I knew nobody in Silicon Valley and how I met the founder of Startup Grind

Son Le Thanh (Son)
2 min readJan 21, 2022


Nearly a decade ago (April 2012), I landed in Silicon Valley for a backpacking trip in 10 days and I had no planned agenda for the trip.

Follow my heart to the land of startups

During 1997–1999 when I was still in high school, I read stories about the founders of Yahoo and “The road head” book from Bill Gates. I had a dream to visit Silicon Valley one day. 5th April 2012 was that day.

I bought a round-trip air ticket from Cathay Pacific. I landed in SFO at midnight, too late to take a train and the taxi fare was expensive. I slept on the airport floor that night.

The next morning, I took a bus to explore the Bay Area. I had no specific destination, no friend to meet. I just sat on the bus, let the driver carry me around to different places.

At the end of the first day, I was too tired with the suitcase following me everywhere. Airbnb was already popular, I tried to contact 5 hosts. I could not wait for more than 10 minutes, I walked into a hotel on El Camino Real road and rented a room for a few days.

Keep it fluid with an open-ended agenda

After settling down, I turned on my laptop and open meetup.com to search for events happening in the next 10 days. I decided to go to a NodeJs developer meetup hosted by Microsoft, a fund-raising event on Sands Hill Road, an after-hours event on the same night as the fund-raising one.

Keep showing up

After finishing the fund-raising event, I took a taxi to go to the after-hours one. It was almost 10:00 pm, a handful of people stayed around and were talking. Haven’t had dinner yet, I grabbed some left-over pizza, sat down and talked to a man. He was asking me if he should invest US 5000 into a 10-week program to learn full-stack web application development. He was doing something else and wanted to switch his career to tech.

The next one might change your life ever

After giving some advice to him, a tall-and-bald man sitting beside me asked me where I came from. Having heard my story, he decided to give me a drive to the hostel where I stayed with a few other NOC students. Along the way, he talked about his startup organization and its mission. He asked me to go back to Singapore and helped him start the community.

I agreed and that was the best decision I made during that trip.

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Son Le Thanh (Son)

I am a geek, my background was in software development but I enjoyed building community and creating useful content. I am the father of two boys.