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One of the biggest dreams for many tech startup founders is to make it to the Silicon Valley in the United States. However, once you get there, what’s the next step? The highly competitive Silicon Valley is filled with startups, whom all are competing to score the best deals.
In an exclusive conversation with Silicon Canals, Eric Thelen, Director of the EIT Digital Silicon Valley Hub in San Francisco, shares his perspective on how to optimize the chances for success in the Valley.
#1 Be realistic! Do not overestimate your likelihood to score deals.
A common mistake is to overestimate opportunities based on positive initial feedback. People in Silicon Valley are naturally optimistic, opportunity-oriented and do not tend to be openly critical. However, positive feedback does not imply that a deal is imminent.
Ultimately, your Silicon Valley business partners still need to be fully convinced of the potential of the technology of the startup as well as of the reliability of the startup company. If this is not the case, even very positive feedback will not translate into a business deal.
To close a deal, be truly convincing and carefully build the necessary trust.
#2 Do not underestimate the required resources.
Scale-ups from Europe should be aware that their first steps in the US market require a significant investment to compete with the local, often very well funded, startups.
In Silicon Valley, companies need to invest as much time and human resources as elsewhere. They need to be physically present, either permanently or via a combination of multiple long trips.
A startup that wants to strike deals in Silicon Valley also needs to demonstrate that it is sufficiently robust to implement and support these deals. US customers, who get the impression that the startup is already short of cash, may stay away from investing in its products out of fear that product maintenance may become an issue.
#3 Stay focused on your key goal.
Scale-up founders coming to Silicon Valley need to define what they want to accomplish and stay sharply focused on their primary goals. They should be very selective concerning the opportunities they embark on and should not immediately run after each new lead. Working on too many prospects simultaneously can result in spreading the available resources too thinly so that the critical opportunities no longer receive sufficient attention. Prioritizing the most fruitful opportunities is absolutely critical to achieve the desired success. Companies should regularly reflect on the choices they make and be ready to make adjustments based on new insights.
#4 Leverage your references.
Anything you can do to increase your credibility, demonstrate stability, and to establish trust with your Silicon Valley business partners will significantly increase your chances of success.
Leverage your relevant references from Europe, which could come from customers, investors, partners, testimonials, awards, prizes, or team members with extraordinary credentials.
#5 Engage in networking as a continuous activity.
While it always takes time to build a network, this is easier in Silicon Valley compared to other geographies.
Networking is a continuous activity in Silicon Valley, where it is very much part of the culture. People are generally willing to make new connections and to help their contacts by offering access to their network.
In Silicon Valley, people are generally rather accessible. Cultural and hierarchical differences matter less than elsewhere.
The principle of reciprocity is well-established in Silicon Valley. Newcomers should be aware that to be a successful networker, if they are helped by others, they should be ready to assist them as well when the opportunity arises. If they only obtain help and do not add any value to their network, they will not succeed in further growing it.
#6 Obtain local support.
Do not try to do it all alone. Reach out to local partners, service providers, experts, and mentors, who are experienced in your field and establish a relationship with them. They will enable you to progress much faster and to avoid mistakes. For European companies, EIT Digital can be one of your partners.
Obtain as much support and input as possible for defining your strategy and preparing your approach. Consider whether you are truly ready or whether you may still need more time before addressing potential customers or investors in Silicon Valley.
Editor’s Note: EIT Digital has developed a “Silicon Valley Readiness Assessment”, which they apply to any scaleup that is looking for Access-to-Market support in the US.” For more information, do visit EIT Digital Silicon Valley Hub, and the EIT Digital Accelerator.
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