Monthly Archives: November 2012

Y Combinator, circa 1977

The wonderful offices of Coloft, in Santa Monica, CA

Today I was walking to my favorite Starbucks in Santa Monica, on Broadway and Lincoln, and I passed by one of the most interesting and cool places in town, Coloft, an open space for startups. While peeking through the windows of Coloft, I saw a guy working there on his desk, with his Macbook Air laptop, headphones on, etc. What I just witnessed was the perfect example of the idea of startups that we have today: big open spaces, laptops everywhere, good decorations on the walls, guys working hard while listening to some cool music, etc.

This stereotype of startups’ offices mostly comes from the fact that many of the big startups’ offices really look like this. I have been very lucky to work at Twitter for one year, from 2009 and 2010, and I call tell you that Twitter’s offices were exactly the same. Big desks, open space, Mac laptops everywhere, cool decorations, fancy headphones and amazing music.

One of the desks at Twitter’s Offices in San Francisco, CA

The reason why many open spaces or collaborative spaces and most of the startups’ offices look the same is very simple and it can be explained in two ways: (i) first, people believe that in order to replicate success, you have to follow the steps of the ones who had success before you; (ii) also, this kind of offices represents the way young and smart people really work and how they interact with each others (you need open spaces because you want to get in touch with all your co workers to share ideas, you want equal spaces because you believe each and every employee is a member of a sole team, you listen to music while you work because it helps you to focus, you love wonderful decorations because you are a creative person, and so on).

I love love love this kind of environment and the way Twitter’s Offices were was one of the reasons why I deeply loved every day of my experience there.

Then something hit me. While everyone today talks about Twitter, Facebook, etc. as the examples of tech startups, we can’t forget that the idea of tech startup really started in the 70s, thanks to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the two gurus who built Apple Inc. from scratch in Job’s garage. So, basically while today the mythos is to create your own startup in a coffee shop or at a collaborative space, in the 70s I am quite sure that everyone tried to replicate the success of Apple by working in garages! The different environment makes sense. At that time, personal computers did not really exist, internet was just a dream and that’s why a space such as the one at Coloft would not have worked.

Then I thought about Y Combinator, the king of incubator programs in the World. While Y Combinator does not offer, per se, collaborative spaces to the startups that they admit in their program, Y Combinator’s name blends so well with the stereotype of nowadays startups that I am sure 99.99% of the people that think about this program automatically picture their offices exactly as the offices of Coloft, Twitter, etc.

This is why, ladies and gentlemen, I present you with a picture I just got from one of my most recent trips back in time 😉 I took this picture in Los Altos, CA, in 1977.

Y Combinator, circa 1977

In the picture you can see a young Paul Graham while he is waiting for the next bunch of applicants for his brand new incubator. In the back, you can see the collaborative space of Y Combinator at that time, a series of garages ready to be used by the lucky candidates to create amazing things and imagine the future. These garages, of course, are a perfect replica of Steve Jobs’ garage. Each startup admitted will receive an investment in the amount of $4,600.00 (the 1977 equivalent of the average $17,000.00 that Y Combinator gives to startups). All candidates will have a chance to tour the local Xerox’s offices to find inspiration. On the final day of the program, candidates will have a chance to present their ideas in front of a panel of potential investors, such as Very Young Chris Sacca and Young Ron Conway.

And remember, the deadline for application is expiring soon, you should submit your ideas asap.

*just to be on the safe side, this post should be considered as ironic. I have no intent to offend anyone

Exploring the night

Holly and George

It is now 4.30am and I have been awake for at least an hour and a half. This is not something common for me. I usually wake up at around 6.00am to go to my bootcamp on the beach here in Santa Monica. Today I woke up earlier and it was not my choice. I have to thank my two new friends, Holly and George, for this early morning call.

This is the first time I mention them in my blog, therefore I need to introduce them to you, my dear reader. Holly and George are two wonderful and sweet kittens that we recently adopted. They were born in March 2012, on the 22nd day of that month, from a cute young mommy cat and a brave and energetic daddy cat. Allan, our dear friend, found their mommy cat wandering around his porch and he adopted her, realizing only later that she was pregnant.

Holly and George have three siblings. The other three kittens have been adopted by other families. We decided to adopt the maximum number of kittens our small house could contain because we wanted to give some of them the opportunity to grow together.

We picked Holly, the black little cat, because we were concerned that his color could have caused her problems. As you may know, many people think that black cats bring bad luck but so far I can tell you that Holly just brought us wonderful luck, happiness and many many great moments…if you exclude the fact that, together with her little brother, she woke me up early today. Holly is extremely sweet. She did not really trust us during the first days she came to live with us. It was always hard to pick her up and pet her. She looked at us with suspiciousness and it always seemed like she was thinking “Who are these guys, why are they so kind with us?”. After a while, she started feeling more comfortable around us and now she is the little princess of our family. Every time you look at her, she looks back and with a short but sharp “Mieeeeow” she tells you she wants you to pick her up and/or play with her.

George was an easy pick. When he was a baby cat he was the more social of the siblings. The fact that he was a puffy little grey cat with a funny face also helped us in deciding to pick him. Now that he is almost 8 months old, he is the warrior of the house, the protector of his sister and the fierce observer of anything that happens around our place. As you can see from the picture above, he always wants to be sure that nothing weird in our neighborhood is happening. We call him Mr. Roper, as he reminds us of the funny but extremely curious landlord from the popular TV Show “Three’s Company”.

We named our kittens after two actors. Well, I should say after two movie and TV show characters. Holly is named after Holly Golightly, the star of the wonderful movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. As Holly Golightly, our Holly is extremely elegant but not snobbish, sweet but also unpredictable. George is named after the almighty George Costanza, from the TV Show “Seinfeld”. We love that TV Show and the way our George is clunky and somehow lazy reminded us of the character portrayed by Jason Alexander.

Well, to go back to the inspiration for this post, our two little friends decided to explore the night today. Instead of sleeping like two cute and sweet babies, they started playing around at 3.00am. First, they decided it was time to explore new windows and they started to climb over the little basket I have close to my bed and jump over the bedroom window, right on the top of it. Of course, I understand that they were looking for emergency exits, should anything bad happen in our house. They were concerned about safety and I admire this. My only problem is that as soon as they reached the top of the window, they did not have any idea about how to come back down and they decided to just jump on my face and see if this could have been a solution. I can tell you, it’s not nice to be awaken by a 10 pounds cat jumping over your face while you sleep.

Anyway, I went back to sleep and I thought they were done for the night. Not true. They then started to run all over the place, chasing each other. Again, I know that they were in good faith. They always see me go to the bootcamp to workout and they know that practicing sports is healthy. But there should be a good time to run all over the place like they were two little horses in a race.

Well, I said to myself that after this race they would have gone to sleep. Not true. They started exploring the bottom of their litter box. From my bed, I could hear them digging and digging and digging. I wonder if they thought they would have found gold or oil by digging so deep. Or maybe they were just trying to dig a hole in the pavement and reach the apartment downstairs, where their archenemy cat of our neighbor lives. Maybe they were planning an attack and everything was part of it. First, they checked the windows to be sure that no witness was around. Then they started warming up their muscles for the attack by running all around and then they finally started the final step of the plan by digging the hole in the pavement and creating the access to their enemy.

But it seems like something did not work out as they planned, because right after the digging I started hearing one of them running under our bed and soon the other one came into our bedroom and started meowing, as if he or she was trying to call the other one. I believe that one of them had cold feet and decided to cancel the plan, while the other kitten was trying to call him or her back to action.

This was enough. After trying to sleep for almost a couple of hours since the start of this night activity, I decided it was time for me to wake up. Now while I am typing these words on my iMac, Holly and George are staring at me in a strange way. I wonder if they are thinking something along these lines: “OK, he got us but now we have to find a way to kill him and hide the body, as long as the night is still dark and nobody is around”. Well, I hope that this is not what they are thinking and I hope that nothing will happen to……..

SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM THE MODERATOR OF THIS BLOG: unfortunately the author of the blog misteriously disappeared on the night of November 16th, 2012. Nobody knows where he went, he did not leave any note. The detective interrogated the only two individuals who saw the author of the blog for the last time, his two kittens Holly and George. They said they did not see anything. They also mentioned that the author acted weird during his last night, talking to himself and keeping them awake the whole time. They say they will miss him but they are also happy, because they will finally be able to sleep.

George SleepingIn this picture, George finally sleeps after the author of this blog disappeared.