Getting into this “Networking” thing

Considering I’ve been here barely two months, I think my networking has been going pretty well.

I’ve made a contact at the Hardware Encoding manufacturer, Teradek. We’re going to collaborate on a social media giveaway soon which will be neat. Teradek provided for all of Twitch.tv’s streaming needs at E3 this year.

When I was on the phone with their PR guy, I made a joke about World of Warcraft. He laughed. I think we understand one another. I’m sure we’ll get along well at TwitchCon

Oh yeah, I’m also going to be at TwitchCon. I will no doubt have my interviewing cut out then!

Outside of that I’ve been going to a quite a few networking events. I know that to many Brits, networking sounds a bit snobbish, or is something rather under-handed to do. I know I’ve heard some people regard having “connections” as an unfair advantage.

Here in the Bay though, it’s the norm and it’s almost expected of you.

SF Video Tech

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The first one I went to was run by Brightcove, another live streaming provider, except they have way more money than the one I work for. I was also rather jealous that they had name all their rooms after different locations in Middle Earth.

They’d been doing this Live Video Tech meetup for the past year, and it’s only a block away from where I work. So I went along. This was during my 2 week here.

When I got to the office, there there was a man with a motorcycle helmet looking at his phone in front of it. I avoided eye contact as is the vogue in San Francisco, because it’s kinda scary, especially at night.

Turned out he was going to the networking event. His name was Jay and was a disgustingly handsome and polite Texan. He had just started his new job at Google. Just like that I had made my first friend at Google. That was a moment when I felt like I had “arrived” in the San Francisco Bay.

He was kind enough to introduce me to his Canadian friend Julian, because I was looking sheepishly around the room feeling a little lost. We had some free beer and pizza, talked about unusual games, Top Gear and the difficulty of getting US visas.

The talks were interesting. Fascinating even. For the first time I really felt “Californian”. Everything was so exciting and do-able. I felt like I was at the cutting edge of an innovative industry. This was the California I wanted to find.

However, while the first speaker was talking about an exciting developing industry called Marketing Automation, I felt bad for the second speaker.

Yueshi works for Twitch, and what he does is vital. He handles quality control. This means making sure that all the individual packets of data get allocated to right places at the right times. He was talking about the allocation of individual bytes of data to individual pixels, and how adjacent pictures, their movement, and colour, affects the allocation of pixels next to them. And there was a square root, sometimes several of them, and I started to get scared!

It was intense. Very interesting, but intense.

But I felt bad for Yueshi, because I watch a lot of Twitch, and I always watch it on medium or low quality to make sure the stream doesn’t buffer. Most of the time I don’t event watch it, I alt-tab out and just listen to the live cast. Meanwhile, this man spends every day busting his ass to maintain the quality of all Twitch streams!

I’m sorry Yueshi, so sorry for all your hard work we don’t appreciate.

Tech in Motion

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Going to my first Tech in Motion was rather fun as well. This was a couple of week laters. It was there I started to realise I far more social, than my own self perception of me. I’m awkward at getting into the circle of conversation, but I’m pretty good at breaking the ice with funny stories once I’m in.

I started to worried I sounded pretentious, talking about “This one time in China…”, “That reminds me of something in Seoul / Tibet / Japan / The Netherlands”. It always was an honestly related story, but still, it made me appreciate how much I’ve gotten to travel so far a bit more. Half the ex-pats I knew in China had travelled more than I had.

And I just found out my girlfriend has eaten Salmon from the stream raw!

I haven’t even been sky-diving….

Anyway, Tech in Motion was fun. Again, there was that buoyant feeling of California “can-do” attitude which I find so appealing, rather than the plague of Brit’s scathing “Well, good luck doing that ever”.

Sure, there are some wonderful people doing awesome stuff in the UK, but I’ve met far more people who told me to give up. I shared this sentiment with a Japanese man, who also lamented the lack of entrepreurship in his home country. He plans to learn what he can about startups and take that back to Japan.

I applaud his efforts, but I do suspect he’ll hit a culture brick wall and be back. In my experience, innovation and initiative only comes from the top in East Asia. I suspect that is much more ingrained culturally, and will be much harder to shift, then general British cynicism.

But the willingness to try is such an admirable quality, and I do hope it works out for him. Although sometimes, you do see Californian optimism blinding some people, which leads me onto my the next networking event.

Runway Incubator

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I went to this one last week. It was a well organised, if sparsely catered, networking event at an incubator in downtown San Francisco.

What exactly is an incubator, I couldn’t tell you, but it always makes me think of eggs. I think it describes somewhere where business and networking happen at the same time, but I only start thinking about omelettes when people talk about them.

I found this one to be a little more cold and…calculated. Its what I imagine speed dating is like, everyone was here with an objective in mind. The other ones were social.

Some people had an assertive air of “prove you’re useful to me or I’ll be mad I wasted my time talking to you!”

There was some cool stuff there, like a company that will create Virtual Reality Real Estate and let you VR walk around your new office before its done. Now that was cool. However, there were also some people here trying to sell their questionable mobile app ideas.

I’m just not so sold on the idea that the future of everything lies in mobile apps that fill a mediocre niche.

“It’s Meetup.com but for sports clubs!”

So….why don’t I just use Meetup.com? It has a larger following and is already well established. Also, isn’t that the Patreon logo with a dot in the “P”?

“You can send sexy challenges to your partner, if they complete them, they score points. You can have a spicy competition!”

Kooky. Kinky. I’m not opposed to this in principle, but it seems a little sad to have an app do that for you. I think it would be more fun to tally the scores ourselves. First one to finish has to clean all the dishes, perhaps?

“This app lets you review TV shows, but with a graph! So you can say it started of great, but slowly tailed off to the end”

Now…I’m not much of a statistician, but even I know that if your Y axis doesn’t have a unit of measurement, then your graph is pointless.

‘4 Stars’ only means something if you know it’s out of 5. If people are free to interpret the scale any way they want, they’re you’re not going to get data that’s useful for anyone.

He didn’t like that when I said that to him.

He really didn’t.

Not one bit.

I guess startups get a lot of naysayers, and that is tiring. But, neither am I sold on your product if you get upset when I express my profound disinterest as a user.

Seriously, there are homeless people everywhere here, a disgusting wealth gap, ridiculous amounts of student debt, the migrant crisis in Europe is getting wildly out of hand, China continues to devastate the environment – and you want to give people another way to review Television Shows?

I just think you could be doing more with your life good sir.

Besides, Walking Dead isn’t that good anyway.