How to get FREE FOOD and FREE COFFEE in Silicon Valley

Since moving to Silicon Valley in June I’ve had at least 25% of my meals and coffee for free and I wanted to share some of the best kept secrets here in the valley. If you are a bootstrapped ramen entrepreneur read carefully!!

Free meals are easiest to come by in three ways:

  1. Events
  2. Paying it forward with service providers
  3. Corporate friends

There are a TON of events going on in Silicon Valley for the startup industry, and if you don’t know where to find them sign up now. Many of these events offer free meals and finger food (pizza and waffles are very common), and many of these events are free or very cheap.

If you want to make this method ABSOLUTELY free and foolproof offer to help the event organizer on a volunteer basis in exhange for a free ticket or if you are a blogger offer to write an article or do a cross promotion in exchange for a ticket. By giving something of value to the organizer, reciprocity inevitably takes over


My favorite event in this category is Swagapalooza, put on by LaunchHear and Alex Krupp, which brings together the top digital influencers and gives them unlimited free alcohol, free food, and a big bag of free swag. It’s amazing! Watch out for the next one in SF soon.

Paying it forward with service providers
This is the hardest route to free food but the most rewarding. Service providers (lawyers, PR firms, CPA’s) are some of the least respected members of the startup ecosystem but many of them are really cool and trying to help out for all the right reasons. Take the time to meet these people and recommend your fellow founders to the best people you meet or the service providers you are using yourself (eat your own dog food!).

If you help the service provider you are using land a new client I promise you will be taken to many free lunches and dinners in the near future. By helping out your fellow founders pick the right service providers doing their job for the right reasons and helping them get more business everyone wins and you will get free meals!

Corporate friends
Founders tend to look down upon others “working for the man” but your friends in corporations enjoy many benefits you as a startup founder will never get. Be nice to them, learn what they do, understand how a large corporation works, and don’t forget to visit them for lunch and dinner! My two favorite places to hang out for a meal is Facebook and Google, check out some pics:

Free Coffee
There is a specific point in a startups life when glorious free coffee is guaranteed: when you are meeting with VC’s and raising capital. When you visit SandHill Road don’t forget to take advantage of all of the free coffee and drink opportunities around you. My favorite so far was the drip coffee + 2 shots of espresso + creme & sugar at the new Matrix Partners office. If you are visit SandHill road soon I suggest checking out this map.

And if you are one of those unlucky startups that actually makes money, has a business model, and doesn’t need to get 50% of their company taken by venture capitalists you can still partake in free coffee. Bring VC’s dealflow and they will love you and keep you caffeinated all year

PS – I am officially the mayor of Sequoia Capital on Foursquare, take that partners!