SF, you stole my heart #37
Three months in the Bay
June 2, 2022
This week, I decided to publish something different.
This writing is a deeply personal reflection on my time in SF Bay Area and California during the past three months.
I traveled to the Bay via the new SILTA program at the beginning of March 2022. SILTA takes entrepreneurs from Finland to the SF Bay Area for three months. The program provides housing in SF and flights to SF and back to Finland. Every participant is responsible for their exact agenda in SF.
The applications for the next SILTA batch are open until June 17. Apply here!
From uncertainty to slowly emerging clarity
When I got accepted to the SILTA program this January, I had little clue what I would do in SF.
I remember writing something ambiguous to my program application like “meeting people in the Bay Area’s climate tech ecosystem” and “learning about technology transfer in the US.” These points are not entirely wrong, but my time in SF ended up being much more.
Several critical steps happened between my acceptance to the SILTA program and the program's start at the beginning of March.
In January, I actively looked for a co-founder who wanted to build a hardware climate startup and thereby annually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a least 0.5 Gt of CO2e.
During February, I spoke and tested working with several potential co-founders.
I eventually found a fantastic co-founder with aligned values! Together, we started to ideate climate solutions with large-scale climate impact potential (at least 0.5 Gt / CO2e annual reduction or removal potential of greenhouse gases). We realized that both of us were passionate about decarbonizing the aviation industry and decided to focus on that.
During my time in the Bay, I met hundreds of climate tech people, learned about company building from the best, and validated a solution for decarbonizing air travel.
Arrival in that intimidating city
Before setting a foot in the Bay Area, I was (believe it or not!) intimidated by its famous startup and tech scene. The Bay Area is the birthplace for many of the most valuable and innovative companies like Apple, Google, Meta, Airbnb, you name it.
I wasn’t sure if I would match the level of people there. To my surprise, it turned out that I do!
Immersion into the climate tech ecosystem
I knew only a handful of people in the Bay Area beforehand, most of whom I recently met during the On Deck Build for Climate program in February 2022.
Meeting amazing people in SF was luckily relatively easy. Firstly, there were numerous events taking place every day. Secondly, the Bay is full of driven, optimistic, and open-minded people.
I had to make a deliberate effort to meet people, though. Nobody held my hand and took me to events. I had to discover those events and ride my bike/Caltrain/Uber to those events myself.
I used the following communities primarily to discover (climate) events:
I was part of these wonderful communities before traveling to SF. Also, Eventbrite and Twitter turned out to help discover climate events.
During my time in the Bay, I also learned about the following climate organizations and communities and attended their events:
- Women in Climate Investing and Finance
- Young Professionals in Energy (YPE)
- Climate Tech Action Network
- Diamond List
- Climate Tech Cocktails
- Techonomy Climate
If you are in the Bay and looking to connect with the local climate tech community, I can highly recommend checking out all the aforementioned communities and organizations!
I loved SF’s active event culture. It made a huge difference for somebody like me, who had a negligible local to start with.
And by the way, climbing is also a great way to meet amazing people.
“You should talk to my friend….”
I was impressed with the people I met there. The “average” person (not in its usual meaning) was highly driven, optimistic, and open-minded.
I felt belonging in the environment. People understood me, and I understood them. Previously, I’ve felt that sometimes people haven’t responded well to my working hours and intensity. (Oh, especially not in the Finnish dating culture if you identify yourself as a woman).
People weren’t afraid of big ideas (which ours indeed is. More about that later). Instead, they got excited and asked how they could be helpful. Usually, the help meant introducing me to their friends with relevant skills and experience.
This culture of making introductions was damn awesome. People were open to introducing me to people in their network after meeting them at an event. And those introductions happened fast. A sense of urgency was present.
Being able to tap into brilliant people’s networks tremendously accelerated our idea validation.
In February, I knew three people in aviation that I could ask whether our idea to decarbonize the aviation industry makes sense. Last week, I counted that I had had 90 1-on-1 meetings and calls with aerospace engineers, airlines, investors, etc. March-May.
And, of course, you also have to give back. Never have I made so many introductions to others in such a short amount of time.
Ok, I’m still very Finnish
As much as I felt like belonging to the people I met, several occasions reminded me that I am very Finnish. It is also worth pointing out that all of these happened in California, a liberal state with forward-looking environmental policies.
The first time happened when I told my US friend that I felt guilty when flying. She genuinely asked me, “why would I feel guilty for that? It’s just flying.” I had to elaborate that I feel guilty about flying because of the emissions it causes.
In Europe, most people my age are aware of air travel’s emissions and feel guilty when flying. Swedes even have a word for flight shame, flygskam.
The second time took place at a baseball game in Los Angeles. After passing the security check, several people pointed to two guys who held boxes in their hands. I soon realized that I hadn’t taken an MLB bobblehead (a doll with a big head representing a baseball player). I politely declined, and the guys looked visibly offended, telling me that it was free and a limited design.
Once I entered the arena, hundreds of people held their bobbleheads and even took photos with their dolls. The dolls felt such nonsense and materialistic to me.
The third occasion happened when we talked about Finland with some of my new US friends. They referred to Finland as a socialist country, and I looked terrified. I associate socialism with communism and Russia. My friend associates socialism with a welfare society.
Having lived in the SF downtown for three months, I can see why Finland may seem like a socialist country. In Finland, one doesn’t witness the scale and severity of homelessness as one does in SF.
SF, you stole my heart
Last Sunday, May 29, my airplane landed at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.
For the first time after spending a longer (> 3 months) time abroad, I wasn’t looking forward to coming back to Finland. Of course, it was wonderful to see my family and friends again. However, if I had the chance to stay in SF, I would have done that right away.
I loved my time in SF and am sure that I’ll be back there sooner or later. Hopefully, very soon!
Survivaltech.club Helsinki Meetup!
I got inspired by this event culture and wanted to bring a piece of that back to Finland. Thus, I’m organizing the first Survivaltech.club Helsinki Meetup on Monday, June 13, 6 PM!💚
We’ll meet at Vanha Kirkkopuisto if the weather is not too Finnish (=rainy). If it rains, we’ll meet somewhere indoors near the city center.
Already 17 people have registered! RSVP and event updates:➡️ https://lu.ma/jgegr501
If you liked this article, please share it with your climate friends!🌍