Technology, Connections, and the Heart of San Francisco
I recently visited San Francisco. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The water, the buildings, and the landmark bridges against the majestic hills are awesome. It reminds me of the gift of sight.
I was excited to visit the San Francisco and the Bay Area because of the tech culture. Social Media plays an integral role in my campaign. Thanks to a Facebook post from Dave Morin, whose nickname in college was Dave.com, my time in the Bay Area was unforgettable.
I have known Dave since 1999. We are Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers from the University of Colorado. We have connected over the years. I attended a talk he gave in Denver, Colorado titled “Smart Lunch with Dave Morin” in 2010. A few years ago, I contacted him regarding a Facebook issue for a memo I was preparing to gain employment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department. He graciously connected me with an employee at Facebook. I resolved the issue and was hired.
Dave Morin is a tech juggernaut. After college, he joined Apple and was involved in marketing the iPod to students. Being ever the entrepreneur, he discovered Facebook in its infancy and he worked for it during its startup years. He went on to co-create Facebook Platform and Connect. He is an investor in many companies and is a Co-Founder and CEO of Path, a private social network.
A few weeks into my campaign, I asked him to check out my Facebook Page and sought his advice. His response was overwhelming. He took my Facebook Page and posted it on his wall with a heartfelt note. He also sponsored the post to be shared amongst his 350,000 plus followers. It resulted in a busy couple of days online. I connected with an entirely new group of people. I received new recommendations on where to go and a 50% increase in followers. This came at a great time. I was in Ethiopia, halfway around the world and having a bad day. Dave’s endorsement energized me and gave me added credibility.
One of my new followers was a lady named Jackie Cartwright. In planning my trip to San Francisco, I noted Jackie’s comment on my Facebook post which suggested I message her for more advice. I pinged Jackie, and my day was lost… in a good way. She took helping me to a whole new level. She posted on her Facebook wall that I was coming and asked her friends and followers for ways to make my time in San Francisco special. She “tagged” particular people. She followed through and made plans for me. She talked about San Francisco having “heart” (she certainly has a HUGE one).
I told her I wanted to go to the Facebook Developers Conference. She was on it like “white on rice”. She knew someone that had worked with Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg. A few hours later, I received a pass to the conference. Because of Jackie, a wonderful person, whom I have never met, I obtained tickets to the San Francisco Symphony, Exploratorium, and the Facebook Developers Conference. I would eventually meet her, she showed me around downtown and we had some tasty mojitos at a swanky place called Hard Water.
While in San Francisco, I tried to do as many things as possible that were suggested to me on the “Flight for Sight” Facebook Page. I went to Fisherman’s Warf, Chinatown, and rode a bike over Golden Gate Bridge (something I can still do carefully, in a controlled environment). The most common suggestion was to visit Alcatraz. And, therein occurred another nice moment. When I arrived at the ticket office, I was told the tours were sold out for the day. I waited by the entry with the my index finger pointed up looking to buy a ticket. I did this for approximately 45 minutes. I was determined to knock this off of my list. I can only imagine what I looked like standing there with my cane in desperate search of a ticket to go to Alcatraz. But, fortunately, and as one of the many reminders I experienced during my campaign that people care, one of the staff members came up to me and simply let me on the boat. I made it to the famous rock and enjoyed a tour of the former prison.
I initially intended to stay in San Francisco for ten days. However, there were more people I wanted to meet, but I needed to find a place to stay. My Airbnb place (great company btw) was coming to an end. I found a room rented by a woman, named Collete Davis. I noticed we had two Facebook friends in common (including Dave). My stay with her and her roommates was fun. She is a race car driver. Her place has a strong entrepreneurial and athletic feel. There were stand up desks, multiple computer screens and athletic gear everywhere, including a foam roller. I was particularly excited about this. Foam rollers are great for sore muscles.
Collete lives with her boyfriend, Matt Maurer, who is a Co-Founder of a startup called Stroll Health. They wer every kind and generous. Early on during my stay, I told them I accidently left my mini TP Foam Roller (they are amazing for traveling) at the JFK Airport. As a parting gift they ordered one for me from Amazon. It was camouflage. Just what a guy with bad vision needs. They claim it was an oversight.
The Bay Area is drone heaven. I inquired on Twitter where could I see drones. Mike Walsh responded (no I did not respond to myself) while tagging a few other people (including@DaveMorin). Eddie Codel (@ekai) who was tagged, responded about a drone meetup in Oakland. It involved a warehouse of drone enthusiasts. People were flying drones through an obstacle course. Others were making/fixing them. What fascinated me most was the different kinds of drones. They came in all shapes, sizes, colors… and battery life. It was fascinating and fun to observe the operators’ enthusiasm. Perhaps Amazon Prime Air drones are not too far off.
While in San Francisco, I used an app called YPlan (Yup, Dave is an investor). It’s a great way to find out what is happening around you. It is only available in a few major cities. However, I see real potential (they are hiring). I attended an event involving Mike Maples, a venture capitalist who talked about his path to various investments including Twitter. Another thing I picked was about one of the sponsors, Majisto. It is a smartphone video creating app. You pick photos and videos from your smartphone and it makes a movie for you. The app avoids hours of editing. Since I could not be in town for Mother’s Day, I used the app to create a video for “My 3 Favorite Mothers”.
I made a second trip to San Francisco because I was challenged to go to the Twitter Headquarters. I only made it as far as security. Back in the Bay Area, I posted a picture to my Facebook Page to have people guess where I recently visited. Those who answered correctly will receive a postcard from me. One correct answer came from a follower named Cameron Crockett (who discovered my page from Jackie’s post). Cameron sent me a message with the correct answer (Crater Lake), and an address in San Francisco. I offered to hand deliver it to him. We met up for lunch. I gave him the postcard and he gave me a duck (Oregon thing I guess). He was anxious to hear about my experiences. During the conversation, he asked if there was anything I had not done that I wanted to do in town. I mentioned about going to Muir Woods to see the big trees. Muir Woods wasn’t easy to get to, but he had a car and and off we went.
Muir Woods is home to amazing Redwoods that shoot up into the sky. They were magnificent! My hand delivered postcard turned into a full day of fun. Cameron had an extra ticket to a gala. That night, I attended The Leukemia & Lympohoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year event.
I am always looking to meet people at my favorite companies. Facebook plays an integral role in facilitating my campaign. I used a Facebook feature called “Graph Search” to determine if anyone working at Facebook was following the “Flight for Sight” page. A developer named Nitin Garg showed up. I met with him and learned how I could improve my page. My good friend, Brendan Bradley, who works for Hello Kitty, was in town for “Hello Kitty Day” at the San Francisco Giants game. He gave me three tickets for myself and guests to sit in the company suite. Nitin joined me at the game.
On my final night, Jackie invited me to attend the San Francisco Symphonix Membership Party at Nespresso. It was a great way to end my time in the Bay Area – spending time with one of San Francisco’s biggest hearts! Thank You, Jackie Cartwright.