Once and for all clearing out the wrong impression that spending a couple of weeks in the Silicon Valley will make you a Valley-Veteran.
It seems that especially in Central Europe there seems to be the notion that spending a month of two in Sunnyvale or Cupertino will push your newly launched startup to the next level and introduce your company to an audience of unchallenged proportions.
Sure, if you’re name is Sean Parker. If not, you’re one of a tens of thousands or young entrepreneurs who equally believe in the value of their product and all equally fight for a chance to get a droplet of attention by people like, well, Sean Parker.
Don’t get me wrong – not every VC, Angel, Mentor, Serial Entrepreneur or C-Level Exec lives a life like Sean Parker, flying around with his corporate helicopter only to launch his next startup at a live video conference with Mark Zuckerberg.
But the better the people are at what they do, the busier they are. That means that you might quickly discover that the people who are most easiest going to give you an opportunity to meet them, are also often the least useful to meet.
After living in the Valley for about six weeks, I am now only begging to understand how this ecosystem functions. And whatever you thought about it and all the experience you gained, forget it. You have to start over.
So, what is it that I learned so far?
For once, it does not matter how many people you know. The only thing that matters is how many people know you.
The Valley is not necessarily a fair place. Sure, everyone has an equal chance to build a great product and attract customers. But some project are easier to be realized with limited funds, others are not. And if you’ve successfully had three exists behind you, VCs are obviously much more likely to through some money at you, even if you’re product sucks big time.
This exceeds beyond the simple track rate of your startup history. It has to do with your corporate or professional history in general. Lets say you’ve spend the past decade working in M&A out of Paris and you’re now launching your new startup in the Valley, obviously you’ll have a much easier way of accessing the private equity market and raising funds.
Now what does that mean for everyone else like you and me, who is merely at the beginning of his professional career? Primarily that it takes time. Which isn’t really surprising, as you cannot fast forward a decade in networking and relationship building.
Most of the people here will tell you that it you are making great progress if you manage to mean just one really valuable person per week – provided that you have at least ten times as many meetings because, let’s be honest, it’s only one it ten that will really get you forward.
However, that is really not a reason to give up hope! Keep in mind that you just need to convince a few people playing in the upper league about the value of your product, and with a little luck, you will be able to benefit from their decade of networking.
So far, I’ve been extremely lucky to meet a few such people, and the nine out of ten meetings that don’t really got me anywhere, are finally beginning to pay off.
Where does all that lead?
Essentially that it is a grave mistake to believe that you can visit the Valley for a couple of weeks and even a couple of months in order to achieve some great success stories. Sure, some do, but thats the exception. So take your time. And if don’t have time, make sure that you make the time. Otherwise don’t even bother.
I hope this post is not going to put you off of your travel plans – I’m writing this because I’ve met quite a few people by now, who have been here for a week or two, or even a month or two, and have then returned home utterly disappointed. This is not how it works, so don’t be surprised!