The Wrap Up – Silicon Valley Trek

As our Silicon Valley Trek comes to an end, we gather around the AirBnB to discuss what is it that we learned, and what our perspectives are on this entire experience.

And there were some amazing insights – of my colleagues – which I shall share – collated by me in this blog post. These are not all my thoughts but a crux of the various thoughts that my friends discussed with me or posted on their blogs, and the creative licenses to those belong to them J

From the initial Alumni meetup the night before the kick off, to visiting companies and speakers over the next few days, we realized the importance of the Silicon Valley Culture, the power of networking and the tenacity and thought process in addition to the surroundings provided, and the infrastructure. Over the next days we visited the following companies and attended some amazing speakers.

Indiegogo – the crowdfunding platform helping us understand trends, a possible crowdfunding mechanism for our next startup; and the rise of the equity model. It made us realize what the funding tools of the future might look like.

“Global crowdfunding experienced accelerated growth in 2014, expanding by 167% to reach $16.2 billion raised, up from $6.1 billion in 2013. In 2015, the industry is set to more than double once again, on its way to raising $34.4 billion”

We would also like to shout out a thank you to the Dutch Consulate in San Francisco for hosting us to an amazing lunch and providing us the space for our activities and helping us understand how they help the starups from Europe scale to the US markets, specifically the Silicon Valley.

Professor. Alina Ball – giving us a crash course in startup legal. How to setup a company and how could we best mitigate the hassles by getting the right partners, or legal advisors.

Sanders Arts – from ATMEL who made technology understandable to the rest of the world by proper communication.

“I absolutely loved our session with Mr Sanders Art from ATMEL. This is a really impressive marketing turnaround! Clearly the company had ambitious goals, but was stuck in doing things the ‘’usual way’’ – a bit of path dependency problem, isn’t it?”

Elke Heiss – educating us the importance of good and professional communication and how the US market works.

“press releases are still very relevant in the USA – but only successful together with some relationship management”

Visiting Stanford helped us understand the place where the young minds come together, and not unlike INSEAD, we overheard lunch conversations tackling the next problem, or building the next business model that changes the world. A walk down University Avenue later in the day just reaffirmed that notion, while also providing us some palatable cuisine.

Rick and Natalia from Flextronics helping us understand how a massive electronics company is helping both the giants and startups alike (Labs IX)

“I liked how focused Flex is on being ahead of its customers’ needs and ideas! This is a great source and incentive for innovation!”

Frank Levinson from SmallWorldGroup sharing how despite being Singapore based (the other side of the world); they are funding companies on this side in the Valley.

“over-funding in early stages can become a significant issue for start-ups “

“when seeking investment through a VC entrepreneurs need to do their homework and do proper due diligence and negotiations in order to get the best support from investors and their networks”

Pulse Evolution was a pleasant surprise to most of us, set in a nondescript building with a rich heritage. We did sign NDAs so anything that we saw can’t be told, but they did open our eyes to endless new possibilities in the Entertainment and Advertising worlds.

A16Z (Andreesen Horowitz) was the perhaps the favorite of a lot of us from our MBA perspective. They are into the “Business of finding bad looking stuff that is actually good”, and Scott Kupor told us how. Think of this – the Managing Partner sitting with 25 MBAs from 12 different countries answering questions both from a US perspective and a potential international one.

Runway Accelerator hosted us for the final day and we truly saw the culture of the area when we immersed ourselves there. I shall of course talk about the culture in a bit because it is the underlying reason of a lot of things that happen in the valley. Michelle and Daniel helped us understand from an INSEAD perspective, with very contrasting personal stories what and how we can do in the valley, and the importance of networking.

Any post about the trip would be incomplete without Gigi – an exemplary example of networking and the welcoming culture of the Silicon Valley who was on board for no other reason than her friendship (yes, warm friendship – not just a connection), with our professor Virginia Cha. She helped us realize the mass of the iceberg we know as the Valley, not just the tip.

Culture and Network

The culture of Silicon Valley is an extremely polite, cross collaborative culture, while at the same time very competitive. Perspectives of course matter, and the need to understand and immerse ourselves in the culture is important before we classify it as one over the other. While at one end some of us thought that the work hard play hard culture is less pronounced, on the other, a few of us thought of that the people enjoy their work a lot more than the traditional jobs, while a third thought process led us to believe whether it was coffee shops/accelerators like Runway where the startups ticked – because you really didn’t wear suits, and the whole day was a party.

“…everything here seems to be about (tech) startups…”

“…so maybe the tech geeks who run their startups do not care about a hip place with nice bars and cool clubs etc. they maybe do not care about nightlife or parties the fun part of life – they have a more a work hard, network hard than a work hard, play hard culture…”

“..Everything happen at an extraordinary pace here so the biggest piece of luxury people can give to you is about their precious time…”

“…the TV show Silicon Valley is a very accurate depiction of the life of Silicon Valley/Bay Area.”

“Finally, what surprises me most was the welcoming atmosphere in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. For example, the visit to A16Z was triggered by a simple mail from a student. Without any connections with us, nor any potential future business prospects, Scott freed up one hour to inform us about his company.”

“It was great to hear from Gigi about the Silicon Valley culture. Reading about it is one thing, but learning it from somebody from inside the ecosystem is priceless…”

“relationships/networks can be key. the way to develop them is different.”

A quote from a fellow colleague summarizes the entire experience succinctly, and I couldn’t have done any better – so to paraphrase, here it is:

“It has all success factors just coming together: (1) entrepreneurs who develop new ideas, (2) venture capitalists who are there to finance them (a16z mentioned that the firm loses money in 50% of their investments – this is a very particular investment philosophy without which ventures cannot survive!), (3) technology to bring the ideas to life, (4) market to sell the product (US alone is a big market on both retail and corporate side, where population and leading global companies are ready to spend on new products and innovative solutions), and (5) culture which unites all stakeholders.”