I slept in. The alarm sounded at 5am and I turned it off and woke up forty minutes later. I stayed in bed for another fifteen minutes letting myself dream just about hugging somebody. And I put the palm of my hand under my cheek and lay flat on my stomach. And it was comfortable and I was not sleepy. Then I got out of the bed in one move, made myself a coffee and opened my laptop. I had to work on my deck that was a complete mess.
This deck was in constant draft stage as the things at the startup were changing quickly and I always had to update it with the new information. And the day before I realized that it was completely deformed and meaningless and I could not put it together. That day I happened to visit a friend who gave me some skiing clothing for my son that her son grew out of and I mentioned to her my worries about the deck and she offered to meet at night and help me. So I drove to the Bay Club to meet her after my MMA practice and we spent sometime on the deck and it started to make sense. Then we went out for dinner and an interesting conversation came out. We talked about our feelings and how it is important to be open with oneself about our true emotions. And she said she used to write a diary and talk to herself through that diary. And I told her that I used to write a diary too when I was sixteen or seventeen, but then I dropped it, because I was not able to be honest with myself. It ended up being just ink on paper.
This was yesterday. And this morning I started working on the deck and by 8am it was finished and in pretty good shape. I had a call with my developers and we talked about the never ending question of creating personas based on people’s vocabulary and I felt lost in the topic and completely blah. I had a morning pitch with an investor and I had no energy to do it and could not put together one convincing sentence during the call. I did not apologize for it just because I do not like to say that I am sorry. But I felt like saying “Hey, I am sorry you had to listen to this awful and boring pitch. Truthfully sorry to lose your time.” But I did not say it, and instead he asked for the deck and to follow up.
I got out of my house at noon and drove to the city for a lunch with another startup founder. They did a product called Statsbot and it gave you stats through a bot, and they were with 500 Startups now. We were meeting at a place called Avenue, I had been there before with one of my advisors. I got my lunch and the guy I was meeting was being late and this pissed me off in a way. I do not like when people are late. And I felt like leaving, but I was eating my lunch and still had some time till my next meeting. The guy showed up about half an hour late and we talked. He was from Moscow and had just recently moved here. He said the city was dirty, expensive and full of homeless people. He sounded slightly arrogant, but I assumed that this was because he was recently from Moscow. Otherwise he was an okey guy. He said he liked it here and wanted to stay in the area.
I drove to my next meeting which was with a personality test company. I met the founders a week before at a French Tech Breakfast, and they were a French company with HQ in San Francisco doing personality assessment for enterprises. And as in my company we were getting into building personas tied to vocabulary usage I thought that I should find a better solution than creating it ourselves from scratch. The conversation went well and the guys offered a partnership that might turn out exactly what we need. The first step was taken and now my developers would have to talk to their data scientist to see how we can make it work.
I left their office at 3:45 and I still had time till my 6pm pitch event. I got into my car and drove around to find a cafe I could work or read from. I found nothing at first. And then I remembered that there was a cafe on the 18th street where I was once or twice before. Farley’s. It was a few minutes away and I drove there and parked on a steep street, so steep that it was impossible to walk it in high heels.
The cafe was full. Everybody was siting with their laptops and headphones. I stood at the bar and got an espresso and a madeline. I decided it was ok to eat a madeline now, even though I was on a track to lose 6 Lbs in the next few weeks. It was not for the weight loss per ce. It was for competing in the feather division in U.S. Open BJJ tournament. And I needed to lose 6 Lbs for that. And I did not want to leave it till the last week, like I did with the American Cup. When I was literally starving for the last two days and had no strength to fight on the mat. And then I lost. So, now the plan was to lose these 6 Lbs this month and just keep the weight till the tournament in October. Anyway, one madeline was fine, I told myself. There were no empty tables around thus I went to the big round table next to the window where just one guy was sitting and I asked him if I could sit there too. He smiled nicely and said “please do”. And then he told me that he had a madeline too and it was extremely good. He said he did not eat such a good madeline in a while. And I smiled and opened my laptop. I reviewed the deck, and sent it to another founder to ask for his feedback. And then I knew I had no energy again. I read through the deck and sent it to a few more people, including my advisor, and asked for their feedback. And then I straightened my back and said to myself, “you can’t pitch like this when you have no energy”. May be it was true, and I was just too tired and did not sleep enough. This was what my friend told me yesterday night at dinner.
I sat there and thought that it made no sense to think about tiredness right now. I got another espresso. I really liked the taste of it. And I looked at the guy in front of me and I wanted to ask him what was he doing. He was typing something quickly and he looked stressed out. He had his phone, his sunglasses and a small red notebook next to him. Exactly the same objects I had next to my laptop except that my notebook was blue. And I thought about starting a conversation, but then I felt like I might be bugging him. I should probably not disturb people that let me sit at their tables. I wanted to talk to him badly and I was afraid to ask him anything at the same time. And I sat there for 10 minutes debating if it was ok to ask him what he was doing. And I remembered a picture a friend posted on Instagram earlier that day, an image in a mirror of two people sitting on the opposite sides of a table in a bar and each of them looking at their phones.
I looked over my laptop and asked him if the things were going wrong. Because he had just shook his head in distress. And he looked back and said he was struggling with his US citizenship application. And I asked him where he was from. And he said he was from Portugal. And then we talked about countries we were from and somehow we moved into talking in French, because he had lived in Paris for quite a number of years. And then we switched back to English because I was explaining him what I was doing at my startup and I can’t talk work in French. And he told me that he worked in the consultant business for the past 10 years and he quit a month ago and started his own company. Which was something like cross cultural consulting. By that time we both have closed our laptops and the conversation was very interesting and flowing. It was a little bit past five and we both had to leave, but we agreed to meet again. We shook hands and he looked me in the eyes and said, “By the way, my name is Alex and thank you so much for starting this conversation with me.” And I was glad I started it.
I walked to my car and I knew I had all the energy again. It felt very good to be able to talk to a stranger and become less strangers. To be able to be part of the real life.
I arrived to the event venue right on time. It was 6pm when I entered the lobby. In the elevator two people started talking to me about the event. And one of them turned out to be Russian. And he made a comment about the bruises on my left arm. I had forgotten about those. Those were from grappling on Sunday. Two dark bruises in the middle of my left arm. And I looked at the bruises while we were riding the elevator. In the conference room there were some snacks and drinks and I stood with those guys and talked about the Olympic games and startups. Another two guys joined our group and one of them told about his hardware device for phones and tablets. And we all looked at it and tried it and told him it was great but too expensive. And somebody asked me what I was doing, and I said I was pitching my company tonight and they asked what was it. And I explained. And one of the guys introduced himself to me and he said his name and he said he was from Morocco. And in a swift impulse I touched his arm and said I love people from Morocco. And I swear it sounded as if I told him that I loved him. And I had to tell something completely mundane right away to make it all sound normal. So, I told him that I have met very good people from his country and that this was a place I really wanted to visit, besides it was so close to Spain. And he said please go, it is a beautiful country. And we talked about I do not remember what. And I liked the shape of his head. And he asked for my email and we said we will talk.
At 6:30pm event speakers were all in place and we listened to them. And then a few startups did their pitches to the investor panel. And I did mine. And it was alright. After my pitch a guy siting in front of me turned his head, gave me his card and said, “Please email me, I see a lot of potential in what you are doing. This is my third startup, and I want to introduce you to some of my previous investors, because I think they would be interested in your company.” And I thanked him and got his card. A few people more gave me their cards and asked to contact them. And I smiled back and said I will. I waited till the end and stood in line to talk to one of the investors I was interested in. He was from Shasta Ventures and I liked his feedback on my pitch, and I also like his face. Right away he asked for my deck and offered to meet. And then I got excited about the product and we talked for half an hour about the details. And I told him that I wanted to help people become more confident through the language. This was the end goal of what I was doing. And I could see his eyes sparkle like mine. And it was a good sign.
I talked to couple of more company founders, one was quite interesting, it was a platform called something shoulder, and it offered verbal support to people with addictions. The founder presented himself as “I am alcoholic and I overcame this addiction by sharing and getting support from others…”. And it was interesting to listen to him. And then I bumped into the personality test people, the ones I had a meeting with earlier that day. And the conversation moved to French Tech and then business and then sports and then it was late and I left the building.
I went to the parking lot, got into my car and it felt good to sit down. I was wearing very high heels and I started noticing them towards the end of the night. I put the “Et si tu n’existais pas” song by Joe Dassin and drove into the night city. The moon was up and the streets were peaceful. And it felt good to be at the end of the day. It was not the happiness, but it was not the sadness either. It was just feeling good to drive through the night streets of San Francisco listening to “Et si tu n’existais pas”. And I kept putting the same song over and over again. This happens to me often. I like the song and I listen to it over and over again. I drove through the downtown, and then on Van Ness, pass the City Hall and then into the Lombard street and onto the Golden Gate Bridge. On the bridge I put the same song again. I wanted to drive on the bridge listening to this song. Because I loved both the song and driving on the bridge. As I passed Sausalito and approached San Rafael the moon was on my left. And it was as if I was walking in Barcelona, along Diagonal, from Rambla de Catalunya to Plaza Francesc Masia. The moon would appear on the same spot, high above the houses on the left.
I came home and put the kettle on. I went into my bedroom and took off the black blouse I was wearing and the bra and put on the grey silk neglige, and I kept the jeans on. It was better to keep the jeans on if I was going to type on the laptop. I do not like laptop touching my skin. I made myself a tea and got a piece of flatbread out of the fridge, and hummus and pickles. I crafted a small sandwich with all that and ate it next to the kitchen counter. I took the tea to the sofa, opened the laptop and decided to type my day, how the deck was not coming out, and how I was debating if I should talk to this guy at the cafe, and how grateful he was that I did, and how swept by some sweet emotions I touched the arm of the moroccan guy, and how I drove through the night city listening to the same song over and over again. And I told myself, “If you are going to write it all, at least write the truth.”