Wednesday October 17, 2012, together with a group of fellow Gdansk, Poland based business(wo)men I will travel to San Francisco. We join the US economic mission organized by the Pomeranian region/Gdansk government. I understood San Francisco is an amazing city and Silicon Valley is very inspirational. On the other hand the whole area is way too big for just 3 days, because then we already have to go on. How to get the best out of it?
What to expect and what to focus on?
While preparing for this trip I got inspired by among other’s Steve Blank’s “A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley“, with great suggestions what (not) to do while visiting Silicon Valley. Despite his advice we will do part of the Jungle Tour, but anyway I hope to find and experience the state of mind he mentions.
Silicon Valley is more of a state of mind than a physical location. It has no large monuments, magnificent buildings or ancient heritage. There are no tours of companies or venture capital firms. From Santa Clara to South San Francisco it’s 45 miles of one bedroom community after another. Yet what’s been occurring for the last 50 years within this tight cluster of suburban towns is nothing short of an “entrepreneurial explosion” on par with classic Athens, renaissance Florence or 1920’s Paris. (Steve Blank, A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley)
I read many warnings as well. The majority is about the fact that you have to be prepared once you arrive in the area. People want to know within a very short period of time who you are and what moves you. But what else to expect from such a mission? Fact is that we will be introduced to many impressive organisations, Venture Capitals and fellow entrepreneurs.
Because this is my first visit to the Valley I treat it first of all as a great opportunity to feel the entrepreneurial climate and to learn from the way they are doing things. Seeing the results of the companies from this area, you just have to conclude you should be able to learn a lot there.
Even more important it seems to be to meet with like-minded people. The best, or even the only, way to do business in the Valley is through introductions. But before you will be introduced, they will need to know you. Therefore, networking should be high on our agenda.
Checking the opportunities the US has to offer
We will start our visit to Silicon Valley at Intel, the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker. To a big extend we thank our today’s PC’s to the Intel effort. The next stop will be the US Market Access Center, US MAC, which is a non-profit business accelerator located in Silicon Valley. Their promise is that they offer International tech companies a fast and successful access to the US Market.
I expect especially this visit will give some more insights into the different opportunities Silicon Valley has to offer and in the ways we could (if at all) consider starting doing business there.
Pitching in front of Venture Capitals
We will barely have the time to get used to the entrepreneurial climate of the Valley. After our Wednesday evening arrival (PDT, which means 9 hours time difference to overcome) and the first visits, we will already have the opportunity to present our companies and especially our solutions in front of a group of Venture Capital firms.
For sure this won’t be an easy thing, because we are just not used to the American way of pitching. In general we are more modest, may be even not fully aware of the power of our solutions and for sure in Europe we shouldn’t be too proud about them.
We will have to overcome our modesty and show what we have to offer. The fact that US MAC offers special Silicon Valley sales trainings, proves the issue. On Saturday we will be instructed how to present ourselves. Unfortunately, that will be too late for our first pitch.
Many international companies struggle with the highly competitive, sales-driven business culture inherent in the United States. Our ‘Selling in Silicon Valley” workshops are designed specifically for international executives working at technology companies that wish to overcome this barrier, in order to compete, communicate and sell their products and services in the United States (US MAC, Selling in Silicon Valley).
Visiting the big names
Apart from individual meetings we all might have, we will also visit several of the “must sees” together. On Friday we will visit Apple and Google. A Facebook visit might be part of the program as well, but hasn’t been confirmed yet. I really like to see with my own eyes what these companies look like and how the atmosphere feels. Is it really that much different?
The organization of the mission organizes many business mixers and dinners as well. These are the moments to meet with local entrepreneurs to hear their stories, to learn from their experiences. And you never know what happens after a good chat. As I wrote before getting to know each other is for now probably the most important thing.
On Thursday the 18th we will have a business mixer in The Fairmont Hotel San Jose. Just let me know through the contact form or Twitter @PetersOpinion in case you might be around and willing to meet. I will arrange an invitation.
And not to forget our own group
Being excited about the potential US opportunities, you would almost forget there might be different opportunities for cooperation within our group as well. For us it will be a perfect opportunity to exchange thoughts with our governmental leaders and our colleagues in business to see what solutions we can create together.
There will be sufficient opportunity to do so, because after our stay in the San Francisco Bay Area, we will also visit Seattle and Chicago. Later more about those visits.
I’m both excited and a bit nervous about this trip. We’re still fine tuning our company and solutions (especially 21webmerce and 21event) pitch decks and discussing the best stories to tell. Personal stories seem to stick the best on the receivers mind. Soon more …..
Checkout the other US Mission blog posts.
I don’t believe I have met you, Peter, so look forward to seeing you in Seattle. I like the tone and theme of this essay, and what I consider to be its conclusion: “And you never know what happens after a good chat. As I wrote before
getting to know each other is for now probably the most important thing.” I agree, but would make that statement into this guiding dictum: “Meet the people; meet the people; and don’t forget: meet the people.”
Hi Allen, I’m happy we met in Seattle. Thanks again for taking so good care about us! We’ve met so many nice and helpful people!
Of all the US cities – outside of NYC of course, San Fran ranks as one of my favorites. The city is so diverse in it’s people and architecture and history. So close to Napa Valley (wine) and Silicon Valley and the tallest trees you ever walked amongst (Red Wood Forest). It is also a very expensive place to live .
and from someone not used to the US – can be quite a culture shock. I wonder if you could compare SF with any city you have visited in Europe. It certainly is not like NYC – which is why it ranks up there as one of my favorites. Chicago, another of your visits, is also amongst my favorites. Looking forward to your on-the-ground comments in future parts of this blog.
Hi Stephen, thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, we had little time to see San Francisco. We were staying in a hotel outside the city and spent most of our time in Silicon Valley.
I spent some hours on Saturday evening in San Francisco, but it didn’t impress me. But it’s probably too early to judge. I will have to go there again.
Silicon Valley itself cannot be compared with anything in Europe, may be not even with anything in the world. It’s a unique environment.