| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Oct 13 New York-based
entrepreneur Caleb Gandara came to San Francisco this week and
managed a rare feat: he spent half a day roaming the offices of
hot startups DropBox, Cloudera and Sidecar, chatting up
executives at will.
Gandara was one of 3,700 people who signed up for "OpenCo",
a festival of open houses held at scores of San Francisco
startups, non-profits and corporations from Google Inc
to local business and chocolatier TCHO over two hectic days.
Now in its second year, OpenCo is billed by its organizers
as a novel twist on traditional staid business conferences, and
an opportunity for investors, entrepreneurs and even job-seekers
to get a close-up look at the San Francisco-area tech scene.
Companies that throw open their doors, in turn, get a chance to
meet potential talent, gather feedback and make connections.
"You don't have to be anybody special and in that spirit,
OpenCo is just letting a community of people who are interested
explore what is normally preserved for employees, professionals
and business deals," Gandara said.
"You get to see what brings them to work everyday. It's rare
and definitely more rare in mature companies. You don't get to
go inside a Target and see how it works, right?"
San Francisco's thriving local tech scene has fascinated
many aspiring entrepreneurs across the country. This year's
OpenCo drew 135 participating companies, almost double that of
the first, when Twitter - which will soon go public - and Zynga
Inc took part. Those two were absent this year.
OpenCo put together a two-day schedule with back-to-back
45-minute sessions at firms across the city. Attendees got a
free general admission pass or paid $95 to reserve spots early.
From startup Lit Motor's "super-secret vehicle lab" - where
visitors checked out a prototype of their urban two-wheeled
"C-1" vehicle - to audio platform SoundCloud, participants were
given a close-up view of popular and lesser-known startups.
"It's a nice way to do it and bring people into (your)
working environment rather than going to a big stuffy, air
pumped building like the Moscone center," said Dan Dupree,
SoundCloud's public relations specialist. "People have been
there, they've done it....This seems to break the mould."
Eighteen month-old ride-sharing startup SideCar opened its
office in the financial district to the public for the first
time. CEO Sunil Paul said participating helped "in material
ways, like spreading the word about hiring."
Organizer and author John Battelle said OpenCo was inspired
by the concept of open art studios, where the public can tour
freely and appreciate works of art.
Perry Simpson, who runs an e-commerce sports site called
Gryndo, spent his Thursday morning at SoundCloud and was struck
by the startup's willingness to be transparent.
"When you think about tech companies, you think of them as
being very private with proprietary technology that you don't
share and be open because somebody might steal your idea, but
this completely the opposite," Perry said.
"Here you get a visceral sense of their culture, you put a
face on the technology company."