Palo Alto, where broadband is cheaper than coffee

Bill Gurley, general partner at Benchmark Capital, and an early investor in Tropos “Mesh WiFi Everywhere” Networks calls University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto utopia. “Its 75 degrees, sunny and near perfect in how he looks,” says Gurley. More like…. “wireless utopia.” With an unaturally high geek-to-human ratio (not to mention start-ups to venture capital ratio), it is a tiny University town, where you stumble upon more free wireless networks than people on the street. ( Take that Mountain View and your Google WiFiNet… :-)

Last week, I ended up spending an entire day – nearly 10 hours in Palo Alto, and never once did I pay for broadband access. Well, didn’t explicitly pay for broadband. My base of operations was The Coupa Cafe, a new geek hangout that was recently mentioned in my Business 2.0 story, Tech’s Big Comeback. I was introduced to the cafe by Blake Ross of Firefox fame. The coffee is simply delicious, and of the highest quality. I spend about four hours at the cafe (which is on Ramona Street), had two Medium Caramel Macchiatos. Price $8.00, and tip, $2. I bought coffee for two of my four visitors, for another $10. Now if I sat at Starbucks, I would have had to pay $10 for Internet Access alone. And the coffee wouldn’t be as good. I am headed back to Coupa. (Never mind, that its my dream to own and operate such a cafe in NYC’s east village neighborhood, but that’s not happening anytime soon.)

But its not just Coupa Cafe that has figured out that free wifi-broadband is part of attracting the caffeine addicted crowd, who want to well, work out of a cafe. There are several other places, such as Nettea that offers free access. In San Francisco, we have the wildly popular Ritual Roasters, where you can see the Hotornot boys, TheFlickrs, and others simply hanging out. But back to Palo Alto, in between meetings, I did get to enjoy a new restaurant, the neo-Vietnamese restaurant, Tamarine. It is the new “Il Fornaio” and you are likely to see a CEO/VC on pretty much every table. I wasn’t surprised to run into Jeff Clavier, who was holding court, so to speak. Jeff, by the way has switched (partially) to a Mac, and confessed that he had a come to jobs moment. “Blogging on Mac is fantastic,” he said. Ecto, Ecto… Amen.

Talking about Macs, the Apple Store has open WiFi access as well. While there, the video iPod versus Groceries battle ended in a decisive victory for the iPod. Yup, after a month long internal tussle, now I am a proud owner of a 60 GB black video iPod.

Happy Thanksgiving All!

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