An astrophysical insight into the core of Silicon Valley.
It has been 3 weeks since we came to San Francisco. Three weeks, that’s a short time for man, but ages for Manta Tools*. A lot has changed in how we work and how we sell, thanks to the many smart people we met in San Francisco and Silicon Valley – mentors, partners, customers, friends. They taught me some priceless lessons – let me share some of them with you before the new new stuff overlaps the old new stuff in my head. I will split it up, so here comes the first installment:
In astrophysical terms, Silicon Valley is a neutron star: A massively massive (just plain “massive” wouldn’t do it justice), incredibly concentrated (just a few km/miles in diameter), fast spinning, astonishing place with a gravitational pull strong enough to twist nearby space-time like a pretzel – but still, SV is a bright, radiating star, not an abyssal black hole. I mean, you can leave SV if you want to. You just won’t be the same anymore. Pieces of you will fall off if you get close enough, and the energy that SV beams back at you will hit you so hard it might hurt you if you are not careful – or accelerate you to near-lightspeed if you hit the right trajectory. A to chceš.**
Silicon Valley’s mass is made of money. Humongous lumps of money squeezed so hard that the repulsive force takes over and makes some of it fly out. The Planck mass seems to be $100,000 here – your company might pick up 1 to 5 Planck masses just by brushing against SV if you are investable and if what you do makes at least a little sense. That is not to say you should always take the money – not all investments are the same and some might not actually be good for you. Like, your investor might later force you to sell off too soon, too cheap.
The level of concentration in Silicon Valley – not just of money but, just as importantly, of ideas and opportunities – is stunning. Everybody knows everybody; everybody lives close to somebody important; a coffee with someone you always wanted to meet might be just a phone call away. Or not. Because promising startups, just like yours, are just as concentrated, and the competition is fierce. Tens of thousands of startups are said to be founded each year in Silicon Valley, and yours will be just one among them. Know that beforehand, and prepare for it. We’ve visited several pitching sessions, either as a pitching startup or as guests, and each of them featured multiple startups. Within a week, we saw two companies pitching almost identical products that competed head to head.
Silicon Valley eats talent and money and converts it into more money. Both tend to stay around. Many exceptional people from around the world flock to SV never to return to their home country. Some governments started to realize this and figured out that while they cannot replicate Silicon Valley’s startup potential, they need to motivate successful companies to reinvest back home. We came here with the help of CzechInvest, which also co-organized SV4Startups. Let’s hope more good things will come from (not just) the Czech government.
As for the speed part, time flies fast. You might have just a few seconds to impress a person you just met (a potential customer, an investor, or partner) and that chance might never come again. On the other hand, you will have so many opportunities to meet people with whom you just might exchange something of value – be it advice, a referral, an inspiration, or even a business deal – that you don’t have to sweat it every time. Practice by doing, and go to pitching sessions even if you don’t expect to make any deal there.
The Force is strong with Silicon Valley. With a few exceptions, the people we have met here are charged up, eager to work with you (in all meanings of “work with”), and willing to give – in Silicon Valley everybody seems to know that by giving something, they are increasing their chances of also getting something back. Even when riding Muni (a system of buses and trolleys in San Francisco), I frequently find myself talking to strangers, and most of them are very open and kind. I don’t know if people are so open here because with every conversation there is a high chance for a valuable, or just pleasant, exchange – or if it is the other way round. Most likely it works both ways, and it is an amazing experience. If you come from a more “introvert” culture like I do, the difference is unbelievable, and the atmosphere energizes you.
More to come on how being in Silicon Valley really helps.
Featured image by Eliza Ayres.