#SiliconValleyProblems #Kids Edition

1. Amazon Prime takes too long. I want my Rainbow Loom now! #googleexpress
2. No wi-fi in the car = no Sofia the First. #what’saradio?
3. I get carsick playing Soul Surfer on my ipod while going over the Hill to the beach. #highway17woes
4. Cursive is the HomeEc of the 21st century. #Swyperules
5. If Santa’s Workshop is real, why isn’t it on Yelp? #negativereviewsgetcoal
6. MineCraft is collaborative interaction and therefore is more important than homework. #NotchIsGod
7. The Instacart driver took his sweet time and now my popsicles are all melted! #notip
8. I can’t find the show I want on Neflix OR Apple TV! Are we sure it exists? #DemandOnDemand
9. I keep tripping on the cord charging the Volt while playing basketball on the driveway. #electricfoul
10. Instabullies is not what my parents think it is. #ilovemydog
11. The new iPhone 6 Plus is too big for my wheely backpack. #stillgettingit
12. I can’t tweet the @sfgiants game because my service doesn’t work @attpark. #itsfreakingattyo
13. The FAA won’t let me fly my drone. #toohighnofly
14. Vacuum, what’s a vacuum? Roomba! #onelesschore
15. I’m never getting my driver’s license. Ever. Thanks a lot Google self-driving car. #stupidrobots
16. I forgot to clear my web history on the family computer. #whoops
17. My parents won’t let me take an Uber to school. #oldfashioned
18. My LinkedIn profile page doesn’t have a section for my grade school Accelerated Reader scores. #NoStanfordForMe
19. Dine Dash no longer delivers from my favorite burger joint. #Wherearemysweetpotatofries?
20. I got grounded for spending $324 on in-app purchases. #trickydevelopers
21. My UrbanSitter nanny only has 4 five-star reviews. #rookie
22. Mom tagged me in hundreds of pictures. My girlfriend just commented on a picture of me sitting on the potty when I was 3. #NoParentsOnFacebook
23. What is Microsoft, and why did it buy Minecraft? #theregoesmyfaction #majorgriefer
24. Mom just instituted a “no screens” hour from 6-7pm. What the hell am I supposed to do now? #whatisatoy?
25. The ice cream truck just tweeted out its location—too far for my razor electric scooter to go. #morebatterylifefordrumstick​

For Real? Estate – Part 1: The “No Es Bueno” San Francisco Land Grab

It all started wwhitebagith a plastic bag last winter.

“I think you’ll REALLY like this place over the others we’ve looked at — it’s right in your price range and they’re even willing to wait 3 months for you to start the lease until your other lease is up!”

My commercial broker, Amy, was her usual perky, peppy self as she maneuvered her late model BWW X5 slowly the narrow alleyway that passed for a street near San Francisco’s courthouse / jail complex on .

As we slowly drifted past a motley assortment of buildings in the street, I kept sinking down further into my seat and even contemplated refusing to get out of the car when it stopped at our destination.

The back alley buildings themselves held the businesses one would expect in the neighborhood immediately surrounding the local pokey – bail bondsmen after bail bondsmen, followed by shingle after shingle advertising criminal defense attorneys (“Available 24/7!”). And let’s not forget the tasty side of other sketchy-looking services that cater to the patrons of the court system and jail. Bail_bonds

Amy squeezed her large SUV into a small, cracked driveway next to a pale pink rock-facade 1960s era apartment building; we slid out gingerly onto the broken pavement, looking furtively from side to side for I don’t know what.

Across the driveway, a lean, blonde, very-tanned man greeted us energetically – Charlie, the broker from the “other side”, i.e. the guy who represented the landlord in a commercial rental transaction.

As Charlie thrust a lean, tanned hand toward us, Amy stage-whispered to my partner and me, “It was so nice of him to come out to show this. Most brokers are already done for the week. But he and I go way back and so it’s a favor.”

It was only 10 am. On a Friday.

So it made sense that he would be done for the day….if his clients were vampires.

The property itself was one of the oddest office buildings I’d seen in San Francisco. Badly weathered aluminum siding covered on the upper part of the building above a layer of pastel faux-rocks. A large external cement staircase in the front led up to each of the 6 units, 2 per floor.  They all looked like apartments rather than offices, each featuring a very homey front door with a knocker and a large picture window next to it.

Charlie bounded up the stairs in front of us, casually announcing over his shoulder that all the other tenants were defense attorneys.

Naturally.

And then I saw it.  The bag.

As I lifted up my foot to take my first step onto the staircase, I noticed the small, white, lumpy bag on the ground at the base, with a neatly tied bow — it was a bag that looked grossly familiar to anyone who has ever owned a dog.

I froze, my stomach lurching ever so slightly, and quickly side-eyed my partner, seeking some reassurance that that bag was not what my stomach and nostrils were perceiving.

Without missing a step, he whispered as he passed me and stepped onto the staircase, “Yes, that is exactly what you think it is.”

Our tour of the apartment / office turned out to be just as disheartening as our trip up the staircase. Charlie pleasantly pointed out the features: 3 beige separate (bed)rooms, beige in-suite bathroom, beige kitchen, beige wall to wall carpet, beige linen closets, fire escape access in the back down to the garbage cans….yes, garbage cans. In the back, where garbage goes.

At this point, there was no shaking the apartment-complex feel to it, although when asked, both Charlie and Amy swore it had always been a commercial property. They both gamely attempted to sell the highlights of the space’s 3 bedroom floor plan — more privacy because of the separate rooms, all new kitchen appliances, a shower in the bathroom, large closets for coats….by the end, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to work there or make a happy home.

But even if the doggie welcome bag hadn’t been there, the office space was simply not at all what we could move our tech product design firm into. As I’d emphasized to Amy many times, our must-have requirements, after price range and square footage, included an office with natural light, and parking, both for me and my staff and for our Silicon Valley clients, many of whom had to drive into San Francisco for business meetings. (But not typically criminal court dates.)

Needless to say, we said our goodbyes to Amy and her services later that day. While I certainly didn’t hold her responsible for the doo-doo bag, I did let her know that we had higher hopes for her meeting our office requirements. But given the commercial real estate market, perhaps I was overly harsh on her on even that front. After all, Amy was only able to show us inventory that was available. And the inventory pickens were indeed slim.

While it was to be the last, tDIAKADI_Fitness_Performance_Life_-_Google_Mapshis wasn’t our first disappointing office visit to San Francisco commercial space within our size and price range. The other visits, while not as notably colorful as the Bail Bondsmen Backalley, all seemed wrought with similarly fatal flaws — one building was a converted warehouse that had a single tiny bathroom per floor of 8 offices.

And then there was the Peruvian startup attempting to run an illegal  out of their offices. Although we were initially excited about their bright, IKEA-decorated sublet, the dreamy deal started falling apart when we started asking several tough, probing questions such as, “Has your landlord actually given you permission to sublet the space?” These were met with a lot of blank stares, and a few “Es bueno, es all bueno, no problem, no worries. Deal?”, which we met with a corresponding, “Nooooo, no es bueno. Noooooo deal.”

I could go on about ore dire properties we viewed, but it just takes me back to the sadder place to recount the weird, cavelike, or just downright depressing office spaces for rent.

Basically, though, I was starting to believe that we’d be better off pitching a tent in the SoMA Streat Food lot next to the food trucks and turning that into an office space with tasty snacks nearby.

Wondering what happened next? Check out more about my roller-coaster experiences in the San Francisco land grab in Part 2: Why can’t I just work in my car??

 

For Real? Estate – Part 2: Why can’t I just work in my car?

(To recap just how this all started with a plastic bag of poo, please see Part 1: The “No Es Bueno” San Francisco Land Grab )

The crazy commercial and residential land grab in San Francisco is not new news to anyone who lives in the Bay Area. It was just my personal first brush with how insane it’s all gotten in the run up of the past 6 years since we first took a commercial lease. Ah, those were the salad days of early 2008, where SF 

For those of you (well, okay, maybe it’s just me) who find the price-per-square-foot number a little inscrutable — it’s basically the annualized cost per square foot for a rental. So an office space of 10,000 square feet at $30 / square foot will cost your firm a nifty $300,000 to rent for the year.

How little I realized what a bargain those olden days were.

I learned quickly, for when our office lease was about 6 months away from expiring, we started conversation with our current building management team about the potential cost of renewing. I nearly fainted in my chair when I was told that current market for our building and spaces like it was running between 

Just based on the sheer 80-100% increase in rent alone, it was becoming clear for our bottom line that we’d need to look around for a new office space.At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’ve only helped create this quasi-dire office space situation by limiting my search area to the side of San Francisco that is absolutely the most competitive for commercial space currently, thanks to the tech boom. It’s the  combined with a few nearby streets in the Mission district.

While I’ve never been one to be driven by tech trendiness in making business decisions, there are truthfully some solid reasons why  (and it’s not because of the SF Giants home ballpark).

The major commuter train transportation hub, otherwise known as Caltrain, comes to rest in the heart of SoMA, which enables numerous non-SF dwellers to commute from as far as San Jose 45 miles away as it travels up through the Silicon Valley and Peninsula corridor. It’s also close-ish to the BART stations lining Market Street as well.  And it features a number of funky, trendy smaller office spaces in unique buildings with lots of light and architectural features, the kind of space that suits both unconventional start ups and also my firm, a design firm with Silicon Valley clients.

In short, for my business, SoMA was and still is best area of San Francisco for an office space.

And yet, despite having run my business successfully in San Francisco for over 9 years, it seems that we, too, were now being priced out of the market (or forced to downgrade significantly).

While I’ll refrain from making any poor-me comparisons to the, I have to admit that I can feel a few twinges of the frustration of having been based in a place as both a resident and a business owner (the latter activity which created jobs), of paying local taxes, and of generally contributing to the local economy by patronizing other local small businesses.

After contributing productively as such for 9 years, I suddenly found my ability to rent a suitable office in my home city becoming more and more difficult, priced out by small startups whose biggest contribution to the world so far, besides creating a mobile app that let’s them rent the air around their apartment, is that they believe they’re “disrupting disruption” and that they are proudly developing a corporate culture based on “awesome snacks.” (I am not making any of this up, although I may have combined a few startups.)

This whole experience has a distinct quality of what I imagine it would feel like to wake up one morning and find out every apartment in your building was rented at ridiculously high rents to spendthrift 13-year olds; these youngsters were given a wad of cash and no adult supervision. Sure, they might do *alright* for a while, until they spend all their cash on shiny new MacBooks and In-and-Out Burger and Twizzlers and can no longer afford the rent, at which point they flee and leave the mess for someone else to clean up. And your rent’s 45% higher than before and not going down.

But lest you worry – I’m far less likely to protest my commercial situation by , or by ; however, I haven’t ruled out asking those companies to let us sublet for a while…after all, they both have SOOOOO much more room, and we don’t need much space at all and will keep very quiet, I promise.

GoogleBusAnd more importantly, did we find a new space? More on that in another post, but I promise you, this story DOES have a happy ending…stay tuned for this to all be wrapped up neatly with a sparkly bow in Part 3: I do have a Real Estate Fairy Godmother After All…

The Top 10 Things I Did to Finally Write That Book

We all have a story to tell. And living in Silicon Valley, our stories usually center around innovation. I’m a “chupacabra” of sorts, since I was born and raised in Palo Alto and decided to stay after college to pursue a career in high tech.

I cut my teeth on some no-name startups, grew up at Adobe, became an evangelist at Apple and am now a “mompreneur” doing the contract gig. And like most working moms, I’m trying to figure out the whole work, life balance and not lose my identity.

I volunteer on a couple boards, help out at my children’s school, and I’m involved in my community. But every step of the way, I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself. Who have I become? What is missing from my life? I have a great career, family, and friends but what is that one thing that makes me feel whole?

I LOVE to tell a good story. I can’t count the number of times in high school, my imagination got me out of trouble. I observe life and rethink the possibilities through my writing. This passion began in my youth, in the privacy of my bedroom with a journal. When high school came along, my creative writing took a backseat to boys and homework. And then with college, the start of my career, a marriage and two young children, life got in the way. Would I ever write that book?

Then I began to think about my career and how I had created some real life stories with all of you. If I twisted things around, the fictional outcomes were endless. I slowly began to write whenever I had a free moment. You see, for me, I discovered  the writing process soothes my soul from the chaos of life. I can transport myself to another world, if only for 30 minutes. So, several years ago, I decided to take the plunge and go for it. I decided to write that book.

Last week, I finally did it. I my debut novel, , a high tech thriller about the inner workings of a Silicon Valley start-up on the eve of its IPO. It’s been a labor of love that took YEARS of hard work.

The first question most people ask is “How did you do it?” That would require a long discussion over a bottle or two of wine. For this blog, I’ve come up with a list of The Top 10 Things I Did to Finally Write That Book.

  1. Just Write! Easier said than done but it’s true. All you need to do is come up with an idea and start typing.
  2. Get a Support Network: You need at least one person in your life to support your dream. My husband was that person. And I put him through hell and back but he was my anchor, reassuring me ever step of the way that I could do it.
  3. Make Time: Carve out time every week to write. I work full time. I volunteer. I have two kids, a husband, a house, a new puppy, extended family and I wake up most days at that crack of dawn to exercise. My life is booked solid and I don’t even drink coffee — crazy right? But in between these events, I make myself write. And I always carry my laptop.
  4. Observe Life: Wherever you are, look, listen and feel. You will find the best material all around you. And you can capture any moment on your phone through a photo, video or your own words.
  5. Attend Writing Workshops: Learn the craft of writing for your genre. My favorite workshop was the in Marin County. I got the opportunity to spend three nights and four days immersed with people like myself and published authors. After that weekend, I realized I had found my tribe. I was born to be a writer.
  6. Read Books: Read books in your genre and see how other authors craft their stories. This is the cheapest and easiest way to learn the art of storytelling.
  7. Meet Authors: Build connections with published authors to gain their insight and advice. Attend readings or workshops. Don’t become a stalker. Be smart and ask questions to build a rapport. Almost all successful authors will help aspiring writers because at some point in their career, they were like you. Thank you , and .
  8. Know that the 1st Draft Is CRAP: I’m just being honest. No author can write words of gold the first time. The point here is don’t get lost in the process of editing. That can take you down a rabbit hole of distraction—and I know this from personal experience. Just complete the first draft and get the story down. Then you can begin the editing process.
  9. Be Open to Feedback: There is always room for improvement. But you need to be able to accept constructive feedback as you edit your book. Find a writing group to test your work and learn from others. But at some point, you will need to go beyond family and friends. Hire an editor who knows your genre and will be brutally honest. As famed novelist and screenwriter once said, “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
  10. Never Give Up: It took me YEARS to write . And it was not easy. Life always has a way of interrupting well thought plans. But stay on point and get it done!

The above is just the tip of the iceberg but hopefully it will resonate with some of you. Although I won’t be giving up my day job any time soon, I will continue to write — book #2 is already in the works. I’ll leave you with one last thought. When I worked at Adobe, they had a marketing campaign that said, “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do it.” If you have a dream of writing that book, what’s holding you back? Just go write!