Startup Life from Mikito: Setting up in SF

So, after three weeks in the US, I am finally starting to get everything set up: cellphone, bank account, social security #, apartment, gas and electric service, cable internet, credit card, furniture and local transit pass.
Cell phones (prepaid Android from Virgin Mobile, which was actually a pretty good deal for the US), bank accounts (w/debit card) and transit passes (pretty much the same as at home) were all pretty easy. Getting a SSN took about a week – we had some delays, since the social security website was closed in the evenings, a first-time experience for me! The experience wasn’t too bad at the SSN office, though the locator site is terrible – the best resource turned out to be the SF Homeless wiki, which clearly lists where the offices are.
My apartment search was pretty long, since I didn’t quite have enough time to look for an apartment full time, and with lots of events and work, I decided to hire a local guy off a freelancing site to help with my search. In SF, everything is on Craigslist and browsing through the listings takes quite a while – so I arranged to have a Google docs spreadsheet to be updated daily with new ads from CL. I’d then run around the city to get to open houses after work.
Interestingly, the SF market moves very quickly, with a number of desirable apartments going within the same day they were listed (e.g. open house at 6pm, rented by 6:20 pm). I finally found a place (centrally located, but small) which fit my needs and signed the papers about a day later. My tip for prospective searchers would be to look at neighborhoods rather than specific apartments, since you’ll probably miss a couple of opportunities while trying to figure out where you want to live. Oh, and do install Padmapper on your phone to find the rentals wherever you are.
For furniture, me and Mikko headed over to the Ikea in Oakland with a Zipcar. Thanks to a busy schedule (this was on the same day I signed the rental), we got there 80 minutes before closing time. This led to quite a bit of power shopping – I didn’t know I could manage to buy a bed, desk, linen, mattress, pillows, dishes and kitchenware in a little over an hour, but I got my stuff – and we returned the car just in time at midnight after trying In’n’Out Burger for late dinner.
After getting my SSN, I applied for a credit card from my bank. Basically, the only sensible option is to get a secured credit card where you leave a safety deposit equal to your spending limit to the bank. The other alternative is to try to get a starter/college card, but these have extremely low limits (e.g. $300 montly), which seems like too much of a hassle. Without credit history, you are a nobody in the US. I’ve put up security deposits for the rental, cable internet and credit card, which adds up. But now that my card is in the mail, I can start to build CC history and hopefully reduce the amount of hassle involved in these kinds of transactions…
All in all, this has taken three weeks to set up, with my CC arriving in the mail soon. Yay!
Startup Life -series opens up the everyday life of the interns in San Francisco & Silicon Valley. Once a week, the interns will share their experiences and learnings. Mikito Takada is interning for Zendesk for the year. Read more about his ideas from 

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