Startup Tips for SF

Written by Mary Lieu on the 25th of June, 2017

Share this article on social:

This week, SheStarts is in the USA. The founders are diving deep into San Francisco’s vibrant, thriving startup ecosystem, visiting VC firms, co-working spaces, incubators and the startups-turned-tech-giants that are leading the way. With Facebook, Google, Blackbox, Rocketspace, Atlassian (and more!) on the list, it’s going to be an incredible week.

So how do you prepare for a business to San Francisco, especially when it’s for the first time?

We sat down with the BlueChilli team and Folktale co-founder Sarah Mak to uncover their startup tips. Here’s what they had to say:


Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, BlueChilli CEO


If someone sends you a message, answer right away. 

Within the day is fine, but tomorrow is too late.  There’s 1000 opportunities like yours, so make sure you’re the one that is in the door first.


Colette Grgic, Chief Innovation Officer at BlueChilli


Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and ask for introductions – and make it easy for them to connect you! About 2-3 weeks before you head to SF, look through your networks on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and see who you are connected to, even as a second degree connection.

Keep it short & sharp and don’t forget to include a link to your up-to-date LinkedIn profile and a clear call to action. 

If you can get an introduction from someone who knows you already, that is generally better although I have just reached out to folks where there is a clear alignment for us to meet. Write a short paragraph describing what you do and why you are in the area.

 Here’s an example:
“My friend Colette Grgic is the Chief Innovation Officer at one of Australia’s top accelerators, BlueChilli. She is visiting SF at [x date] and would like to get insights from other startup accelerators and innovation experts in the Bay Area broadly around how they operate, and specifically about how they engage mentors. I thought you might be able to meet her for a coffee/ recommend models for her to look at/ connect her to someone from your network?”


Sarah Mak, Folktale co-founder


San Francisco is saturated with people with great ideas and people hear a hundred pitches a day.

To be remembered, you need to be real – don’t be anyone but yourself.

Everyone you meet with is more than a title – connect on a human level, understand what they are about and why they might be interested in what you’re doing. Do your research, share who you are and your why. Get to know people on a deeper level. That is where the magic happens.


Alan Jones, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at BlueChilli


Simple, practical tips for San Francisco: Startups, investors and incubators are quite evenly spread between the city of San Francisco and the broader Bay Area to the south. It can be easy to underestimate the distance between, say, San Francisco and Mountain View when you look on Google Maps and in peak hour it can take twice as long each way.

Tardiness is frowned upon in Silicon Valley so plan your meetings well in advance, and if you can, queue them up so that all your South Bay meetings happen on one day, city meetings on another.

Public transport options are limited, slow and don’t connect very near where you’ll want to go, but fortunately Lyft and UberX are cheaper in the US than in Australia and you will rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for one to pick you up. Note that when arriving at SFO International Terminal, rideshare drivers will want to call you to confirm you exist, and will cancel your booking if you don’t pick up. Which is a problem if your Australian mobile SIM isn’t set up to roam in the US!

Also note both Lyft and Uber will require you to have a US mobile number stored in your app settings before they’ll let you call your driver from the app. So either switch to a prepaid mobile SIM when you arrive (several outlets sell them in Arrivals exit area at SFO but T-Mobile sells better plans from outlets all across SF and Silicon Valley) or be prepared to not be able to contact your Uber/Lyft driver while in the US.


So there you have it. Our key startup tips for your first business trip to San Francisco. If you have any startup tips you’d like to share, let us know! As for the SheStarts founders, you can follow all the action on our social media channels – we’ll be posting regular updates throughout the week.