Wrapping up My Trip to Silicon Valley

Just as the starting and end of every trip to my favorite travel destination, say, Sanya, I am always telling myself that I should come here more often at the first day of landing, and at the last day. Silicon Valley is exactly giving me that feeling and even stronger.

I am sitting at my desk at Days Inn of Palo Alto, and thinking about packing up for flight UA857 back to Shanghai. Looking back, it was a great trip again. Here is a brief summary of it.

Trip Summary

The main propose of the trip is another board meeting that I am coming here every other quarter. Thanks for my insightful and smart investors, every meeting was always the highlight of the trip.

The theme of this trip is “Real Startups”. By real, I mean smaller startups around 20 people. Facebook is no longer considered a startup after visiting their campus for more than 10 times.

I visited NextDoor.com, the local community for neighbors, and met its inspiring CEO, Nirav Tolia. I learnt a lot about community building, and management. Spool’s founder Avichal is just amazing. We met four days after their company was acquired by Facebook. I also visited Zhou Ding, from Klout.com and Zhang Meng from Tango. All has very different perspective about how a technical company should run, and how technology can empower business. Dongyi from YourMechanic really helped me to understand the pace of new technology adoption and the culture behind is.

I am also adventurous  enough to participated in a HAAAACKNIIIGHT on Node.js by looking at directory of meetup.com, and dropped by two unique co-work places that host one to few person startups, Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, and Sandbox Suites in San Francisco. Those started to inspire me to think about a technical capital built in our office for technical guys in Shanghai.

The ending big bang was the 15 people gather organized by my well-connected friend Amy at Stanford Graduate Community Center. It was great to catch up with bright people from many different companies, and Stanford. That reinforced my view that Silicon Valley is really a Florence in Action. The core is about ideas sharing, combined with practical building.

Besides that, I routinely visited Facebook to meet with my friend, wandering around at Stanford (including climbing up to Hoover Tower), and stroll in San Francisco area between two meetings.

Yes. I should bring more people to the valley.


Will Bay Area Become Firenze

I am in the silicon valley. There is no big monuments, no churches, and not even something big enough to see. The whole valley is about interaction between people. When that fade out, Silicon Valley may be another Firenze (Florence, Italy). I visited Firenze few weeks ago, and realized that the city where everyone is painting, sculpturing, and talking is gone. I went there 450 years late. Will Silicon Valley become another Firenze after 400 years, with just the buildings, and the legendary stories of the information revolution?

Wrapping Up my SV Trip in Oct 2011

I am sitting at the small lobby of Camino Inn and Suite (at 1984 El Camino Real in Mountain View). It is almost 12:00 PM. The 2-star hotel typically offer free in-room wifi, but for something, it does not work today. So I spent the last night of my Silicon Valley trip in this empty lobby. As Alan de Botton put it: “The beautiful loneliness of travel”.

Drawing of the hotel lobby by Jian Shuo Wang

In case you want to see more drawing of these days, here you are:

What I Did

The last week was very long. I was not able to find time to really sit down beside a desk and reply emails. Here is a brief idea about what I did.

  • SEP27: As always, slept on the first day to fight against the jet lag. Since the Asiana Airlines OZ214 was so empty that we can slept on the 3 seats, the jet lag is not that bad.
  • SEP28: Met my old friend from investment field, visited twitter (I have never been to the office), and Facebook (few meetings with some interesting guys, both business, and technical). Lunch at twitter, and dinner at Facebook. At the same time, took the time in the middle to participate in a panel rehearsal conference call for HYSTA Annual Conference.
  • SEP29: Met my old Google and AdChina friend Yi Wang in Mount View, met with some old friend at Sand Hill Road, met Tri, a analyst friend who knows a lot about public stocks, had another conference call on HYSTA, visited one of my existing investors, and finally end up with a nice dinner with the speakers of the China 2.0 conference on Stanford.
  • SEP30: This day is simple. Started the day with the China 2.0 Conference by SPRIE (Stanford Program on Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship) on Stanford campus. That was a very good one – with keynote of Joe Chen from Renren.com, and closing with Jack Ma from Alibaba, in which session he expressed interest in buying Yahoo!, and which in turn caused the huge increase of Yahoo! stock. My panel was in the afternoon. I simply talked about focus and cost, and was happily surprised by the dropping by of Stanford president during the panel. Dinner? Another 14 gather of Chinese entrepreneur and engineer community.
  • OCT1: This is the HYSTA (Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association) annual conference day, and at the same time, the SJTU (Shanghai Jiaotong University) North America Alumni Summit at close locations. I shuttled between the two conferences for many times. Happy with the few side meetings at HYSTA, and happy to be able to talk with President Zhang Jie of SJTU in a private meeting. Dinner? It was a hard choice. I finally chose the SJTU dinner although the food is much better at HYSTA.
  • OCT2: I spent the day in Pebble Beach. Regretted a lot that I didn’t signup for the Golf at the top golf course of the world. But I spent some time at the sea side. The Gala dinner was great with many interesting guys – the people I know a lot from news papers, and weibo, but not in real persons.
  • OCT3: The HYSTA CEO Summit is good – a conference almost match the quality of YLF Conference, my favorite. The topics of globalization and localization, social media, and mobile were very thought-provoking. I also love the intimacy environment with just 30 people, and no media. I spent the night with Vince, Yutong and Facebook friend.
  • OCT4: Finally, this is the last day with activities for this trip. It is a simple day with brunch with Vince, lunch with Richard (Did I told you I had late brunch already?), a meeting with old friend at Sand Hill, and finally an info session at Stanford University (I love the room 200 of Old Union – beautiful architect), followed with a dinner of Chinese Entrepreneur Organization of Stanford.

Well. That is the chronological record of the days. Pretty busy, isn’t it?


Got some interesting photos along the way. Here are some of them.

The beautiful Pebble Beach.

and the 17-miles drive.

Photo with Prof. Zhang Jie, SJTU president

and Alibaba president, Jack Ma.

God is Favorable to People in Bay Area

I am here for few days. The bay area is always nice – sunny (except yesterday, when it rained a lot). The view of the bay area seems to be very stable, at least for a visitor like me. I don’t see new buildings, and I don’t see too much changes, event the name of the shops on the University Ave, in Palo Alto.

The change of this place is all about the inside. The up and down of companies, the shift of talent from one to another (like to Google, and to Facebook), and the sentiment of financial marketing all change greatly, and that changes (part of) the world. You just don’t see it from the buildings, and environment.

The whole area is a nice place to be in. I haven’t been to many places. I am familiar with Redmond/Seattle area, and I know bay area well. Visited New York once, and some other cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego. So far, nothing is like San Francisco and bay area – the weather, the spread out of the city, and even the traffic. I love the bay area most.

The God seems to be very favorable to this area. Not many places (at least based on my limited travel experience) has the best of a lot of aspects. Just to name a few.

  • Good weather
  • Sea, sea shore, and beach!
  • Bay that you can sail.
  • Lakes
  • Mountains
  • Wine (Napa)
  • Hi-tech companies, and great job opportunities (Silicon Valley!)
  • Financial center (San Francisco, kind of)
  • Good location with easy access to the world (port, west coast to connect to Asia, in the middle of west coast shoreline)
  • Diversified culture

Hello from SFO

Hello, I am here, stayed at Foster City, CA this time.

The trip was long. I transferred at Los Angeles International Airport via American Airlines. I didn’t write it before, but I really like San Francisco over Los Angeles, and I enjoy SFO much better than LAX.

Los Angeles

Interestingly, my impression of Los Angeles was all about being hungry. The last time I did the trip with Wendy from the south up to LA on I-5, the only reason we took exist at the downtown was, we were so hungry because we didn’t have lunch and it was 3:30 PM. So LA has been a place to eat when we are hungry. Later, when we spent the last night at LAX, it was the same. We wanted to have dinner, and since we stayed near LAX airport, we took the shuttle to the airport hoping to get some thing to eat. Again, to our disappointment, most terminals won’t open for people who are not traveling.

Over-night Flight

So far, I like the schedule of AA182, over UA858. The flight leaves Shanghai on 9:45p, and arrives at LAX at 1830p. The flight was a long one but since it overlaps with the sleeping time of my body, I happily fell asleep all the way until one hour before arrival. The long flight became invisible for me. If there is a chance, I will choose this flight the next time – flying at night, and arriving at night.

New Things

Shanghai to San Francisco has been a routine route for me, and by changing a flight (well, I was forced to because of late booking), and changing an airline, changing a time, I experienced something new. New things makes people happy (well, at least for the ENFP like myself). Looking forward to seeing new things in the future.

Time to sleep. Good night.

I am Going to Sillicon Valley

I am checking my Checklist for US Trip I prepared a long time ago. Interestingly, I found around July 1 is the most frequently traveled date I have for US trip. This time, since I booked later than I should, UA858, the flight I don’t enjoy too much, was fully booked. So I am trying a new airline – America Airlines. The departure time is as late as 21:45 so I deferred to packing till now, which is 5:00 PM already.

So, my friends in the bay area, shoot me an email at jianshuo at hotmail dot com if you want to meet up. My schedule is pretty packed, but I am always willing to spend time with passionate people in the bay area, even at the cost of my sleep time.

Photo in Google, 2010

Everytime I am in the bay area, if I don’t visit Google, I feel the trip is not complete. So, I was in Google on Monday of my last week in Mountain View.

On the picture, from left to right is Yi Wang, Qiushuang Zhang, Jian Shuo Wang, and Meng Yang.

Photograph by a kind Googler using Nexus One

I am a Hotel Tester

During this trip, I used a strategy to change to a different hotel every one or two days depending on the price, and my meeting location, to optimize for both budget, and diversity of my stay, and get some idea about what is the best hotel fitting my needs. Here are the list:

2/20 – 2/21 via Expedia, Travelodge Palo Alto, $67, 3945 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306

2/21 – 2/22 via Expedia, Creekside Inn, $79, 3400 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306

2/22 – 2/24 via Expedia, Comfort Inn, Palo Alto $94 3945 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306

2/24 – 2/25 via Hotwire, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Belmont $54 1650 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA, 94002

2/25 – 2/26 via Priceline, Holiday Inn, San Jose 1740 North First Street, San Jose, CA 95112

2/26 – 2/28 via Tina, Kingswood Village, $30, 1001 Commonwealth Dr., Lake Tahoe

2/28 – 3/2 via Hotwire, Crowne Plaza, San Francisco Airport, $67 1177 Airport Boulevard, Burlingame, CA 94010

OK. Here is the payload: My reviews. Interestingly, Comfortable Inn is my favorite place to stay. That was a surprising finding during this trip.

2 Star Hotels: Super 8, Comfort Inn, Travelodge

The lowest end of all the places I stayed in are the three: Super 8 (I stayed for few nights the last trip), Travelodge, and Comfort Inn – they all look similar. Their locations are not at inter-state highway in Palo Alto, and the have a L shape building with two floors, leaving the large space as parking lot. These hotels are small, with one part-time reception (not 24 hour service) at the entrance, and all the rest are hotel rooms. They offer breakfast – bread + orange juice… To me, the three hotels are of the same level. Actually, they are the same: 2 star in the hotel rating system.

The difference is, Comfort Inn offers much better quilt than the other two. I was frozen to wake up several times during the night. The quilt is as thick as paper – pardon my exaggerated statement. The quilt of Comfort Inn is relatively the same standard as Creekside Inn, Holiday Inn…

2.5 Star Hotels: Holiday Inn and 3.5 Star Hotels: Creekside Inn, Crowne Plaza

I stayed in two Holiday Inn, one in Fremont, and another in San Jose. They are, as my personal experience, Holiday Inn standard. Holiday Inn Express offer free parking, and free breakfast. The Holiday Inn San Jose offers, in their term, full service breakfast, which is , my term, expense breakfast.

All these hotels have huge buildings and many guest rooms. It is a maze to navigate with just a room number + a map (on which the reception was kind enough to place a dot indicating my room). The guest room is for sure far from the parking lot, and some includes stairs and elevator trips.

Crowne Plaza even charged $16 for over night parking, and $9.99 for Internet access – robery!

I hate Super 8 and Travelodge because it is noisy – the key driver for me to look for other hotels to stay, but these higher star hotels are even more noisy.

Super 8, Travelodge, and Comfort Inn are along El Camino Real, the main local road, and Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza are facing US-101! When the busiest highway in the area running outside your bedroom window, it is not going to be quiet night.

Convenient vs Luxurious

At the end of the day, I started to appreciate hotels that is

  • Simple (simple design and simple facility that I can understand at a glance)
  • Small (with limited hotel rooms, that I can access my door easily)
  • Free parking, Internet, and breakfast. (Free is not just free, it is convenient. I don’t need to talk with reception, waiting for a code to be delivered before I use parking or internet.)
  • Local (I would rather be close to a local community, rather at a transportation hub that no one besides travelers stay)

Finally, after sampling all the hotels, the dream of fancy hotels faded out. I know what I need – a simple place like Comfort Inn is what I need. The next step is to find a way to book at below $50. (any ideas?)

That gave me the inspiration of product design – a simple, easy to understand, and free product / service is better for most people, than a fancy, full-function, luxurious one.

Wind Blows West to East

This trip helped me to understand some basic weather phenomenon – the wind at the surface of the earth.

West to East along 31-37 degree in Latitude

In this article, I asked meteorology question: how come bay area is so warm when its latitude is as high as 37 °, it is warmer in the winter than Shanghai, which is just a little bit north of 31°? As my readers pointed it out, it is because the wind.

At that latitude, wind mainly blows from the west to east. Shanghai is cold in winters because the wind from the west is from the mainland, and is cold in nature. The wind for the bay area is from above the pacific ocean. The huge water body makes the air stable in temperature – cool in summer, and warm in winter, and makes that area much warmer and comfortable than Shanghai.

Cross Pacific Flight

The wind also solved another puzzle I had: why it takes longer to fly from SFO back to PVG (12 hours), than from PVG to SFO (10 hours)?

This time, with this knowledge, I paid attention to the real time broadcast of speed on board. From west to east, there are always 150 km/h tailing wind, making the airplane ground speed about 1,000 km/h (10,000 km distance divided by 1,000 is about 10 hours). On the return flight, the head wind is 150 km/h, making the ground speed 750 km/hour, thus cost about 12 hours.

This is the Simplified Answer

This is just the simplified answer of complicated meteorology. I researched on Wikipedia on this, and found many articles on this. The actual wind flows are very complicated, and vary greatly by latitude, and time. I just don’t care about other wind, like those in the south sphere. The simplified answer, wind blows from west to east, works at least for this time, and at this latitude.

Wrapping up 2010 Winter Trip

I am back to the comfortable bed in my home in Shanghai. The 10 days trip, as every previous trips, is wonderful for me – just like Alice’s Adventure in the Wonderland.

I did a quick summary in my Moleskine notebook, and found the following data:

People I meet in depth during this trip: 50 (criteria: spent at least one hour together and had in-depth discussion, and I know their background well, and they know mine well)

Total meetings: 26

Meeting locations: San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, Mountain View, Menlo Park

I am happy to meet the greatest minds of the silicon valley – they are founders of best Internet companies, investors of great track record, and outstanding people from fields like lawyer, finance, and journalism.

Besides that, I attended three relatively larger conference: GSR Ventures New Year Party, Goldman Sachs Internet and Technology Conference, Tsinghua University Alumni Tech Talk, and Stanford Chinese Entrepreneur Organization Dinner. I fit well into the Chinese community and global community, and got great inspiration.

Met with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook

Spent the afternoon in Facebook office on the California Ave. It is a very nice and promising company with great energy. It is surely not as established as Google is, and I clearly see the rawness of a startup company. Their cafeteria is very utilitarianism, not as fancy as Google, and their office is very open. Everyone has a table, and there is no cubicle.

When we walked along the roads, and someone like an engineer sit down from a weird corner table. Matt didn’t made the introduction, and I felt his face very familiar. Then we chatted a little bit and realized he is the Mark of Mark in Facebook. Then, “Hey, where is my camera?”

Jian Shuo and Mark Zuckerberg. Photograph by Matt

He is definitely very young and looks pretty quiet.

Busy and Excited

It was a busy day, mixed with a little bit jet lag. But as always, very excited. I am continued to be amazed by how mature and high-quality of people’s thought here. There are 5 hour long meeting with the greatest people in the field in the afternoon, and then saw great guys like the Jeremy running Yelp, Mark running Second Life, Ron who invested in Google and PayPal as angel investor, guys in Facebook, eBay, Google and other great founders of many famous and nice sites. It is also great to see my friends here with lunch or dinner, or breakfast, or cafe. Besides the great meetings in the US Internet circles, to have the opportunity to connect with the Chinese entrepreneurs in this area is also my favorite. I am happy to be on a panel of GSR’s New Year party, will be at Tsinghua Alumni dinner, and another dinner for Stanford CEO group. The schedule is so full, that I cannot add another 1 hour meeting into it. That is me! An ENFP needing inspiration and tireless seeking for it.


Obviously, there are so many meetings and gatherings happening everywhere on so different topics in this area. When there is big conferences like The Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, there are private meetings. New Year is a great time for Chinese entrepreneur society to gather, and there are many gather hosted by different organizations, like alumni, club…

When I reflect this when I have some time, I just realized how important these gathering helped the whole group to be more competitive in the global scale. By connecting the most brilliant brains in the area so frequently, they get synced of what is going on, and react to the trends in a timely manner TOGETHER! That is a big thing behind the culture of Silicon Valley.

I am thinking of hosting more dinner and events like this when I am back to Shanghai. Stay connected with entrepreneurs, investors, media, and other guys can help to booster the development of the industry, and individual companies, persons.

Tip: Another thing is, the dinner/gather are always sponsored by an organization, which is very likely to be private held company, like a investor partnership, and these companies have the budget ready for these events. Although it is a very small portion of the total cost, they are very efficient. The venue of many of the gather is sponsored by private companies in their own office building, further making it feasible to happen frequently.

P.S. Just called Expedia to cancel my previous reservation. Took 41 minutes and 56 seconds… They need to improve their efficiency.

The Hills of Sillicon Valley is GREEN

I visited the bay area many times (), but most of them are in summer. I was surprised to see the hills of the valley is green! All the previous visit showed me yellow mountains. With the blue sky, white cloud, green grass land, and cows scattered on the green grass, I drive along the I-280 and wind with the mountains, I just have the feeling of Jacke entering the Pandora jungle. Besides all the great inspiration, and good weather, the bay area can be good tourism destination – very like the mountains I see near Tibet area.

I heard the grass will only be green for about one month, and when the raining season is over, they will turn yellow again (11 months out of the year). This is the first place I know where grass turn green in winters, and yellow in summers.

One meteorology question: how come bay area is so warm when its longitude is as high as 37&degree, it is warmer in the winter than Shanghai, which is just a little bit north of 31°ree;? Is it because of the ocean? (Shanghai is at the ocean too!)

How Stupid I am Not Knowing Priceline

Zheng shared a wonderful tip with me when I talked about my hotel search experience:

In order to stay in mid- and up-scale hotels at good prices in the US, you need to BID on priceline.com. Priceline has two prices, a undisclosed one that you have a limited number of chance to BID (Click on “name your own price” on their site) and a public one that you have seen.

Bidding has some risk of not knowing what hotels you will end up with, but there are sites like



where you can have a good idea where you will land.

If you are willing to drive a little bit (~20mins), you can easily get 4* in Santa Clara or Cupertino for $60-80 a night. (Hyatt Regency)

And you can always get a 3-4* SFO hotel (Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt Regency) for $35-50 a night in most times of the year.

The price difference between weekdays and weekends is mostly from the difference in the supply and demand

Hotels in business-oriented areas (Silicon Valley, most airports) are cheaper on weekends. And tourist traps like Miami beach would be cheaper on weekdays.

Hotels in Palo Alto are pricier than San Francisco, because a lack of chain hotels such as Mariott and Hyatt.. San Francisco really has an oversupply of business hotel in the downtown area too.

I don’t know if you use kayak.com. It combines the search result from major suppliers, such as orbitz, expedia.

BTW, you can also get good car rental deals from priceline if you bid. Should be able to get $13-15 a day at SFO most of the time.

Posted by: Zheng on February 22, 2010 9:55 AM

Thanks for the tip. When I started to do some research on Priceline.com, and finally booked Hilton San Jose at $50 per night, I realized how stupid I was to stay in $199 LarkspurLanding Hotel when I was in eBay, and recently stayed $65-99 Travelodge or Super 8.

There are some obvious things like this that locals know but others just ignore the simple fact. I shared the emergency number in case of fire is 119 instead of 911, and many of my readers responded much beyond my expectation – they don’t know it. I would thank Zheng to give me this tip.

Priceline is a Good Sites

From time to time, we find good sites like Priceline, that we have want to share with other friends as soon as possible. I told Tina about my finding, and not surprisingly, she laughed at me for just finding it out.

Just as I wrote in My Advice to Entrepreneurs, Priceline is not a perfect site for everything. There is no refund. You don’t know what hotel you are going to check into, and the customer service is hard to reach, BUT, it is cheap, and I am sure cheap things with same quality will win. Other services like this are eBay, Skype, Google, and many more… The service is simple, and the idea is simple, but it works!

Hope I build the same type of thing.

Learnt What Open House is

When I read classified section on local business (I am surely interested in this newspaper based offline business), I often saw the phrase: “Open House”, but don’t really understand it. Then Amy taught me today that in Silicon Valley, from 3-5 pm every Sunday, people will put open house sign at their house. Potential buyers can wander around their favorite area, and walk into any house with this sign without appointment.

Knowing that, I saw open house signs every few blocks along the Embarcadero road. Yes. There are many of them. What a smart way of selling house.

In this area, I started to rely on Yelp to find restaurants (looking forward to meet up with Jeremy, Yelp’s CEO in their office this week). This lunch, I had lunch at Left Bank with reservation via OpenTable. These are amazing web services. I envision that services like OpenTable will be popular in China in 5 years, but not now, or in 3 years.

Hotel Searching Experience

As I commented in this blog entry: Hello from Palo Alto, I cannot bear the noise of Travelodge. I am moving.

So I did some basic research, and here are my findings.

Price Difference

In a mature and complicated business environment like US, when there are so many ways to optimize for the profit of a business, the rating of hotels varies a lot.

The top rated Creekside Inn (and I went there myself when I pass it tonight) is great. Their price varies from $79 of tomorrow, to $135 at weekdays. For the same day, their price differs from $79 via Expedia.com, to $99 on Creekside Inn’s own website, to Hotels.com to $150 in other book site,

At $79 rate, it is near or even cheaper than motel like Travelodge or Motel 168.

It seems when book a hotel, we need to do more research.

Tip: If staying over weekend, you can get into better hotels with lower rate.

Brand and Location Difference

The brands like Radison, Hilton, and Holiday Inn represent 5 star hotels in Shanghai, and other places in China, but I can easily find them cheaper than Super 8, or Travelodge on the same day. The other difference is, I can find cheaper hotels in downtown San Francisco than in Palo Alto.

View from a Customer

When we create website, we put most of our attentions to ourselves, but as a customer, we see the world in the more common way: We check everything. We check different hotels, and we check different websites for comparison.

Everyone needs service providers (websites, hotels, restaurants). As service providers tried their best to find customers, customers like myself is trying hard to find a good service provider too.

For booking, Expedia.com and Hotels.com always reveals the best (identical) rate for hotels, while Orbitz.com and priceline.com are double that price. Do they know it?

For hotels, when a nice hotel can lower their price at off-peak days than budget hotel, what is our choice?

I am going to give Creekside Inn and Cardinal Hotel at weekend a try this time. At the end of the day, I need to find a good but cheap hotel for my future trips.