There was a buzz in the air as we drove past some of the biggest companies in the world on 6 lane wide highways. We had arrived in San Francisco and were all ready to be engrossed in the vibrant startup culture that it had to offer.
We soon realized that we were starving, and decided that we all needed a boost to deal with the time difference and get through the day. After stuffing down an average tasting coffee and a bagel with “lox”, we drove to the famous Stanford University. We were quickly impressed by the world-class facilities present, and enjoyed the bike-riding student culture. It was fitting that the beginning of our trip, in which we aimed to learn from the startup-culture of Silicon Valley, had its first stop at the university where so many notable alumni and entrepreneurs had emerged, including Larry Page (Founder of Google) and Elon Musk (world-famous inventor).
In the afternoon, we had our anticipated meeting with our client RangeMe, an Australian startup that transitioned to San Francisco while maintaining their Research and Development processes domestically. Hearing personally from the founders of RangeMe, who were already a client before a successful transitioning overseas, was important in gaining insight into the differences between the still maturing startup culture of Australia against the mature and sophisticated startup industry in San Francisco. The ease at which startups can raise and generate capital from major Venture Capitalists was intriguing, with many capital raising rounds enticing investors to pour their money into companies across a variety of sectors. It was clear that the overall quality of talent helps to build the competitiveness of every startup within the Silicon Valley region, and sets an example for the Australian market to try and replicate.
We finished off our day with a walk through “downtown San Francisco” (please read in an American accent), a tasty dinner in China town, a walk by AT&T Stadium (home of the SF Giants, of which we are all now big fans), and a relaxing time in the Jacuzzi at our 5-star house.
Day 2 started with an interesting experience at a Silicon Valley Startup Fair. Immersing in the startup culture was key to gaining the most from our time away, and we quickly established strong connections and networked with some of the top talented entrepreneurs in the area. A unique beer-manufacturing machine caught my eye, as well as other education-based software development projects.
In the afternoon, we attended a Pitch Day at Founders Space, the number one accelerator for overseas startups as rated by Forbes. Each startup had their CEO pitch their business for approximately 5 minutes, explaining the need of the product, their uniqueness and the amount and aim for the funds being raised. Attending as investors of a fund gave us a high level of credibility amongst the startups, with many quickly approaching us to pitch their ideas. Impressive startups included Equobot, a news filtering app that gives advice to stock investors based off information in the market, as well as Spryfit, a money-making incentive app for exercise-enthusiasts. What was very interested was the way in which the CEOs presented themselves while pitching. Not one suit was seen. Coming from Australia, where outward presentation is key for any person to be taken seriously, seeing people pitch in jeans and a t-shirt was interesting.
On day 3, we had the highly anticipated meeting with one of the most successful early stage venture funds and seed accelerators in the world, 500 Startups. We discussed the buying and investing side of the startup market, gaining clarity over successful and effective investment processes, the way in which the company guides their startups to raise capital, and how to become a global, billion-dollar company. Easier said than done. However, it was evident how much we gained for the experience of learning from a knowledgeable partner at a successful venture capital firm.
Our next stop was Google, something we were all looking forward to. We all expected a massive skyscraper that could be seen from miles (because American’s don’t use kilometres) away. However, what we saw was a massive suburb with Google buildings spread all around. It was easy to see how they had become so successful. In a culture of bike-riding, innovation and casual dressing, it was clear to see that everyone in Google is encouraged to attempt the impossible, to try and grow and take things to the next step. Such an environment can only be positive.
After an afternoon of shopping (which was an afternoon too long for me), we attended an interesting talk from “Growth Hacker” Sean Ellis who spoke about driving sustainable growth within startups. Key takeaways include the importance of focusing on high leverage goals to improve sustainable growth, aiming to understand the value added for customers to ensure retained growth, as well as the necessity to have a high level of velocity of testing and experimentation to drive innovation and development of processes and products.
As Friday was our day off, we decided to do some exploring around town. We enjoyed a great tour around AT&T stadium, and basked in the beautiful weather and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay area.
We wrapped up our trip in the US by spending an afternoon in LA, driving through Beverley Hills, seeing the famous Hollywood sign (from a vast distance), as well as seeing the “Walk of Fame” and enjoying a delicious meal together at a Japanese restaurant.
Although boarding the plane was upsetting as our trip was coming to a close, we were all alive with new ideas and opportunities for when we get back. The future is bright.