Now that I’ve lived in Silicon Valley for two years, it feels like I’m overdue to write about some of my experiences. To that end, I want to talk not about the booming tech ecosystem, or the rising cost of living and the challenges that’s creating. No, instead let’s talk about a few of the archetypes you might encounter here. Of course, these are just a few of the many personas that populate this region. It’s a vibrant place, with many dynamic cohorts melting together in a thick stew of disruption and innovation. Welcome to Silicon Valley! And now, let’s meet some of the local wildlife.
First, let’s start with the minority (at least as far as I can tell): the Silicon Valley natives, the local crew. You might not meet too many of them, as it seems like everyone here is from somewhere else. However, when you do finally find a local, you’ll probably notice they are some of the most intelligent people you have ever met. Although they have had fairly sheltered lives here, prodded by tiger moms and dads, and setup to walk a specific path. That path can often look like this: Youth > Stanford > Google/Apple > Hot Startup > VC or Another Hot Startup. They hold the keys to the hometown advantage and, usually, some real estate that has appreciated significantly. They’re not always the most fun at parties, but often serve as an anchor workforce for the many tech companies that call Silicon Valley home. In some cases, they are the one constant and reliable force in a highly variable market.
In this booming tech industry, you’re going to meet a lot of people who recently relocated to the valley. This group is somewhat broad, as you have people converging here from all walks of life and from around the globe. The only pattern I’ve really seen here is appropriately binary: transplants either land very smoothly in the valley and get solid jobs quickly while generally enjoying the good life; or they have a rocky start and potentially get stuck in bad cycles and/or with bad companies. The latter can sometimes cause a new transplant to exit the valley after just a short time here. Yes, in a region where things move so quickly, you’re either riding that next big wave or getting stuck in the riptide.
Now here’s someone you’re likely *not* to meet in Silicon Valley: the tech celebrities, the rock stars and feted inner core of the valley. They were early investors in things like Uber and sold their last company to So-and-So. In a town where influence is more important than money, theirs is in high demand. As a result, they have to keep their inner circle tight and appearances to a minimum. If you’re lucky to encounter them, do not stare at them directly. Instead, play it cool and maybe take a sneaky over-the-shoulder selfie when they’re not looking. Whatever you do, don’t pitch them your startup out of nowhere. They’re far too fabulous for such things.
The Startup Tourist
Next we have the startup tourists. They eat the free food at Facebook. They totally Instagrammed their Blue Bottle latte art. They even took a Google Bike for a spin through Mountain View. Yes, it’s a great time to be alive and funemployed for the tourists of Silicon Valley. They hail from all over and pop into town for short bursts of time. They’re visiting, looking for connections or money, but aren’t ready to make the full-time leap into the valley. So they spend time here and go home to sing the praises of their valley experience. Maybe they’ll even write a Medium blog post about what they learned. One day they may become a true Silicon Valley transplant, if they can ever find an available apartment
The Old Timer
Do you know how things were back in the day in Silicon Valley? Well, you’re about to if you come across the old timer. They were here in the ’90s, and boy, do they have stories to tell! In fact, they once personally saw Steve Jobs be rude to a waiter! They’ve weathered a few cycles in the valley and have the names to drop (that you might not recognize) to prove it. Typically, it’s best to just nod politely and for a fleeting moment imagine life in the valley before everything was available from an on-demand app. It sounds awful, really.
Bonus: Hyper Disco Steampunk Pixies
Let’s toss in one bonus persona, because this group is too much fun to leave out. They Daybreaker Dance at 6 a.m., they’re stoked to get playa for Burning Man, and they really want to talk to you about how Soul Cycle changed their life. The real hippies might be long gone from San Francisco, but this modern-day derivative shares many attributes with the counterculture of yesterday. Similarly, they do the most drugs and perhaps, as a result, have the most fun. Today, the potent mixture of single(ish) millennials with well-paying jobs pouring into the valley has made this group hard to miss. Well, that along with their outfits of faux fur and the brightest damn leggings you’ll ever see.
*Blog post title is a play on the book title The Five People You Meet in Heaven.