January 27 2012
This morning started early again. The last three months I have been working on kindergarten applications for my five-year-old boy, Sky, which takes an amazing amount of time, from the filling out of applications to about four visits per school. This, multiplied by the seven schools we are applying to, means 28 appointments. I do not recall working this hard to get any client project or partnership!
So by 8.30am I have dropped off Sky for an in-person school date – a couple of hours of observation while he plays with children and teachers. This particular school is housed in a reclaimed Levi’s Jeans factory. It is an industrial building from the late 1800s, where mostly Chinese labour produced outdoor and work-appropriate clothing for railway, logging, mining and industrial workers at the turn of the last century.
While I wait in the library for Sky’s school date to end, I see a clear connection between the old Levi’s factory and the present. The innovation of jeans as functional design changed fashion around the world, and was an early sign of the innovations and social changes that have characterised San Francisco and the Bay Area ever since.
To me, the same adventurer’s spirit that brought the gold rush to San Francisco is very much alive in the city’s contemporary entrepreneurs and technologists. The pioneer’s drive is the same; it’s the skills (from digging holes and engineering mines to programming and future-thinking) that are different. People are coming here to rally around ideas of a future that’s always on the cusp of happening.
Back in the office, I do a series of back-to-back internal reviews where I draw exhibits, pick logos with the team, work on a smartphone application, and refine the web pages of a payment company. This is followed by a call with Tel Aviv, and the interview of an art director candidate. A meeting with some social media experts/hackers who want to build a direct sales model for a consumer product ends my office day.
From here I go to the launch of Nivio, a consumer-facing, cloud-computing company. I met the CEO three years ago at the World Economic Forum, and we just completed the re-branding of the company identity and interface.
Before the event I just have time to stop at home and read books to Sky, who waited patiently for me. After he is asleep, I am off for a quick dinner at a local eatery, Spruce, with an ex-client who tells me fascinating stories about the decline of Kodak. It’s a stark reminder that no technological and business success is forever.
Recently I met an illustrious entrepreneur, scientist, human-rights advocate and venture capitalist. He was very excited to spend time together, and so was I. His first words were, “I do not care about money, I think you and I can do something important in the world. Let’s do it!” When an entire region thinks in these terms, it creates a unique climate. For me, this probably explains many, if not all, of the global revolutions of the last 60 years that were born and flourished in San Francisco and the Bay Area. I can think of six off the top of my head:
The Beat generation that blew literature wide open with free association and idealism.
The hippie movement and the summer of love 1967.
The gay-rights movement.
The commercialisation of the personal computer.
The expansion of the internet with search and browsers.
The ongoing revolution in clean tech and green-lifestyle thinking.
And that’s a lot to live up to…