As Redwood City fills with entrepreneurs for this week’s Startup Grind Global Conference, startups and technology companies that have opened offices downtown in recent years will have a chance to play host.
Tuesday and Wednesday, an estimated 5,000 conference goers will seek out pearls of wisdom from the startup and technology communities for their own ventures at Startup Grind’s fourth annual conference held at the Fox Theatre. Hailing from countries across the globe, these entrepreneurs will also get a glimpse of the burgeoning community of resident companies.
For Startup Grind, the Redwood City startup that promotes entrepreneurial conferences across the world, the partnership between local startups and its signature global event makes sense.
Michael Gasiorek, Startup Grind’s editor in chief, has seen the event double in size since he moved to the startup’s Redwood City office two years ago. Gasiorek has seen energy around the global conference build as new companies have set up shop in the city.
“It’s pretty magical,” he said.
The two-day conference allows entrepreneurs from across the globe to learn from those who have charted unfamiliar territory. It features talks with business and technology leaders as well as workshops offering entrepreneurs practical strategies for problems they might face at different stages of building a company. For the first time this year, a pub crawl hosted by close to 15 startup and technology companies with downtown offices will replace one centralized party thrown at the end of Tuesday’s events.
Attendees will have an opportunity to visit a slew of local startup headquarters and technology company offices, including SendGrid. For Sameer Dholakia, CEO of the email delivery service company, Redwood City’s potential to draw a community of entrepreneurs together is what compelled him to open a downtown office at 401 Warren St. in 2015, just months after he took the reins of the company in fall 2014.
“I joined [SendGrid] when we didn’t have an office in Silicon Valley,” he said. “We did end up creating one for a number of reasons.”
Though Dholakia admits the Denver-based company with close to 350 employees is no longer a startup, he said it thrives in an environment where potential customers, strategic partners and younger companies are in close proximity. SendGrid is responsible for sending automated emails, such as receipts pinging Uber customers’ inboxes or notes containing forgotten passwords — a service attractive to many technology companies who might pay the company to develop this aspect of their businesses instead of sinking their own developers’ time on these functions. Dholakia said a significant portion of the company’s customers and strategic partners fall within a 30-mile radius of its Redwood City office, which has contributed to the company’s growth.
“Every website and software application on the planet has to be able to communicate with its users in an automated way,” he said. “[We] literally have T-shirts that say ‘SendGrid loves startups.’”
Dholakia said a key part of why the city has been such a good fit for the company is events like Startup Grind, which offer SendGrid and other resident startup and technology companies the opportunity to share what they’ve learned through successes and failures.
“We have a lot of experience in our rearview mirror that can be helpful to startups,” he said.
Also joining SendGrid as a pub crawl host is Progressly, a Redwood City-based startup creating a cloud-based performance management tool.
For David Candito, Progressly’s CEO, Redwood City was an obvious choice when he was making the decision on company’s first home in 2015. Progressly had launched just months prior and Candito knew from his experience working in a Palo Alto startup that the ability to recruit talent was crucial to the fledgling company.
“In thinking about starting a company, the first thing is really the demographic of candidates,” he said. “We wanted to be sure to optimize for their commute.”
Candito moved the company to 2317 Broadway, where close to 40 employees hailing from all over the Bay Area now work.
What Candito couldn’t predict, however, was how the city’s urban development — including coffee shops, restaurants and places to get a drink — could attract as many customers and potential employees as it has.
“I think technology generally is a relationship business,” he said. “It’s good to be in a place where you can build relationships with other startups, and synergy around solutions you’re developing.”
The same is true for Justin Hoffmann, director of Starship Technologies’ Silicon Valley operations, who is launching a pilot program of the London-based company’s autonomous robots to ferry deliveries across town. Hoffmann and his team opened the doors to their 234 Marshall St. office in January.
“As we’re going around, even doing some initial testing, I couldn’t tell you how many LinkedIn requests I get from people after even going to Starbucks down the street,” he said.
The company received approval from the City Council in November to partner with local businesses, including restaurants and grocery stores, in piloting the bots that operate semi-autonomously within a 5-mile radius of the company’s downtown office. Starship launched the pilot program, which the company is collaborating on with the food delivery service DoorDash, earlier this month. They’ll soon be testing whether the bots help in cutting down congestion throughout the downtown.
Though Redwood City was initially attractive to Starship as a place to test the bots, Hoffmann said he is excited about the city’s potential to attract a motivated, technology-focused pool of talent.
“There is no place like areas like Redwood City,” he said. “It’s been priceless because of the fact that you have everyone chasing a grander vision of what they can do in the world.”
Hoffmann said he is looking forward to hosting entrepreneurs attending the Startup Grind conference and meeting the company’s new neighbors at Starship’s stop on Tuesday’s pub crawl.
And with thousands of attendees flocking to Redwood City and exchanging ideas with local startups through events like the pub crawl, the conference is giving the growing community a nod.
“We are really grateful to be here in Redwood City,” said Gasiorek. “We want [our Redwood City partners] to feel a part of our community as they are a part of ours.”
For entrepreneurs like Dholakia, the opportunity to further expand their company’s expansive network of customers, partners and mentees is invaluable. The 43-year-old CEO said he is very excited about the city’s growth and potential, which he has witnessed through the increase in the number of downtown events, activities and restaurants since the company moved to Redwood City. He is also seeing it through the growth of SendGrid’s Redwood City office. Though it has close to 20 employees today, Dholakia expects the office to outgrow its space, which can accommodate some 40 employees, by the end of this year.
“We’re looking for specific kinds of talent and experience that is readily found here in Silicon Valley that we can tap into to augment the teams in Denver and Orange County,” he said. “I just think that Redwood City, [in] my mind, was going to be the next center of tech innovation and startups.”
Startup Grind’s Global Conference events take place Feb. 20-22 at the Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway, and Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway Redwood City. The pub crawl is scheduled for the night of Tuesday, Feb. 21. Visit www.startupgrind.com for more information.
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