I can only stand it for a week or 2 before I go insane.

Here's my favorite places though:

University Ave, Frys, Stevens Creek Mall, The Great Mall, Great America Theme Park

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kroger 1296 days ago | link

Dull concrete? How about lake Tahoe, Yosemite park, Muir Woods park, Monterey Bay, Black Mountain, and I could go on.

I do miss living in California ;-)

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points 1296 days ago | link

OK, sure. But I think that's the problem. It's either wilderness, or concrete. Nothing in-between.

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djcapelis 1296 days ago | link

I live in Santa Cruz. It's hardly wilderness but I walk through a forest to get to my research lab and then am greeted with a view of the ocean when I leave campus.

When we decide to fuck off for the day and go surfing it's a 10 minute drive. Counting the beach traffic. It's 40 minutes over the hill into Silicon Valley, counting the people from the valley who don't know how to drive CA-17.

I think that's as in-between as you can get.

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whyenot 1296 days ago | link

You are at UC Santa Cruz, quite possibly the most beautiful university in the country. Enjoy the redwoods, the banana slugs and the amazing views of Monterey bay while you are there.

For comparison, over the hill my office is on a university campus that is mostly concrete, ringed by areas you may not want to travel alone at night, and in the fall shrouded under a thick pocket of San Jose's brown smog.

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djcapelis 1296 days ago | link

Correct! It is a joy driving down to Monterey to meet with some of the folks we collaborate with down there. "Oh no, a meeting? How terrible!"

I am constantly thankful the UC Regents generally chose such beautiful locations for their campuses. UCSB and UCSD were excellent choices as well. We'll give them a pass on a few of their other choices. ;)

The point though, is that middle ground does exist in California. As another example, I grew up in Sonoma County, which is both beautiful and not a wilderness.

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neilc 1296 days ago | link

The SF Bay Area is a beautiful place to live; Silicon Valley itself is mostly an ugly collection of office parks and suburban sprawl.

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markbao 1296 days ago | link

I visited for a month in the summer. While it was more bustling than Boston, it wasn't the startup mecca I expected.

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