13 hours of networking aboard Myriad Air - a chartered Qantas 747

Most people love to travel but if you ask them what the worst thing about it is you’ll often get the same answer - flying. Airports, security, no legroom. Let’s face it, unless you’re one of the lucky few sitting down the pointy end of the plane, flying generally sucks. So why on earth would anyone travel to the other side of the planet just to jump on a plane and fly home again? Recently, along with a couple hundred other travellers, we did exactly that. Although this was no ordinary flight, Myriad Air was 13 hours of networking aboard a chartered Qantas 747 full of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and some of the most talented people from both Brisbane and Silicon Valley on a one way event from San Francisco to Brisbane.

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The Opportunity

When the opportunity to join the Myriad Air flight came up, for my partner Ruth and I it was a no brainer. While we had visited San Francisco briefly as tourists, we hadn’t been since we started our creative tech business Creatively Squared so the chance to head to startup central and to be part of a once in a lifetime flight was an easy one to make.

As part of Myriad, an innovation and technology festival in Brisbane, this flight would be bringing over a number of special guests and speakers and giving budding entrepreneurs like us the opportunity to connect with them on the way over.

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Touchdown in San Francisco

I arrived on Monday, 6 days before the flight home, and had setup a number of meetings over the first 2 days. With less than a week to prepare, it was a bit of a mad scramble to organise things last minute but the benefit of San Fran is that things happen very quickly. The one phrase you will hear from everyone you meet is “How can I help?” There’s a culture of give first with no expectation of anything in return that is often spoken of but incredible to experience firsthand. Each meeting led to numerous other introductions and the rest of my time was filled with working from various coffee shops as I joined the sea of people focussed on their laptop screens and oblivious to the outside world thanks to their headphones.

Coffee shop office in the Mission District

Coffee shop office in the Mission District

The official Myriad events began on Wednesday night with welcome drinks and a great opportunity to connect with other eager entrepreneurs from Brisbane or those currently based in the Bay Area. Ruth arrived on Thursday just in time for our visit to the Cisco Meraki headquarters and to see a number of Australian startups pitch the Cisco Venture Capital team. The Advance team who help Australian innovators connect into local ecosystems throughout the world welcomed us for drinks later that night. There was no shortage of events to go to and people to meet and we were impressed by the number of support systems and programs for Aussie entrepreneurs wanting to base themselves in San Francisco.

The day before take-off

Beautiful Stanford university Campus

Beautiful Stanford university Campus

On Friday, the day before the flight, we headed down to Palo Alto for a Silicon Valley tour, visiting Stanford University, Apple and Facebook. The sheer size of the campuses is incredible and what also stood out was the start contrast of the surrounding area which was often empty paddocks for miles.

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Sadly you can’t enter the new iconic ‘ring’ building that Apple has created (and are still moving staff into) they have built a visitor centre across the road and we enjoyed testing out their Augmented Reality where you could explore the new campus. While you can’t take photos inside we also enjoyed grabbing a snapshot out the front of the new Instagram HQ!

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Later that evening we joined the rest of the group and guests for the official pre-flight event at the Intercontinental Hotel downtown and the networking was already in full swing

The flight

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We arrived at San Francisco International Airport at around 9pm and were excited to see the check-in counters lit up with custom ‘Myriad Air’ signs. The Air France lounge had been booked out for the pre-networking, networking event - it was going to be a big night. We headed to the gate as chants of “Aussie Aussie Aussie” drew. The Qantas crew struggled to get everyone settled for the usual preflight routine and I wondered if this was a fun and unique experience for them too, or were they thinking to themselves this is going to be a very long night...

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Once we had taken off an announcement asked those sitting in seats C or H to stand and move back 1 row. While the idea may have been to facilitate people moving around to meet each other, it wasn’t needed. As soon as the seatbelt signs went off everyone was up and about with the flight resembling a cocktail bar more than a flight. The entire plane was accessible to everyone on board and as I wandered around meeting new people and catching up with old friends, I came across lots of pitching, product demos and business cards being exchanged left, right and centre.

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It wasn’t all business though, drinks were flowing, music was playing and even the staff and captain got involved as dance parties began to break out. The Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, and ‘Shark Tank’ investor Steve Baxter was busy listening to a series of startups pitching their business down the back, while a mini press hub had been set up at the pointy end to interview experts and entrepreneurs alike.

A warm welcome home

As we descended into Brisbane we were all still buzzing, though maybe looking a little worse for wear as you normally do after flying for over 13 hours. We were welcomed by a media contingent and a traditional indigenous Australian dance, before heading home for a well earned rest after being awake for close to 30 hours. Once we had come down from the excitement of the flight we had 2 days to catch up on work before the official Myriad conference began.

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The wrap up

The trip was a fantastic opportunity to spend time with incredibly talented people from both Australia and the US. The lead up in San Francisco, flight home and the conference were all amazing experiences that we were very lucky to be able to take part in. The connections we made will help our business grow and hopefully we can help out some of the people we met as well.

It’s great to see Australia and Brisbane in particular starting to make its mark as we have some world class talent here. I’m looking forward to seeing what Myriad holds for Brisbane next year.