Saturday, August 2, 2014

Top ten things to know for an entrepreneur the first time you come to Silicon Valley

      Some weeks ago me and my team we were sitting at the Mi Media Manzana offices in Lima-Peru, working as usual... when a long awaited email arrived into my inbox. The subject read: "Congratulations !..." . I knew exactly what that meant, I've been waiting for this e-mail to arrive for several months... this meant that we were going to Silicon Valley, we had been selected to participate in the BlackBox Connect program. In their own words (better than mine) this program is a "unique opportunity for non-US startups to access resources and scale globally during a two-week immersion program".

      The two weeks at Blackbox were amazing. Learned a lot from the program, from Fadi Bishara and from the other entrepreneurs from all over the world that were part of it. 
*If you want to know about their incredible Starups, here they are
Picture taken by the awesome photographer Marta Tomczyc 
I stayed for an additional week after the program ended, meeting a lot of interesting people. It's really a unique place on earth for an entrepreneur. I'm leaving the Valley today and wanted to summarize the main takeaways from this three weeks at Silicon Valley. Basically, if you're an entrepreneur, have a startup and you're thinking about moving here, this is what you should know:

1.- If you want to raise money here, you have to move to Silicon Valley
2.- People don't have time. Be short, really short. Say what you do in 7 words.
3.- There are millions of Startups competing here. There are several VC's investing here. The odds to raise money are low, but usually higher than anywhere else.
4.- VC's are in a position of power. Someone told me during these weeks "In the end... everybody in Silicon Valley dreams to start their own fund and become a VC. Business Angels want to become VC's. Entrepreneurs want to exit, and then become VC's. VC's want to become bigger VC's"
5.- You'll never raise money in the first meeting with a VC, neither in the second. If the Startup is within their scope, they invest only when they see an upward trend over time in the entrepreneur. 
6.- Valuations are higher in Silicon Valley than anywhere else. Here's an interesting article on early stage startup valuations in Silicon Valley.
7.- This is the place where the most talented people in Technology from all over the world come to work. The best of the best come here, period.
8.- Competition for talent is harsh. The best are here but that doesn't mean they'll work for you. There are millions of interesting startups and yes, on hiring you also compete against Facebook, Google, Intel, etc. Equity is a must, but usually not enough to hire someone. Gets an inspiring/persuasive leader on an extremely interesting project to get someone working with you.
9.- Pay it forward. This is real. People will help you without asking anything in return. Is hard to understand an ecosystem so fiercely competitive as this one, but at the same time has this strange coexistence with an uninterested and real belief that is good to help others... Capitalism should be like this everywhere not just here don't you think? :)
10.- Networking is really everything. This is how you meet new people that could eventually be on your team, how you learn from other entrepreneurs, how you meet your future investors, how journalists get to know you, how you meet your future cofounders, etc. Your network and therefore your reputation is really your biggest asset by far in Silicon Valley. The topic is so relevant here that I'll dig deeper on Networking on Silicon Valley on a later post.
11.- Don't ask for favors to people who don't know you, people will get pissed off. It takes a while to understand, but it's a mix of getting right points 9 and 10. The order is important. First you meet people, get to an initial relation. Second you offer help. Third, if the person you know wants to and trusts you, they'll offer help to you. That's  more or less how it works, don't go asking people you don't know for favors.

I'm sure there's much more to learn from this place and it's people... and this is the reason I'll keep coming back to Silicon Valley.
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