Cherian Thomas

7 May 2015

The Serendipity of the Valley

A brown eyed geek with a biker helmet and khaki shorts walked through the door of The Creamery, San Francisco. I barely glanced at him with my eyes fixated at the door, waiting for my investor appointment. He came around at me and asked “Cherian, right?” I extended the warmth, hiding the element of surprise. We spent the next 45 minutes conversing and a day later Stefano emailed me, “Dude, can I invest?”

Fast-forward two years when Stefano knew I was back in the Valley, he shot me a mail — “Cookpad acquires Allthecooks”. I replied, “Can you intro me to the founder?” Two weeks and an espresso later at Café Venetia, Palo Alto, Rafa introed me to the founder of Cookpad.

My first meeting with the Cookpad founder was scheduled for 30–45 minutes. But that day we spent twelve hours talking. The next week we spent six hours at a stretch. This was followed by visits by Corp. Dev. Five months later, we signed the acquisition deed.

Twenty six months ago, on a rainy day in Bangalore, I told my team I have to move to the Valley. There is no point staying back here, I said. So many questions — leadership, new hires, product, design, electricity bills – and yet, I seemingly orphaned them without answers for what might seem like an escape. In fact, the team was less of a problem than my family. My wife would essentially have to reset her senior engineering position at a telecom company for the relocation.

And yet, like Frank Underwood, I took her to San Jose two months later.

I knew. I knew the random sequence of serendipitous events that led to this eight-person startup being acquired by a Japanese behemoth was only possible in the Valley. I knew that a geeky biker investor introducing me to a competitor who eventually spent hours with me and then connected me to the acquirer is only possible in the Valley. If experience was any indication, Cucumbertown’s seed funding was my teacher. I had no doubts about a positive outcome. I just knew I had to be here.

The Valley is where the essence of a person’s attitude dramatically changes to positive exuberance. Like love, the Valley has an effect on you where words fail.

To understand the serendipity of the Valley you need to get to the people. The Geeks. You need to understand what motivates them.

The Valley is a place where founders spend humungous amounts of time helping strangers start-up. A legion of nouveau riche entrepreneurs turned “mentors” and an amazing crowd that adapts to new technology like a duck to water (if there’s one reason you should be in the axis mundi, it’s for the initial audience that’s up for almost anything). The Valley is also the technology megaphone for the world. Barring exceptions, anything the valley adopts has a sexy effect. The only place in the world where you’ll see more Dropbox t-shirts than taxis. It’s a desert for those who don’t know anyone and a monsoon for the networked. A place where meritocracy has a shot vs. street smarts and monopolizing darwinism.

I tried to figure out why this happens and the closest I could rationale was the precedent set by a few good men on a blank canvas that was once orange orchards.

You can always argue that these things are possible in another part of the world. But you won’t get this package anywhere else, with a side of artisan bread and good weather.

Oh and, by the way, all of our corp dev meetings were at the Palo Alto, Alameda Starbucks. We also had pho at Castro Street, Mountain View. I thought we would have a Richard Gere in Arbitrage style sign off ceremony. Instead it came via an email through HelloSign, while I was sleeping. So very un-Hollywood. And so very Valley.

Here’s to the Valley.