MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) — Earlier this summer, this small mountain town north of San Francisco opened its modest high school to residents fleeing an unusually ferocious wildfire nearby.
Now it is Middletown itself that has been evacuated — and gutted — by another blaze that shocked firefighters with its strength and speed.
The town's small cluster of shops and cafes was spared, but behind them erratic winds sent flames zigzagging down leafy streets, torching some houses and sparing others. Read more on

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5 of the Hottest Places for Startups

Monday, 14 September 2015 by

When you think of tech startups, you think of sprawling campuses in Silicon Valley fed by venture capitalists from across the bay.
San Francisco is synonymous with fresh faced programmers with a penchant for disruptive technology. But rising costs has made San Fran a less than desirable place to get going unless you’ve recently seen an injection of a few million dollars.
Having high-profile neighbors does not make a city the best place to launch your technology career. In fact, the competitive nature of the area makes it a more difficult place to be. Instead, check out these five places that aren’t Silicon Valley that foster creative culture and add fuel to the startup fire.
1. Denver, CO and Boulder, CO
You might be surprised at the most consistent places to launch your career. Colorado is consistently ranked as one of the best places to launch a tech startup. In fact, Denver and Boulder can be found at the top of almost every list.
Colorado features affordable real estate and a relaxed lifestyle. Education is a high priority in this state and creatives make up around 29.3 percent of the area’s population. The area is also home to tech giants like Oracle, SAP and HP as well as a large number of government research groups.
Boulder itself is known for its productivity and the city has an impressive tech startup density sitting at six times the national average per capita.
2. Austin, TX
Fly a few hours south to Austin in the heart of Texas and you discover another surprising city that is full of hot startups.
Austin sits at the top of several lists. From its food scene to its creative capital, the city offers plenty of resources to entrepreneurs at lower prices than its coastal compatriots. The stable cost of living combined with no state income taxes makes Austin a great place to get started.
3. Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton – located near other Florida startup hub, Miami – is known mostly for its white beaches and the white hair of the swarms of retirees that flock to the area. But this all quietly began to change when IBM opened its doors in the city in 1970.
Lately, IBM vets have started opening their own tech firms. The number of creative professionals currently sits at around 14.2% of the population.
4. Seattle, WA
Seattle is the home of tech behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon. This is great news for new startups because these giants attract world-class talent to the city. With Microsoft’s increasing layoffs and Amazon’s high staff turnover, there is plenty of talent to go around.
5. Global
The tech startup scene extends far beyond the borders of the United States. There are countries around the world exploding with highly innovative technology companies. Some well known companies like TransferWise, a disruptive service endorsed by Richard Branson, have surprising origins.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, you might considered the European Union. The Netherlands was recently ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in Europe and is home to many of the global tech campuses.
If the high prices of Amsterdam are a bit much, you can check out countries like Lithuania and Estonia. These countries have high levels of creativity and incredibly low costs of living. The number of creatives enjoying new found freedom have made these places attractive for getting your startup off the ground.
If you travel a little further afield to Tel Aviv, you will find yourself in a thriving beach technology culture. The country spends more money on research and development than many other countries in the world.
Whether you want to stay close to home or go far away, remember that San Francisco may be at the center of everything but the tech world is a big one and it is worth exploring.

A Networker’s Guide to Dreamforce

Monday, 14 September 2015 by

With Dreamforce looming just beyond the weekend, you have a lot to prepare. You’ve got panels to consider, events to peruse, apps to pack, and that says nothing about what plans you have to help your business cut through the noise.
That said, Dreamforce isn’t just for Salesforce sensory overload. It’s also a great place to connect with people you virtually chat with all year long, meet new prospects, and lay the groundwork for exciting partnerships.
But networking at this kind of event can be a challenge the way giving career advice during an earthquake is. While your advances and conversation are welcome, the very foundation of your meeting is… a little distracting.
But it doesn’t have to be. With this quick guide, you’ll be a Dreamforce networking pro.
The Exhibition Floor Isn’t a Place to Stop and ChatWhether you’re a vendor hoping to pick up a few prospects or just someone checking out the circus, it’s not likely that you’re going to have a meaningful conversation on the exhibition floor. If you’re giving away great swag, you might get a few words in with someone you want to talk to, but generally, everyone there is caught in the current and will, at the very least, be uncomfortable if you corner them. Instead, use the opportunity to make later plans: coffee, a drink at a nearby bar/restaurant, or a meetup. This will minimize annoyances and ultimately get you to the same place.
The Third Session’s a CharmMeeting someone during sessions can be difficult because, at that point in the day, people have an agenda: to check out great products, learn new ways to be better at their jobs, and to see really famous people give keynotes. Even within a particular “track,” it can be hard to get someone to budge. Until the third session. If you see someone in multiple, back-to-back sessions, you have something to talk about and, frankly, they’re ready for a distraction. It doesn’t always work this way, but usually it gives you the opportunity to chat with someone with very similar interests and make a connection based on shared experiences.
Don’t Mistake a “Partier” for a “Networker”Some people come to Dreamforce to play hard: people leading sessions during the day, people at the top of their game, and people at the bottom. These people (2/3rds of whom are among the most desirable at Dreamforce) can be slippery, forgetful, and can cost you a whole night of networking if you aren’t careful. When interacting with one, get contact information as quickly as possible. That way, the next day, you can reach out, reiterate what was discussed, and save that connection.
Don’t Skip the PartiesThe parties thrown by different businesses at Dreamforce shouldn’t be missed. Sure, you’ll be sold to about something you may or may not care about, and sure, your feet will be tired and your heart will cry for your hotel room / ship cabin, but do not miss them. Important people will be there, relaxed people will be there, people ready to talk will be there. Instead, take a human approach. People come to these events to meet up, sure, but they’re really there to unwind. Be conversational, interested, and helpful, and you’re likely to come away from the experience with more than a few free drinks.
Shake Now, Elaborate LaterDreamforce week will be a whirlwind. You’ll make contact with a lot of people but won’t really have time to dig deep with any of them. Don’t worry about that. Make your introductions, have some quick chats, and be prepared to send dozens of emails on the flight home. Remember that the goal here is the introduction. Relationships take time, and that’s really not something you’ll have a lot of in San Francisco.
Have the Tools You NeedSo much of high-speed networking success comes from being prepared. If possible, know who you want to talk to, what you want to say, where you hope to leave the conversation. And, of course, have ample business cards and CircleBack for business card scanning and address book organization.
However you slice it, strategy and preparation are the keys to successfully networking at Dreamforce. So do your homework, make your plans, and get the tools you need to succeed.
Can’t wait to see you there!

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (AP) — Two of California's fastest-burning wildfires in decades overtook several Northern California towns, killing at least one person and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses and sending thousands of residents fleeing highways lined with buildings, guardrails and cars still in flames.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection confirmed one fatality in the wildfire north of San Francisco that raced through dry brush and exploded in size within hours. Read more on

As Goes North Beach So Could Go New York

Thursday, 10 September 2015 by

San Francisco and New York are different cities with different politics, demographics and economies, but they, more than any other two cities in America, are at the nexus of progressive histories and what are sometimes euphemistically referred to as disruptive economies. The voters of North Beach and surrounding neighborhoods will send a message in San Francisco in November, but observers in New York should take note as we move toward our own citywide elections in 2017.

Every year, millions of pounds of trash get dumped into the Pacific Ocean, which together form large islands of waste known collectively as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The pollutants are too numerous to remove individually, but a few years ago the Dutch wunderkind Boyan Slat, who was only 21 at the time, started promoting the idea of using giant floating barriers to passively clean up the ocean using the natural movement of ocean currents.
The Ocean Cleanup Array. Pictured is the center of the V, including the collection station. (Erwin Zwart / The Ocean Cleanup)
Slat has since founded the Ocean Cleanup Project to execute the largest ocean cleanup in history.
The project so far has a 6,500-foot-long prototype of the barriers, which is scheduled for deployment in May 2016 near Tsushima, a Japanese island off the coast of South Korea. Slat plans to eventually expand the project all over the Pacific beginning in 2020 with a 62-mile-long cleanup barrier.
In July it launched a three-week reconnaissance mission with a fleet of 30 ships to survey the swirling islands of garbage found across the ocean and collect samples along the way, reportedly the largest ocean expedition in history.

The vessels deployed surface trawlers to gather plastic samples and high altitude aerial balloons to detect plastics that were hard to find.
“With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic,” said Julia Reisser, lead oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup, in a statement.
On Aug. 23, the first group of vessels arrived at the San Francisco harbor, and although the samples haven’t been fully analyzed yet, the news wasn’t good.
“The vast majority of the plastic in the garbage patch is currently locked up in large pieces of debris, but UV light is breaking it down into much more dangerous microplastics, vastly increasing the amount of microplastics over the next few decades if we don’t clean it up. It really is a ticking time bomb,” Slat said in the statement.
Simplified map showing 50 transects between Hawaii and California, illustrating the scale of the Mega Expedition research area (3.5 million km2). (Erwin Zwart / The Ocean Cleanup)

Map showing the 50 transects the Mega Expedition will perform based on routing information provided by the skippers before they left port. (Lys-Anne Sirks / The Ocean Cleanup)

Collection of ‘manta trawls,’ which are being deployed by all Mega Expedition vessels to study the spatial distribution of plastic, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 27, 2015. (Stella Diamant / The Ocean Cleanup)

Mega Expedition mothership R/V Ocean Starr deploying the two 6 meter-wide ‘mega nets,’ two ‘manta trawls,’ and its survey balloon with camera at the center of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Aug. 4, 2015. (Skyframes / The Ocean Cleanup)

Underwater photo of deployed ‘manta trawl’ by Mega Expedition volunteer vessel Between The Sheets, at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, August 2015. (Crew aboard Between The Sheets/The Ocean Cleanup)

‘Codends’ filled with plastic particles after trawling the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for one hour, at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, August 2015. (Crew aboard ExtremeH20/The Ocean Cleanup)

Ocean Cleanup CEO and founder Boyan Slat and Julia Reisser, lead oceanographer, examining samples of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, aboard Mega Expedition mothership R/V Ocean Starr, at Pier 30/32, San Francisco, Aug. 23, 2015. (KJB/The Ocean Cleanup)

In May 2015, I left everything in Montreal, Quebec, Canada behind and together my co-founder and fiancée Emilie Elice-Label, arrived in San Francisco to set up operations for our company here for the next 6 months.
While living in Montreal, and Paris before that, I’ve been educating myself about Silicon Valley with news articles to learn from other immigrants that made the same jump such as Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, and many other entrepreneurs. I thought deeply about how much of a difference location can make when building your company. Moving from Paris to Montreal helped me grow because there are more startup-minded people in Montreal, and the city offers easy proximity to New York City.
While in the startup capital of the world, we’ve visited the true Silicon Valley (Palo Alto and Mountain View), and began thinking about the benefits of the area and the importance that location has for companies.
Since we arrived in San Francisco, it is much easier to meet like-minded and useful people, and my expectations of how easy it is to meet people and how helpful people are have been exceeded. We’ve also had the chance to meet startups in our space and it has been fascinating to learn from them. It’s easier for these things to happen since many startups are based here. Emilie, my co-founder has been to many San Francisco events and it emphasizes this feeling even more.
People actually “get” what you’re building: This is what makes our move to the US unavoidable because this isn’t something that we felt in Montreal. In Montreal, most of the people didn’t get what we were building or why. In San Francisco, people get startups. The conversation can jump right into what your startup is about. Conversations like mobile strategy are easy to have, whereas the real estate marketplace conversation in Montreal seemed to center around explaining the instant gratification that only mobile devices can offer.
Sure, you might not be in Silicon Valley and you might not be able to pack your bags and hop on a flight over here for many reasons. That being said, I advise any founder to take risks and move to wherever you feel you’d be at ease to jumpstart your project. But not being in the right location shouldn’t stop you from making progress with your startup from your current location. To wait for any perfect environment, be it location, startup communities, experience, funds or otherwise, is a mistake to be avoided.
I’d love to learn from your experience in the comments.
Image Credit: Flickr/Jeff Gunn

Where to Start a Tech Startup

Friday, 24 July 2015 by

Planning a tech startup? Then as an entrepreneur, you must have many concerns such as funding, developing a marketing strategy, ensuring that you provide good service, etc. However, one of the most important decisions which you will have to make is to choose the right geographic location for your tech startup.
Location is important for a number of reasons. First of all, you will need to consider the office costs, the tax and legal incentives, and access to incubator programs. All these are important issues to consider for business especially if you are just starting. I researched data provided by Simply Business to compile the numbers that round out the top startup ecosystems.
Here is a list of top ten places where you should start your tech startup in the U.S.
1. San Francisco and the Bay Area
The San Francisco bay area is home to a large number of leading companies such as Pandora and Craigslist. The city of San Francisco is most ideal for a tech startup as the place attracts young people due to its vibrant and lively atmosphere. It does not cost much to build an IT business with the accompanying infrastructure so you might as well think of starting your tech startup here.
No. of Startups: 11,722

2. San Jose
Silicon Valley serves to be the birthplace of countless internet startup companies and continues to be the most popular place to start up a tech market. It is filled with the leading IT startup communities. Some of the major IT businesses such as Facebook, Google, and PayPal can be found here. The area is packed with talented entrepreneurs who daily venture a large sum of capital money.
No. of Startups: 980

3. New York
Over the years, the mayors of NYC have worked hard to make the city look appealing and attractive to tourists, investors, and the entertainment industries. New York City is quickly becoming one of the largest IT markets and IT hubs for these industries. The many media conglomerates that are spread across Madison Avenue help the nearing small IT businesses to flourish, making it one of the most successful areas to start a tech startup.
No. of Startups: 7,584

4. Boston
Boston continues to be one of the major IT hubs. Surrounded by the prestigious MIT, many of the tech start-up companies here have been created by MIT graduates who decided that they wanted to stay in New England.
No. of Startups: 2,334

5. Los Angeles
Initially Los Angeles was not famous for being an IT hub but over the years it has cultivated a thriving media and entertainment industry along with becoming a popular location for tech startups.
No. of Startups: 5,054

6. Washington D.C
Home to the federal government, DC has established itself a busy market. A lot of IT companies have flourished in the region mainly because of the heavy influence of the federal government and the strong interest in security.
No. of Startups: 1,133

7. Seattle
Seattle is home to many headquarters of hi-tech companies such as Microsoft. A large number of successful entrepreneurs are found in these regions and it serves to be the home of many start-up companies.
No. of Startups: 1,080

8. Austin
Finally, Austin is famous for having a thriving startup market. Many leading companies such as RetailMeNot and NetSpend started off as successful startup companies here. Austin is home to a vibrant young crowd filled with talented individuals who make the location ideal of a tech startup.
No. of Startups: 1,339

Oakland is the Bay Area’s greatest paradox. No city in Northern California offers the same dichotomy of third world crime with first-class business opportunity. These days, the trend is heading much more in the direction of the latter. In 2014 Oakland experienced its lowest rate in violent crime in over a decade.
It’s been said many a time that Oakland is the “Detroit of the West”, and that nickname is just as relevant today as it was at the height of automobile production in the 1970s. Detroit is a city that’s been through a lot, to say the least, but it’s also starting to emerge as a land of opportunity. You could say the same about Oakland as well.

Highlighted by Pandora, there are hundreds of startup companies that call Oakland home, and the number keeps rising. Here are the reasons why:
1) Oakland needs business growth more than San Francisco or San Jose, and will go out of its way to accommodateOakland rolls out the red carpet for would-be businesses, including generous tax breaks. If your startup sets up shop in a deemed “Enterprise Zone”, Oakland could give you a credit of up to $37,440 over a 5-year period for every new eligible employee. And it’s not like if you moved your company to Oakland you’d be the only one making that move: there are more than 300 startups in the city now.
2) Tech workers already live in OaklandOne of the great reasons why Silicon Valley spread into SF in the first place was the fact that many workers were adamantly choosing to live in the city. In effect, the businesses slowly started following their workers. Since the emergence of SF’s tech scene this past decade, two things have started happening: rents have become too high for even many area tech workers, and Oakland has seen the addition of hundreds of restaurants, bars, and other amenities to make it more enticing to jump across the Bay. Google and Yahoo busses pick up residents in Oakland for a reason.
3) There’s an abundance of office spaceThere’s some pretty simple math at play here. Oakland has slightly more square miles than San Francisco, and half the population. There’s plenty of room to grow. The neighborhoods near Jack London Square, Grand/Lake, and uptown are poised to absorb more companies, including the now-vacant space where Sears used to be.
4) Oakland tech growth is already happeningAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Oakland metropolitan area (which excludes Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Berkeley and the North Bay) grew its computer industry by over 5 percent from 2013 to 2014. The BLS’s vaguely defined computer industry predominantly includes developers, systems analysts, and technical support roles. The growth is happening quietly, but it’s happening all the same.
5) The costs make the decision easyNot that office space is affordable in Oakland when compared nationally, but it’s infinitely less expensive than San Francisco or the Peninsula. Could be a major reason why Sunset Magazine just announced its move from Menlo Park in the Peninsula to Oakland, where it will likely pay close to $30 a square foot (in contrast to the $50 or $60 you’re likely to pay in Menlo Park or San Francisco).
So what do you get when you combine an educated workforce, affordable commercial real estate, and a town that’s on the rise? The next major technology hub, that’s what.

A man shot dead by San Francisco police left behind a series of suicide notes on his cellphone, claiming he tricked cops — who were already on edge from the…

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