About my first days in San Francisco
“Flexi-Planning is the best planning” – Vinod Khosla
By Witali / happy larry on bubble it!
Silicon Valley is a very different place compared to Germany. After spending a week here, I prepared a short of list of 10 facts that are important to mention and differentiate companies in Silicon Valley from most of the companies in Germany.
1. Always follow a vision
First I want to mention an example why US companies are different compared to the ones in Germany, or anywhere in the world: Just look at airbnb. If you check out their website their claim is: “People should belong anywhere and feel like at home at any place in the world.” On the website they speak about community and about helping each other. Switching the website to wimdu.de, which is doing exactly the same stuff, there is written that they are 50% cheaper than regular hotel rooms! What do you think is more appealing to be part of? 50% cheaper than a hotel room, or the community which makes you feel everywhere like being at home? US companies have a vision, they follow a mission, they are willing to make meaning, to solve problems, not to make money on first hand.
2. Innovate instead of Accuse
I would like to mention another example from Stanford. When Stanford released its fourth batch of students in 1895, they went to a painting shop at night and bought a whole bunch of red color to paint the entire campus with the figure 95. In the next morning the administration was for sure not very happy about the fact, that the entire campus was painted in red, however instead of accusing, they invented that every new year will get a huge tile stone at the main building to set their batch in stone forever, so nobody will forget them. They took the situation as it is and innovated and there are hundreds of stories like this on Stanford campus.
3. Never stop learning
You need to be willing to learn your entire life. Great entrepreneurs and minds never stop learning. I met a musician, who started to learn coding or a computer engineer that has a major in philosophy. It is just impressive how many different interests people in the valley follow.
4. The Eco-system matters
The amount of start-ups is just incredible. In almost every building there is a start-up and everybody is doing something with start-ups, or is working in one of the big companies like google, apple, facebook, salesforce, oracle, airbnb, uber, twitter and so many more. And even the big ones are actually not very old compared to the ones in Germany. And most importantly: They seem to be open to talk, collaborate and help each other.
5. The background doesn`t matter
An entrepreneur could be a housewife with her husband, like the founders of the company houzz who have recently received funding of $165 MM, a boy starting a payment solution called “stripe” with 20 years, or a former alcohol brand promoter starting “charity water”, being able to deliver clean water to 5 million people and receiving $ 170 MM of charity money. Sure, most people are computer engineers, but it is not a requirement. It depends on how much you want something to be successful.
6. People read a lot
Every founder of a successful company will suggest you at least 3 – 5 books that have influenced him. There are many great books out there that give a good overview of peoples failures and you can learn a lot from those books.
7. Companies iterate fast
“Hey man, you have to go fast” is what you hear a lot. That is why a business plan does not really help, because you might end up doing something totally different a few weeks after expressing your first idea. In Silicon Valley they call it flexi-planning.
8. Put the customer first and talk to your users
Founders are expected to talk to their users at least 30% of their time. This sounds a lot, however it really makes sense, especially here in the US people are very frank and honest with their feedback. I am so glad that we build a geolocation-based communication app, so I can claim a pub crawl as part of understanding the customer
9. You should seek for advice and mentorship
Out here are so many great mentors, people with experience and a great network who really want to help. Coming from Germany I always think that I do not want to waste the time of people, however they really want to help you and are glad to do so.
10. Companies start of from home
Looking even at the most successful accelerator Y-Combinator, which has funded great companies, they expect you to get an apartment in San Francisco and work from there. Even though it is an incubator/accelerator they do not provide you with office space, but expect you to work from home, because they claim that this is the way to start: Cheap, whole time work, never stop thinking, never stop innovating.
Some great websites with helpful advices:
The 4 best quotes from last week:
- “The more experienced the people are, the less likely they are to innovate because they are bias” – Vinod Khosla
- “At the beginning you should do exceptionally great customer service, even though it is not scalable, but it gives you a great insight and the first customers are very important”
- I kind of liked this thought: “Just imagine what we (all entrepreneurs) could do together if we would 100% trust each other”
- Why the valley is successful “Success breeds success”.
Cheers from San Francisco