Day 1: Silicon Valley’s Startup Scene, an Introduction
After sleeping off a very long Day 0, we kicked off our Silicon Valley journey at StartupHouse, which is a startup co-working/accommodation space founded in 2010. Today’s theme was naturally an introduction to the Startup culture in San Francisco/Silicon Valley, with a great panel of speakers (most from Australia) who came to share their experience and knowledge with us, and gave us a starting point of what to expect during our journey.
Here are their lessons.
The first panel of speakers discussed what was involved in Getting Started in the Bay Area. Josh Rio (Sceene) began with common misconceptions that Australian entrepreneurs have about coming to SFO, including:
- thinking that making money is easy
- many will put those already established in SFO on a pedestal – automatically assuming that they are miles ahead of them in talent and drive when it may not necessarily be the case
Karolis Karalevicius, who was part of the founding team for StartupHouse, said that your network is your currency, so treat it like so, put in the time and the effort – only make an introduction if you know it will have a good outcome. Robert Collings (Granular Objects) appreciated that there were less distractions in Australia, so it’s easier to focus on your idea – there are too many distractions in the Bay Area. He also made sure we knew that Australian self-deprecation is something we should try to tone back on – “Oh I just do this”, or “I kind of do that” is likely to translate as weakness rather than humility.
The next speakers covered important tips about Communication and Networking. Elias Bizannes (another founder of StartupHouse, and also StartupBus), Hugh Geiger (Ollo Wearables), and Amy Meyer (Because We All Love Colour) are three founders who outlined the importance of personal brand. We now know that Twitter is compulsory, if you’re not on Linkedin you’re invisible to businesses, but finally Facebook is where most people prefer to connect – where they get to see a bit of the human side of you, not just the business.
Tech is the new “oil”. It’s everywhere. What startups need to focus on, more-so than revenue, are users. You may, in fact, be shortchanging your business by caring about revenue. Make your decisions around where your customers are – if your customers are in Australia, you mightn’t need to make the journey to the US – and with the world being more interconnected than ever, it’s possible to take your startup anywhere. If you do decide you need to get to the Valley, make sure you have enough traction before you pack your bags too early. And, if all goes well, don’t forget to come back and pay-it-forward on home shores!
The theme of the final panel was Growth. Audrey Melnik (ZootRock) put her startup through 500 Startups, and said that while it was a great program, be careful not to get mentor whiplash – the more mentors you speak to, who all have very different advice to give because every startup is different, can equate to more confusion – don’t forget that you know your business the best. Ramsey Masri (OtherLevels) who has been in the mobile business space in Australia for 20 years, emphasised the need to understand your market, and get to market fast. Chris Raethke (BugCrowd) who went through StartupMate told us that Australians are relatively risk-averse, and that we need to do more by doing less, and learn from failure.
If you ever wanted to work for a startup, founders are looking to maintain the personality of their business with every new employee – you don’t need to be a expert in your field or have a predetermined set of programming skills to work for a startup – but you do need aptitude, energy, a willingness to learn and be in a team.
There’s no better way to learn about the difference between the startup cultures in Australia versus the US than to hear it from Australians who are in the Bay Area. While it seems like there are few advantages to starting a tech startup in Australia, we do have that down-to-earth nature which will give more thought to monetisation, and be more realistic.
So what needs to change in the Australian scene? What can Brisbane do to be the Silicon Valley of Australia? Should we try to imitate, or can we thrive and grow into a new type of startup ecosystem?
Following the speeches, the crew practiced our elevator pitches (in an actual elevator) in preparation for Startup Weekend San Fran – many of us for the first time!
A giant thanks to StartupHouse who hosted us and all the speakers and others who gave their time to come chat to us.