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The little things I learned from the Valley (gigpeppers.com)
91 points by Cherian on Apr 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

Is it just me, or are big-ticket gambles no longer viable in today's Valley culture? The article mentions that "Ultra local services like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, ZeroCater, Chewse, etc. are raising more cash than world domination disruptive ideas." Add this to an underwhelming W13 Demo Day in terms of said WORLD DOMINATION and I'm starting to wonder if investors are losing their edge.

There's plenty of opportunity for truly revolutionary disruption in all sorts of sectors. I just don't hear about it. As someone with disruptive ideals (but outside the valley) am I just being paranoid or is there really a problem?

Cleantech kinda collapsed on many large VCs, so to boost the returns to somewhere within the range expected by LPs, the capital is deployed into clearer monetization paths.


This does not mean companies like “ Uber, Lyft, Instacart, ZeroCater, Chewse” are any way inferior. Maybe these markets are much more bigger than perceived. Maybe they have the capability to expand to other cities. Maybe the founders are very strong in their conviction.

This is an observation.

How are Uber and Lyft not "world domination disruptive ideas"? The others I can see maybe, but completely revamping the automobile part of urban travel is a pretty big deal as far as I can tell.

Are they "completely revamping the automobile part of urban travel?" Tesla and even ZipCar seem more world-dominate-y in that regard.

IMHO anything that cost-effectively shifts the responsibility for the actual driving from "me" to "somebody else" is almost automatically more disruptive than anything that doesn't. (Note the cost-effective requirement, which is important.)

Uber, Lyft are in the "self-driving car" category, not in the "more resource-efficient car" category. Put another way, they conserve a resource (attention) that is far more scarce than fuel, cash, etc.

I use Uber when I'm in SF. It seems like a very San Francisco specific service. I would never use it in NYC because I've never had problems getting a cab and the cabs already take credit cards. I would also not use it in any other city I've been in the USA because they are so spread out I always have to have my own car, anyway.

Uber mostly seems like a better way to hail a cab in SF because hailing a cab there was previously next to impossible.

I am not sure how relevant it is in other cities but it will be interesting to see how they do.

If you think the only city that is difficult to hail a cab in is SF, you are sadly mistaken. I can personally say Austin, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Athens, etc. desperately need a better way to hail a cab.

I agree, but I never bother taking a cab in other US cities.

As Jared touched on I believe all 4 companies mentioned (Uber, Lyft, Tesla, Zipcar) are all "world-dominate-y" ideas, they are just in different categories.

In addition to the "can't find a cab" problem, Uber & Lyft sell experiences. This user experiences will be their biggest asset as they expand into other cities.

I think the problem is that most of these VC-funded startups are seen as loaded to the hilt on one kind of risk (red-ocean grow-fast-or-die gambits) so they avoid all other kinds of innovation, which is why they are such uninspiring places if one looks at the actual work and culture. I know someone who's trying to run open allocation and his investors said "no", because they didn't want the added risk.

VCs are swinging for the fences more than ever, but that means they're loading up on one kind of risk (rapid execution risk) and have no space for any others.

At any rate, I think "world domination" is a pretty pathetic goal. Where are the companies that want to focus on excelling rather than simply "dominating" some market?

So the issue is less risk-adversity and more focus on a certain "ideal" risk. Interesting.

As to "world domination," it's more a joking term for startups that are creating a new product that intends to replace what the market currently has [0]. Imagine a product designed to replace college as we know it. Incredibly risky? Absolutely. Crazy payoff (in cash and actual change)? Just as absolutely.

I just don't see these kinds of ideas anymore. Maybe we all forgot to remove our schlep blinders, maybe the community has been focusing elsewhere, maybe they exist and have been avoiding premature hype. Probably a mix of all three.

[0] Think Google/Heroku, not more mobile apps/anything social media

I think that acq-hires ruined the ecosystem. The whole concept is parasitic. Acq-hires exist because failed companies (that the market should be clearing out) have had severe trust breakdowns and are incapable of discovering talent within, which renders them unable to do important projects (because they don't know how to find the people to staff them) so they have to buy validated talent at a panic price.

If a company is trust-sparse (that is, most people have the "bozo bit" on) then I'd rather let the market kill it than keep moving around deck chairs, leaving investors to think there's still something there. That applies both to startups and acquiring companies. Let these trust-sparse, uninspiring husks die already.

With acq-hires in the mix, the game is no longer about profits (so 20th-century) or building a business. It's about getting attention-- TechCrunch coverage, user count (which is meaningless), notoriety, and headcount (because valuations are multipliers on number of people)-- rather than building technology. So it's no surprise that the big winners are class-A marketers making quixotic, red-ocean plays.

No part of the scene is different in the era of acquihires than it was before acquihires, except that startups with strong teams and losing product concepts (ie, most startups with strong teams) have a safety net. I am mystified at the idea that anyone could see group hire/retention packages as a bad thing; to my eyes, anyone arguing that must also be arguing that it would be better for startup teams to be incurring more personal risks.

The parties most harmed by acquihires would appear to be financiers. There seems to be a meme that financiers enable acquihires so they can jazz-hands portfolio company failures by pointing to acquisitions, but funds either make money or they don't, and a fund whose portfolio companies hit the eject button instead of doubling down and taking a shot at returning high multiples is a fund that isn't going to succeed.

I wonder (only wonder; not certain!) if demonizing acquihires is literally doing venture capitalists a memetic favor.

As usual, those who are in it for the cash ruin it for those of us who just want to build something cool.

Thanks for the extended explanation, I feel like I've learned more from this thread than the rest of HN this past week.

If you want to build something cool, push MIT licensed code to Github, or write a kernel module for FreeBSD. The complaint that businesses are in it for the cash doesn't make sense.

You're under the impression that "something cool" is strongly typed to code. In reality, there's much more that can be done. Building an organization to make something happen is much more difficult than pushing to GitHub and usually requires outside investment.

At the end of the day, we all could have chosen med school and a life working for Partners in Health in Haiti, so this seems like a slippery slope argument.

I want to build something cool/useful and also enjoy the process of building. Your argument makes it sound like do something useful just for the sake of it. You ruined the whole argument buddy

Businesses exist to make money, and cease to exist if they don't. We all get that.

On the other hand, I'd rather not work next to a guy who'd stab his grandmother in the heart to get a small promotion because he feels that he has to make VP/Eng by 30.

Because that's the comparison here. Between the "few good startups that exist", as you said elsewhere in this thread, and the rest of them that are run by people waiting for the opportunity to stab their grandparents for a title bump.

In the case of Yahoo, they already know there is a problem and they are trying to fix it, but that is the exception of coruse.

There is no series A crunch, only too many seed rounds IMHO.

Very few companies need to raise more than $1M to reach profitability any more, so traction should be required before raising money, but if investors wait for traction, they'll miss the really big deals. This sets up a dynamic, particularly influenced by the JOBS act, where unsophisticated investors can flood the market with cheap capital.

When it comes time for a startup to raise money from serious investors, they won't touch it unless it looks like Midas. I'd argue that the Series A levels haven't really changed from year to year, but that we perceive it as a Crunch because of the ridiculously large number of seed rounds.

>I'd argue that the Series A levels haven't really changed from year to year

It doesn't take away from your point, but I believe there are actually an increasing number of Series A level investments happening.

We call the current situation a crunch because we're measuring the competitiveness of going from seed to Series A.

Palo Alto has always been a 'university town' with respect to Stanford's presence there. It benefitted from professors who were both teaching and entrepreneurs, or nurturing ideas that came out of their labs into full grown companies. Berkeley has a similar vibe for similar reasons.

Traditionally San Francisco has been an artistic and design hub but not an engineering focused environment. However, that is a great environment to create products which are distinguished primarily by their design.

It's surprising however how dysfunctional the whole San Francisco political scene remains. One would hope that the influx of young workers and the tax base they represent would encourage improvements in the management processes in order to capture long term economic growth. Its not clear that will happen though. It makes me wonder how durable a decision to base your company in SF will be.

> Palo Alto/University Ave is no more the place to be. You have to be in San Franciso. Caltrain/BART rides are perceived too long.

Is this true? If so why is PA real estate still so sky high? I understand if your startup culture is based on youthful hipness, but that is orthogonal to the viability of a startup.

I don't know what PA/University Ave used to be, but I wasn't impressed with it when I arrived in the Valley two years ago. I would say the community is what you make it.

Personally, I found a nice home amongst MeetUp groups and the local Techshop to the point I am far happier in San Jose than even PA. Its like all the nerding out with none of the pretension and rent is half as expensive. Then again, maybe things are different if you are trying to be a founder.

Shouldn't high costs be a deterrent to startups? How can a startup be "lean" if its employees need to pay most of their salary in rent?

Well that's the employees decision. Rent is high just about everywhere from Oakland to San Jose. When taking into account transportation costs, paying a premium to be in San Francisco is often worth it from a cultural standpoint. I can't really speak to Oakland, but after having worked on the Peninsula I would unequivocally not want to live there.

In a gold rush, the miner (employee) don't make the big bucks. It's the miner support (landlord, investor, founders) that make the huge bucks.

Depends on if there is any actual gold. Whoever strikes the mother lode makes many orders of magnitude more than the suppliers (eg. Facebook).

Well, take it with a grain of salt obviously. There are still plenty of startups & established companies in and around PA, and the presence of Stanford pretty much ensures property prices will never be low.

PA has never been cheap...

> Palo Alto/University Ave is no more the place to be. You have to be in San Franciso.

I agree. The culture, inspiration, community, and experience here is a bit unparalleled. I can just as easily lock myself away to build product as I can go out and get away from marinating in self induced frustrations.

There is also money out here. People are willing to travel and visit, there are a ton of venues for meetups, etc. I couldn't imagine a better place to be (at the moment) for both tech and life.

How can it be "a bit" unparalleled? Is that like being "a little bit" pregnant?

Is there a word/phrase for when you want to use a word, but it sounds cliche, so you try to underplay the use of that word by prepending some diminutive modifier?

Well it's very amusing if you do that to a superlative, it might be better to just go with the cliche.

I sought a synonym for unparalleled for you here:


But these seem to be even worse. Sorry, I tried.

> Startup employees don’t make as much cash as I thought it would be. And that shouldn’t be the persp­ective.

what should be the perspective then?

Learning, wearing 10 hats, broad range of knowledge from tech, design, hiring, firing, hyper productiveness, fun all the way up to optimized way of buying coffee.

A startup experience will definetly accelerator your career. You are likely to be more valuable than you were x months/years before the startup.

for me it sounds like it's what you do when you start your own company, not when you get hired by one.

does it take applying the name 'startup' to any company to embrace all that awesomeness in contrast to being hired by a company that doesn't meet this definition? I'm asking seriously. taking into account that 90% of startups fail in one way or the other, how is exactly working in an unknown unsuccessful young company such a strong career booster?

Because you are usually given the chance to learn vast amounts of various skills. At most jobs, your opportunities for learning new things or playing new roles is limited.

how is exactly working in an unknown unsuccessful young company such a strong career booster?

It's not. There are plenty of people out there with no-name companies on their resumes.

You learn a lot, but then go into a subordinate position where everyone thinks you're an idiot. Either you push back and end up in lots of conflict (possibly fired) or you accept it and gradually become what they think of you.

kind of my point. I guess it's prestige when you have 'I wrote the youtube player' on your resume when youtube was a startup. if you have 'I wrote the nextvidflixr.io player but we closed down after 3months because the founder was a moron' it's cool story bro, now go home and get your fking shinebox, isn't it? there are startups and startups.

//edit: and in my hypothetical example I don't mean the skillset required to write a player, but the position where you worked with successful people that did everything right, rather than the same experience at a wannabe company doomed to fail.

The "career booster" argument is something that the bad startups use to sway clueless young talent. It's not true in general, and a good startup will show you the kind of work you'll be doing and let you decide for yourself.

Yes, good startups are good for peoples' careers, but there are only a few of those in existence (that are still startups; I wouldn't count Facebook) at a given time. Oh, and most of the good startups are slow-growth companies you've never heard of, but that are doing genuinely interesting work (machine learning, robotics, etc.) rather than social media. They're very selective and hard to find, but those are much better options than these VC darlings.

Social Media is the Reality TV of startups. It's not common because it's good, but because it's cheap. Here, "cheap" pertains to talent (hard to find, especially for non-technical people) more than anything else.

It's easier to get a title at a startup, and if you can convince the next employer to take that title seriously, you can swing it to a permanent improvement.

I think, though, that unless a startup has distinguished itself as a real engineering shop (and very few have, because very few deserve that accolade) that being a startup engineer is a career negative. Most of these startups have MBA-type management and the Design Paradox implies, so the engineers aren't very good. With a few startups excepted, most startups see engineers as cost centers and give them laughably low equity and if you work at a company like that, you're a chump.

This is a comment that says there are only a few good startups in existence. There is no possible way the author fo the comment can back that argument up. It's a sentiment that stretches past commendable skepticism, past cynicism, and lands with a flatulent thud right in the soft belly of parody. It's like a mirror image of the "sharing economy will render property ownership obsolete".

That's too bad, because when it isn't making ludicrous generalizations about the CS/engineering demographics of the whole tech startup sector, it makes a good point about not accepting below-market wages from tech companies.

>This is a comment that says there are only a few good startups in existence. There is no possible way the author fo the comment can back that argument up.

Why does he have to back it up? Null hypothesis, "There are no good startups", right?

Uncharitably: what he's saying is that there only a few startups he considers good that he can name off the top of his head.

Why is that uncharitable? It's fairly true. I am sure there are a lot of great companies out there that I've never heard of.

Wow, what a dishonest response. Your attempt to repurpose the premise of my comment as if had been yours to begin with ignores your actual assertion, which is "but there are only a few of those [good startups] in existence".

I apologize in advance if you are like that guy in that movie who lost his long-term memory and therefore could only remember the last hour of his life and therefore only had my comment to go on in composing that response.

Are you John G?

I'm in New York, and the Bay Area might be very different, but my startup experiences were devastating for my career.

In one case, after I resigned because I refused to commit perjury, the CEO (from a well-known, rich family) embarked on a months-long campaign to ruin my reputation.

You don't get a worse position than you were eligible for before you did the startup, but if you don't have the credibility that comes with a successful exit, you don't get anything better either, which means you're overqualified for the subordinate roles into which you'll be placed, and thus less likely to be successful.

I wish it were a better world, but the truth is that there is such a thing in programming as being too good at your job, and startups are a way to end up with that problem. Sure, you learn a lot, but being learned without credibility is worse than being the idiot everyone thinks you are, because you don't get in as much conflict if you don't know anything.

Should make the same as non-startup employees. Eg: 150k+ in 2013 dollars.

Developer auction was giving out sub 100k quotes, I just ignored them.

> South Bay is getting more expensive. Rentals at $2500 for 2 bedrooms in Mountain View and Palo Alto. East PA and Fremont continue to be cheap.

Meanwhile, those of us living in the East Bay are somewhat happy with the price they're paying and the short length of their commute :)

any recs on family friendly cities/towns in the east bay for those looking to move out to bay area soon? my wife and i plan on working in SF proper. her firms SF office is located near embarcadero BART, and i'm still looking for a gig.

All of them?

I guess the big question is schools, which I know nothing about. But if you stay away from the worst parts of oakland than I think almost any east bay city would be pretty good.

My wife and I live in North Oakland and we think it's very nice. It's certainly not white yuppie suburbia, but it's also not dirty run down violent west oakland. If you want something more towards the former then you probably want to look in places like the berkeley or oakland hills, rockridge, peidmont, walnut creek, etc. Basically things along Rt 24.

> All of them?

Hmm, don't agree here. East Bay cities I don't find particularly family-friendly: Berkeley (except for the hills $$$), Oakland (except for the hills $$$), Emeryville, Richmond, Concord, Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood, basically the whole north 4 corridor.

I guess I don't really know what family friendly means. This whole area is muti bedroom houses with yards. There are parks scattered around. The one question, which I acknowledge knowing nothing about, is schools.

What does "family friendly" mean?

I shudder to think that it has to be your typical suburbia. There's so much more to offer than a sheltered back yard where your shuttled from strip mall to strip mall to practice field in a car.

family friendly can be parsed many ways, but in general, it's some weighted combination of outdoor/parks/community programs, crime rate, public school quality, the ratio of kids to adults and seniors in the area, median house size, etc.

I'm just thinking environment -- would I be comfortable with my wife and child walking the street in that city? Would she be comfortable?

Kensington, Alameda, Albany.

My apologies if the answer is obvious, but why does he mention Mailbox?

The sentence is "HYPE is now a subject of discussion. MailBox as an example."

What is Mailbox (from wikipedia):

  Weeks before its launch, pre-registration prompted a wait 
  list of over 380,000. Mailbox was added to the iOS App Store 
  on Thursday, February 7, 2013; it became the second most 
  downloaded free app in the App Store that day

  In March 2013, Mailbox was acquired by Dropbox Inc.
So: they hyped up their app, and were able to exit less than a month after launch.

So, when he says that HYPE is subject of discussion, that means that other companies are looking at this factor as a winning factor? What is your reading on that?

Interesting, thank you.

Funky horizontal scrolling on an iPad, pretty much unreadable.

I hope more startups move to Texas... housing cost are way too high in SV.

I, (and my next startup), are possibly moving to Austin soon.

So there's one for you.

What's your next startup?

I'm not sure if you're curious or about to make an example of me.

Curious. You can tell me offline, or not at all.

I'm pretty excited to see the growth of a strong startup scene outside of NYC + SF. I feel like VC-istan is played out and I'm trying to get a coherent feel for what's next.

Normally I'd prefer a B2B/B2D type thing for practical reasons, but it's a consumer fashion thing.

Discovery and recommendation oriented, designed to get the rather large percentage of the young population that isn't dressing as well as they could on board. Especially young professional-age men.

It's an itch-scratching problem that is dear to me. Even if it doesn't develop into a sustainable business it's worth it to me to attack.

I'm in Mountain View right now, consulting after my stint as a non-founder CTO. Not going non-founder route again.

I'm bootstrapping at least initially so I get more utility from cheap land and nice people than I do accessibility of seed money.

Normally I'd prefer a B2B/B2D type thing for practical reasons, but it's a consumer fashion thing.

Interesting. That seems more like a New York startup, but COL would really be out of your favor out here, and you'd be competing with finance on salaries.

Discovery and recommendation oriented, designed to get the rather large percentage of the young population that isn't dressing as well as they could on board. Especially young professional-age men.

That's a great concept. I think a lot of us are late to realize that how you dress (especially for work) matters. I didn't know how to dress until I met my wife. I hope that it works out.

I'm in Mountain View right now, consulting after my stint as a non-founder CTO. Not going non-founder route again.

I hear you on that. I feel like startup founders overestimate the degree to which they've "de-risked" the business, mainly as an excuse to take 10x the equity. In truth, a company with 18 months to live, no free-standing reputation, and that fires without severance is not de-risked at all.

Thank you! I hope it's the start of a new trend. Google fiber is just the icing on the cake!

I'm starting to think the balance is going to shift to lower-COL areas. This is based on my experience having been on the hiring side.

It's not about salaries because those aren't the major issue. The COL difference is minor in comparison to the execution risks. In fact, the traditional reason why startups "had to be" in NYC, Boston, and San Francisco is job-market latency. Yes, you can find great engineers elsewhere, but for some ridiculous purple squirrel query (production experience in the 3 NoSQLs you use) that needs to be filled tomorrow, you need to be in the Valley or New York (due to Wall Street, there's a lot of technical talent, albeit expensive). If you're in Austin, you can find great people but probably not the guy who matches your purple squirrel query exactly.

That said, a place like NYC has the urban dating problem (too many alternatives, so people treat each other like shit). We'd write great offers to people only to have them picked off based on minutiae. We were ridiculously picky and rejected people for dumb reasons; only fair for them to be.

However, I feel like the grow-fast-or-die red-ocean nonsense is played-out and the next wave is going to be in the mid-growth (5-30%/year headcount growth, focus on technical excellence) space which doesn't need to be in the Valley or New York.

What are some promising low COL areas? (I like your thinking by the way)

I'll plug Houston, TX.

It's a really nascent scene, and you want to avoid letting the culture get in the way of business, but it has a lot of promise.

Houston is a wonderfully large and diverse city, and there is always a lot of work to find around here while pursuing your startup. We've got top-notch engineering talent (NASA and the energy sector), and the best private research university in Texas. The food is really good, housing to match near any requirement is readily available, and the people are friendly.

Rochester, NY (roughly equal time away from Boston and NYC, legacy of engineering culture from Xerox, Kodak, ITT, etc. Low COL, high quality of life, manufacturing base for physical goods, multiple universities, data centers with good connectivity)

Perhaps of interest is this report from the Brookings Institution:

Patenting Prosperity: Invention and Economic Performance in the United States and its Metropolitan Areas


I can only speak for the U.S. here.

* Austin, TX (seems to be the obvious pull-ahead winner in 2013)

* Portland, OR (great weather, beautiful, lots of potential)

* Madison, WI (near Chicago, great college town, not as cold as people think)

* Minneapolis, MN (underrated gem, beautiful, just very cold; I'm told they haven't had a 60+ yet in 2013)

* Pittsburgh, PA (CMU is right there; how is it not kicking ass?)

* Ann Arbor, MI (another Midwestern gem)

* Chicago, IL (if you consider that low-COL)

* Toronto, Ontario (ok, not a US city, but I spent a summer there and loved it)

Almost none of these would be considered low-COL (they're above 100) and relative to their regions they're quite high, but they're a hell of a lot cheaper than New York or Palo Alto.

Oh, one ass-kicking advantage of the low-COL places: people actually want to be lifelong software engineers. In New York, you can't raise a family on a (non-WS quant) engineer's salary.

Of course, most of young idiots have this insane dream of having a manager's title and pay (plus real stock options!) which you can get by 27 if you play the politics, but being full-time programmers and just using their magic manager powers to assign themselves the best work. It turns out not to work that way. Poor them...

I really think the fact that one can't raise a family out here on an engineer's salary is toxic to the culture. It creates the wrong kind of ambition.

Ann Arbor is expensive, and has very limited employment options. It's a good place to start a company, but a very bad place to move to.

Not being able to raise a family on less than 200k in NYC basically screams unrealistic expectations. There are plenty of software engineers with families in the city and suburbs. They are probably doing something wrong. Especially if both husband and wife are good software engineers (say Google), there is no problem at all.

And most quant salaries are not that high, I guess less than 50% of them make >200k. Again, you are probably cherry-picking successful quants working for big banks and funds and that gives you very high expectations.

I lived in Portland before coming down to startup-land, and yeah - Portland has a huge number of underemployed, talented programmers. They're a little more risk-averse than their San Francisco counterparts, but they've got stronger social fabric - so if you manage to convince one that you've got a good thing going, you can pull in ten or fifteen of their friends without much trouble.

Not that this refutes any of what you're saying, all of which I believe, but... aren't all talented programmers a bit underemployed? I don't think anyone in the mainstream has figured out how to unlock even 10% of the value that a talented programmer can bring to the table.

Perhaps I am jaded, but I look at what most people do at their day jobs and it makes me sick to see trillions of dollars of unrealized economic value being spilled on the floor because the wrong people are calling the shots.

Sure, but there's a difference between the Bay Area underutilized programmer making 100k+ and jumping from job to job, and the underemployed Portland programmer who's out of work half the time and the other half takes jobs that pay 40k out of desperation.

I hope you're right about the future trend; the cost of raising a family in NYC / SF is a big roadblock for moving out there even considering the opportunities available. Or the alternative solution is the promotion of telecommuting.

Minneapolis "beautiful?" Portland "great weather?"

Can't tell if serious...

I was in Minneapolis in the spring a few years ago and it was a very attractive city. The winters are harsh and long, though. I actually mind it most in the fall, because I'm used to November still being somewhat warm (northeast's "Indian summer").

Portland, according to Wikipedia, has an average January high of 47, an average July high of 81-- some seasonality but not too much-- and with 40+ percent sunshine in most of the year, doesn't seem to have the overbearing cloudiness of Seattle's winters.

Let me tell you, I absolutely love the total shit of PDX -- it's amazing, walkable, great bike culture, great food/beer/coffee culture, good public transit, beautiful environment, an amazing DIY culture that permeates everything...

But the weather? Oh my god, the weather. The weather is horrible a good 6-9 months of the year. It's amazing for 3, but oh my god does it have a cloudy, wet, no-sun-ever feel for a good chunk of the year. Wikipedia might say one thing, but really, the weather... oh man the weather.

I lived in Minnesota for 20 years and just got back from Portland. I'd say Minneapolis is average-nice but not "beautiful." The Grand Rounds and city lakes are great. The actual city parts, however, are nothing special and I would argue are actually kind of ugly, especially in late winter and early spring when there's a layer of dirty ice crust covering everything.

Portland's weather is truly miserable during the winter and is rated #1 in the country for seasonal affective disorder. The summers, however are beautiful.

could be worse, you could live in England.

As somebody who currently lives in the Twin Cities I can vouch for both the upside and downside. So far this year the weather has been awful (we're about to get hit by a wintery mix for the next two days) but I think that's true for many places this year. The summers are shorter but beautiful. Spring and Autumn seem to be the shortest seasons. I personally love the Fall up here. Out-state weekends trips to the lakes are awesome as well.

When it comes to the cities themselves, just like anywhere else there are some spots that are better or more trendy than others. St. Paul is an older city but in a well maintained, charactery sort of way. Minneapolis is a small city, newer feeling, much cleaner than some of the bigger cities. Their are lots of small areas within each of the cities that are pretty popular. The suburbs are constantly being built out and are very convenient to the downtown areas.

There's a number of other great things about the area to help counterbalance the weather as well. The one thing that really gets me though is that NOBODY knows how to zipper-merge.

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