What’s the recipe for success in Silicon Valley?

This post appeared on the Startupbootcamp blog back in April 2013 but I hadn’t added it to my personal blog. The majority of the information is still very relevant now!

On the 23rd and 24th of April, Startupbootcamp Berlin went to the NEXT Berlin conference, and in between seeing Google Glass in action, hearing from the CTO of Obama’s winning campaign, and watching Startupbootcamp Alumni LoyaltyLion pitch, we also spoke to several well known names. Here we share their advice for startups pitching in Silicon Valley.

Know who you’re pitching to

Max Niederhofer from Sunstone Capital, who was named Best Startup Advisor/Mentor 2012 at last year’s The Europas in Berlin, says that Europe doesn’t understand venture capital. He finds that European startups often offer too little equity, which is unappealing to VCs as European startups tend to make less money anyway. But for Max, a surefire way of spotting potential in a startup is when he has FOMO (fear of missing out) – if other investors are sniffing around a startup, they probably have something special that’s worth knowing about.

Be an engineer. Or think like one.

Hermione Way, journalist for The Next Web and serial entrepreneur, has lived in the Valley for the last 3 years, and finds that investors tend to look for engineer founders. As engineers have the potential to go straight from Stanford into high-paid jobs (as much as $200k), they are considered gold dust – Stanford’s top engineers provide much of the lifeblood of Silicon Valley startups. So if you don’t have the advantage of being an engineer, you still need to think like a techie. Julia Hartz, co-founder of ticketing giant Eventbrite (based in Silicon Valley) says that part of the success of Eventbrite is down to thinking like a tech company rather than thinking like a ticketing company. Indeed the overwhelming conclusion of the conference was that we all need to fail faster; “You can’t get anywhere unless you’re willing to fail” says Julia.

A great product alone isn’t enough

“We put emphasis on the product and the customer. It’s a dual focus”. A lot of companies offer a simple, self-service product but do not provide human support. At Eventbrite they set out to create a product that’s easy to use but they married that with human contact. Combining these factors with a carefully-selected, well-supported team makes for a fantastic package, and could be what helps you gain investment.

Thank you Julia, Hermione and Max for sharing your experiences.

This post originally appeared on the Startupbootcamp blog in April 2013.


Meeting Twitter followers in real life

Twitter follower

“How do you know this guy?”

“He’s my Twitter friend.”

“What does that even mean? Is it like that?”

“No, it’s not Like That.”

Ever met up with a stranger who follows you on Twitter? Neither had I, until last night. Neither of us are sure who made the first move when it came to following each other, but @EdwardJamesH and myself (@fakebananas) had a few months of back and forth; replies, retweets and favourites.

I suggested a pub in central London – suitably neutral. I was nervous that he might be slightly arrogant – after all, if your impression of a person is when they are on “broadcast” mode, you never know if that might also be the case in person. I was nervous anyway cos he was a Random Internet Stranger, the sort you’re warned against when you’re younger. I wore trousers with my geeky stripy socks showing so he would know we were friends from Twitter not Tinder (hey, women move in mysterious ways, don’t judge me). He was in a suit, straight from work. As it turns out, we got on really well and had more in common than I would have expected from a Random Internet Stranger.


So why did our paths even cross in the first place? Truth be told, I can’t actually remember. But the two of us do have overlapping interests, especially copywriting and online marketing. Both of us had been doing what you’re supposed to do on Twitter to get more followers, which is that we helped each other out. Which led to more conversations. We borrowed each other’s content, and offered each other industry-specific advice. Recently Edward even tweeted the link to a cover letter I wrote, to support my job application. We weren’t afraid to ask for each other’s help – after all, “it’s only Twitter”. No biggie. 140 characters of effort.

Something that took me by surprise and I was really pleased about was that we’d both really listened online. I had provided feedback on Edward’s blogposts, he said he found the articles I tweet really interesting, and we talked about some of them in detail, made recommendations and… Well, it struck me that we had exactly the sort of conversations that brands would love to have with their customers. Taking it from 140 characters a pop to nearly two hours of animated chatting. A great experiment for two people in the online marketing world.

In keeping with the blind date feel to this piece, I’ll tell you the gory details: I insisted on paying for the first round (Ed understood, he’s big on equality and all that!), we walked to the station together, but there wasn’t really a chemical spark. That wasn’t what I was looking for anyway. And it turns out you can’t tell from Twitter that I’m 6’1, so the major height difference was a lot more noticeable offline!

This post also appears on BuzzFeed Community.

The Berlin Startup Cheat Sheet

Berlin Startup Cheat Sheet

In September a group of TechCrunch employees were in Berlin in preparation for TechCrunch Disrupt Europe at the end of October, so I decided to prepare a document of usefulness. The aim was simply to provide a starting point for people who are new in town, with varying amounts of knowledge of the startup scene in Berlin. So I condensed everything I felt is important into one document, and made it shareable so that anybody can see it and download a copy for themselves. I’m considering creating Part Two with further info, so stay tuned.

So here it is:

The Berlin Startup Cheat Sheet

Enjoy. And if you tweet about it, do me a small favour and credit me @fakebananas. Thanks!