6 Lessons from Silicon Valley

Here are 6 notes I made to myself almost 6 years ago when I completed my first year of living in Silicon Valley. I live in Seattle now but I still find these very useful ~

I recently completed 1 year in the US. I moved the SF bay area last year, and it was a dream come true for a technology enthusiast like me. But man was I in for the roller-coaster. Having traveled significantly in Europe, and Asia it was not easy to accept that I was culture-shocked by the bay area.

Culture shock almost makes you want to bury your head in the ground to preserve your identity

But I was. I learnt a lot over the past one year — some personal lessons, some business observations. Some good, some bad. I wished to shared some of the most important and positive ones with all of you. So without wasting much time, here they are -

#1 — There is nothing like old school networking — It is surprising that in this hub of technology and playground of social networks, the only thing which really leads to real action is still
a. Phone calls
b. Face to face meetings
c. To some extent texts, and email

By the nature of how most social networks are designed, the refresh rate is very high i.e. you not only get a short opportunity to make an impression, you are also competing heavily for attention. So while they remain great broadcasting tools, you still need to remember the power of 1 on 1 conversations. Influence one person at a time and see the quality of your efforts and affects improve significantly.

#2 — Ideas chase capital, Capital chases capability — I am sure, most folks in the valley are not unfamiliar with the importance which is why there is no shortage of Meetups, parties, startup events, pitches etc. where you see an unabashed and discerning form of networking happening with the first question more often than not being “So, what do you do?” OR “Do you have value for me!” Hanging out with a couple of friends in venture capital firms made it obvious that everyone bows to the “Kingmakers”

Going to some events makes it evident that there is no shortage of great, cool, and awesome ideas.

There is no shortage of engineering talent as well.
There is however a shortage of actual execution.

And investors are happy to jump on execution capability.

Receiving an offer for seed funding over an MVP (developed in a weekend) with a solid business potential made it evident that there is no shortage of capital for good execution as well.

So next time you have an interesting idea, go build something and focus on how much value you can create.

Think like a product manager launching a new product even when pitching to a VC. There is no shortage of money to be invested in the valley. There is a shortage of execution capability, so highlight that, which is why MVPs and past performance are given such heavy weights in investment decisions.

The key reason for the bay area being a hub of innovation is the easy access to capital.

#3 — The importance of Product Management — Good products win, Period! Not the cheapest (almost everything is free!), not the fanciest, not the simplest, not the most complex. Good products which solve real world problems in a way better than the competitors and substitutes always win.

You need to understand your offering clearly and ensure you solve a real world problem better than anyone i.e. provide the best value.

If there is anything to be learnt from the successes (and failures) of Steve Jobs it is the importance of product management, and establishing a culture of innovation.

#4 — Survival is Success — Not everyone becomes Zuckerberg and not everyone is a visionary like Jobs. While there is so much that you can do, there is so much you do not control. Always manage your risks.

The goal is a successful business is to minimize risk, wherein the risk is a sum of risks like competitive risks, financial risks, and legal risk. While some of these are essential drains on your energies, others will bring in significant returns.

Risk is an essential part of any business, and a certain risk is healthy. All R&D is risk. Don’t be afraid of it, learn to manage Risk.

“Danger is very real, Fear is a choice!”

At no point, does it make sense for a business to take upon unnecessary risk that can jeopardize its survival. “Dead bodies don’t win wars!”

So when in a dire situation, always chose to live to fight another day over unwarranted risk. Learn to fail cheap.

#5 — Fake it, till you make it — More importantly be ready to make it! — With an environment full of opportunities and a constantly evolving landscape the bay area offers plenty of opportunities for you to hustle and sell. With thickets of networking opportunities the bay area needs you to be on your best foot more often than most areas.

What matters most is — Intellectual preparedness over looking sharp.

Don’t be surprised if by pure chance you find yourself in the midst of the people you’ve trying to reach for ages. Be prepared to put your best foot forward, and most likely they will give you a fair shot because most likely someone gave them a fair shot when they were on the other side.

Make the most of it. That’s the hard part. It is a small area and your reputation is the only thing more important than your network here. Be very ready to ship!

#6 — Everything adds up — Lastly, every decision you make will add up. And while you will only be able to connect the dots in hindsight, you will need to have significant foresight if you want to build something. So do pay attention to how you decide to spend your resources (time, and money). Resourcefulness wins over resources in the long run which is why capital chases capability.

There is a lot more, but I don’t want to write a book right now ;) … Do let me know your thoughts.