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.


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