What is it like to work in a Silicon Valley start-up?

What is it like to work in a Silicon Valley start-up? I have been working in a tech startup for over a year now and this is my story.

Me and the two founders

Me, the two founders and a remote team member at a hack-a-thon in Palo Alto

In August 2013 my wife and I moved into the Bay Area after she found a job at Stanford. Because of Stanford’s vicinity to Silicon Valley, I was excited to join her and decided to leave my electronic engineering job in The Netherlands. In January 2014, I met my current bosses at an Internet of Things meetup in the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View. They had a cool idea for an industrial Internet of Things start-up and needed an electronic engineer. I volunteered for one week and built a prototype, after which I became employee number one of Petasense.

Silicon Valley NEXT EXIT

Silicon Valley NEXT EXIT

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is a great place to be as an engineer. It is the homeland of companies like Google, Tesla, Apple, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard, etc. Also all the other major tech companies want their offices here, because this is where everything happens. In addition there is great funding opportunities for startups. Silicon Valley alone accounts for one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the United States. Besides there is now more funding than ever making it easy to find investors.

My start-up works from the Hacker Dojo, which is a hacker space, a meeting place, and a co-working space in one. It is full of engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and tech events. Daily, I am in the office space, using electronics tools and meeting with other engineers. I find it inspiring to be around people in the Hacker Dojo who work hard and passionately pursue their ideas.

Fast developments

Because there is no bureaucracy in a small start-up I am able to develop super fast. Eight weeks after I started working we already had prototypes running in field trials. I have never developed electronics so quickly!

One of the reasons that I could develop electronics so quickly, is that the big tech companies want to help start-ups developing a product, using one of their products, because they fear missing out on the next big thing in the Silicon Valley.

Additionally, for the first time ever I had my electronics produced in China for 1/10th of the normal cost. I found it really exciting. I had no expectation of the quality, but it turned out really good.

Small size, quick growth

Since the company is so small I needed to really own the technical problems, take responsibility, wear many hats, make important decisions, and learn from my mistakes. This risk and responsibility is actually liberating, as well as addictive.

One year after I started, both customers and investors showed so much interest that the company can now afford to hire consultants, industrial designers and work with a contract manufacturer to make a real product instead of a prototype. It is really exciting to see the company grow from an idea to a real product and getting purchase orders, and to know that I played an important role in achieving this.

In general young start-ups don’t have much money. Everyone in a start-up usually takes a little cash salary, but also stock options. In return of my efforts I get partly cash and partly stock options. If you don’t need so much money then it is an exciting adventure and maybe in the future it will pay out. After one year working for a start-up I can say that I truly enjoy it.

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Grow New Roots and Blossom – Spring 2015

We’ve blogged before about Deborah’s Palm. They offer a wide variety of classes, and groups for women experience challenges throughout their lives, in addition to an open place to come relax and enjoy a cup of tea. Deborah’s Palm is now offering a  support group just for you!Growing new roots (spring2015)

Grow New Roots and Blossom, a support group for women who have recently moved to the Bay Area,  is being offered by Deborah’s Palm and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Ildiko Ran. I was lucky enough to sit down with Ildiko this week to learn more…

Ildiko herself is a ‘trailing spouse’. Born in Hungary, she has spent the past 20 years following her husband across Europe, Asia and the United States. With five children in tow, and a passion for her career, it hasn’t always been easy. Ildiko recalled a challenging period spent in China, while heavily pregnant with her second child; From doorways too small for her stroller, and a seemingly impossible language barrier, it was a struggle that made her stronger. Ildiko has made the most of challenging experiences, and embraced her international life. She recognizes the huge loss that one experiences when they move away from family and life-long friends. She has learned to cope, and dedicated her career to helping others overcome similar life challenges. Ildiko is looking forward to meeting and supporting other women who are creating a new life in the Bay Area as a trailing spouse.

“You may have moved here from a different country or state, and are lacking your previous support system from your multi-generational family members and life-long friends. This group is aimed to share and mourn that loss and find new meaning in connecting with others, as you create a new life for yourselves and your families. We will look at both sides of the coin: verbalizing the loss, which is so often unspoken and discouraged, but also celebrating the potential and strength that we carry, as we nurture and create a life for ourselves in this new culture where we need to be flexible yet grounded.”

We are starting a new session of  “Grow New Roots and Blossom” at Deborah’s Palm (555 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto) It will be a bi-weekly group March through May.

Meeting dates are: March 10, 24, April 7, 21, May 5, 19
Tuesdays 7-9PM
Fee: 25$/week ($150 for 6 weeks)

Format of group: We will be offering a helpful variety of activities to create bonds of friendship and learn together. We will have guest speakers, art projects and teaching times to encourage you.


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Please welcome Felicity!

felicityFelicity is a speechwriter, who coaches people to make awesome speeches, presentations and pitches. Felicity moved to San Francisco from London with her software engineer husband and two cats in 2014. As if moving half way around the world wasn’t enough, she made the crazy decision to start her own business at the same time! She’s had a big adjustment to go from in-house to freelance, tea and scones to coffee and brownies, rainy days to constant sunshine, but she wouldn’t change it for the world.


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Top 5: Marine animals and where to spot them

I recently had my family to stay with me over from London. My Mum’s a wildlife artist so I made nature the focus of our excursions. Here are my top five marine animals and where you can spot them in the Bay Area.

marine drawing

  1. Sea lions: Numero uno has to be Pier 39 where hundreds of sea lions bask in the sun. If you want to check on how many there are before you visit, Pier 39 have hooked up a webcam, so you can see the sea lions from the comfort of your sofa. There’s also tons of other tourist stuff to do nearby. I love going around the bread factory in Boudins or catching a ferry across the bay to Tiburon.

marine pier 39

  1. Sea otters: Have you ever seen a sea otter? I didn’t know they existed until I moved to the Bay Area. These guys are ridiculously cute. Seriously, it’s hard to resist the temptation to take one home as a pet. The best way to see them is to go to feeding time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were also lucky enough to spot a wild one playing in the ocean from the Aquarium’s viewing platform.marine otter
  1. Whales and dolphins: Whales take your breath away. Now is the time to see them as they make their migration north. We did a tour with these people in Monterey. They’re marine biologists so they know their stuff. On top of the whales we saw hundreds of dolphins. They like to ride in the wake of the boat so they come really close. It can get a bit choppy so pack some anti-seasickness tablets.marine whales
  1. Elephant seals: Año Nuevo State Park is the place to see elephant seals. Up until the end of March you can watch the females giving birth. Make sure you book a ticket if you want to get close at this time of year. Even without doing the tour this is a beautiful place to walk and see wildlife. We saw garter snakes, pelicans and numerous sea birds.

    marine ano nuevo
  1. Jellyfish, octopus, penguins and much more: The Monterey Bay Aquarium is so spectacular it merits another mention. The giant red octopus and the jellyfish were the stand out exhibits for me. But make sure you allocate a whole day for this mammoth attraction – there are numerous weird and wonderful creatures from the ocean deep on display.
    marine jellyfish

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your binoculars, sun cream and some anti-seasickness tablets and go exploring!

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Top 5: Places to take Your Guests in the Bay Area

Chances are you haven’t been in the Bay Area long before you find yourself hosting a guest. We all feel pressure to make sure our visitors have an enjoyable and memorable time. Hopefully this list of the top five places, not including San Francisco, to visit will be a helpful guide.  I surveyed people,  who have had guests, about the places they enjoyed the most.  These five were overwhelmingly the most popular.


This place has everything.  Wine tasting, beach, art, shopping and plenty of exploration to be had.  The official web guide for the City offers great itinerary suggestions for everyone: Girlfriend getaways, best for kids, winos, romantics, etc.  With or without guests, this is a must visit for everyone.  In 2014, the magazine Conde Nast Traveler voted Carmel #2 Best Small City in the US, #7 Best Resturants for US Cities and #6 for Travel Destination in the US.

China Cove, Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. Photo by John Evans.

China Cove, Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay, Ca, the oldest settlement in San Mateo County, was called Spanish Town in the 1840s. On the coast, Half Moon Bay is full of outdoor activities to be had and the drive on the 1 is gorgeous in it’s self.  Along the 1,  you will find beaches to stop at and tide pools to explore.  The town of Half Moon Bay has a host of events, and is famous for the Pumpkin Festival which is always the weekend (Saturday & Sunday) following Columbus Day. My favorite part, often overlooked, are the nurseries.

When planning your visit please be aware that there will most likely be traffic.  If possible, get there early though to avoid as much as possible coming over Hwy 92 and check the tide chart as some activities are only at low or high tide.

This site focuses on kid friendly activities but I found it gives really good tips about and practicalities to think about like – it’s easy to miss the sign for Fitzgerald Marine.  It also includes a great list of things to do.

Half Moon Bay.  Picture by Miri Leigh.

Half Moon Bay. Picture by Miri Leigh.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is an outdoor paradise.   You can stroll on the boardwalk and participate in water sports.  Wildlife adventures include whale watching, butterflies and birds.  I found this site the most helpful for planning.

Santa Cruz board walk.

Santa Cruz board walk.

If you have a few days  be sure to take a drive to Monterey Bay Nation Marine Sanctuary and Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of our nation’s largest marine sanctuaries, larger than Yellowstone National Park.  Monterey Bay Aquarium, is an unforgettable experience and was mentioned frequently by people I surveyed for this list so head over there too!

Muir Woods

Open every day of the year Muir Woods is a magical place.   No wonder part of Return of the Jedi and Vertigo were filmed here. Get there early or you will find yourself parking along side of the road and having to walk back to the park. It’s not so bad, it’s a gorgeous walk and great intro to the park.

The magic of the giant trees.

The magic of the giant trees.

The main attractions are the Coastal Redwoods. Most of the redwoods in the Monument are between 500 and 800 years old. The oldest is at least 1,200 years old!  I found this site to be the most helpful for planning.   If you are a nature lover AND a fact lover you must take Tom Martell’s famous tour.

If you can, drive over to Sausalito for a waterfront dining experience and stay night.  The next day you can visit Point Bonita Lighthouse and if you’re an art person, visit the galleries and if you’re not, drink the wine.

Alcatraz Island

As soon as you find out you will be having visitors get your tickets to visit Alcatraz.   This is the one recommendation that you really need to plan in advance as tickets can be hard to come by.  The first fort and lighthouse on the West Coast, Alcatraz has history and amazing views.   If you go before April 26th, 2015, you have the opportunity to experience seven art installations by Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

I don’t think there is a bad time to visit the Bay Area, but if you want the low down on seasonal temps and tourist season, you can find information here.  What would be really helpful is to create a post for each season, guess I better get started on Spring….  What are your recommendations?

Posted in Enjoying your Life, Leisure & Destinations | 1 Comment