What I learned on my first trip to Silicon Valley

I’m a former poker player and reporter, turned personal trainer and life coach and my personal mission to empower people to live their most vibrant, courageous, and FREE lives. To do that on a massive and global level, I’m founding a tech startup that revolutionizes the way people and mentors connect — live stream and on-demand. There is power in story, so I’m sharing mine as I dive into tech, startup, and entrepreneurship. I’d love for you to join me on my journey.

Two days ago, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I boarded a plane headed to San Francisco for the first time. I’ve got a startup. I’ve got the next unicorn. We’re going to change the world!

Wanting to make the right first impression, I spent an hour getting dressed. I decided on a red power suit jacket top, shorts, Converse high-tops, and thick-rimmed black glasses. My look: Hey, I’m super smart, but also cute. I’m all business on top, but like, totally chill on bottom. Think Arianna Huffington mixed with Mark Zuckerberg :) NAILED IT!

Then, I ascended upon Silicon Valley, idea in hand, expecting to get in front of Angel Investors and VCs willing to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars!

(Are you laughing at me yet?)

I admit I was a bit naive, but luckily, I was with the co-founder of the company who has been through this before. He brought me down to earth and filled me in on much of the “way it works” here. We attended LAUNCH Mobile, made initial contact with a few great VCs and investors and are setting up meetings soon.

Here are a few things I’ve learned this trip:

  1. Startups are a grind!

Sure, there might be a handful of special cases where amazing founders with an awesome idea just took off without struggle, but for the most part, it takes years. It takes time to build, pitch, raise capital, perfect, receive feedback, revise, pivot, catch a break, reinvent and on and on and on. I met several highly energetic people who have been at this for over five years and are just now gaining traction.

The reality is far from the glamorized depictions I’ve seen the past few years of young, stubble-faced geniuses making instant billions with a cool idea.

Nah. I saw lots tired, scared, almost desperate founders dragging the weight of their burn rate behind them. But that’s what it takes. And they know it.

To be successful here, you must have strength, tenacity, patience and grit. That, along with a great team and idea. Oh yeah, some good old fashioned luck too. You need all of it.

2. Important people in this industry are VERY receptive and responsive on social media.

Don’t be afraid to reach out! Lots of big players answer questions and respond! I was surprised by how much access these guys in tech/startups give to their followers.

Even if they say no, they still took the time to answer :) haha

Ryan Hoover
Eric Nakagawa

3. Living and breathing this stuff matters!

Being immersed in tech/startup culture, I couldn’t help but want to get my ass in gear. I spent two hours in Starbucks yesterday and overheard two business pitches, not to mention the countless faces buried in MacBooks with impatient, over caffeinated legs tapping away, as if to say, “Hurry, success just can’t come fast enough!”

4. There are resources everywhere, and lots of them are FREE. You just have to look!

There are meet-ups all over town for people to swap ideas, collaborate, and support each other. Even podcasts like “How to Start a Startup” are free. And the LAUNCH Mobile conference I attended was free with a Founders pass. I just had to apply early.

There are also incubators that startups can apply for to accelerate their progression [Top 10 Incubators in Silicon Valley]. If chosen, they get world-class mentoring and having opportunities for funding.

5. Tech is a male-dominated industry

I always used to joke about poker tournaments being the only time that the boys bathroom was way longer than the girls. Well, I was wrong. The same is true for tech events.

Cornelia Davis gave a great speech about how we close this gap. I’ve always heard, “We can’t be what we can’t see.” I’ve always been grateful to those who pave the way others in the face of adversity. There are women in startups and business who have done that, and I can’t wait to be one of them.

6. There are two drivers of people in the tech world- PASSION or GREED.

Passionate people are the ones who are mission driven, and that mission usually involves serving the world in some way. These founders talk about the “why” behind the company. Why the must proceed. Why people will love their idea. Why people need it.The energy of passion in someone’s voice is contagious.

Now, people can be passionate about becoming successful and making a lot of money too, but they do it in a way that feels inclusive. They want to bring people with them to the top! And when passion-driven people “make it,” they are kind and helpful to those who are coming up. They remember what it was like to be them.

Just before heading to the airport I met up with a couple of my dear friends who I hadn’t seen in at least four years. They have both founded their own tech companies and are doing incredibly well. They are kind to the people who work for them and they are excited about creating technology to solve problems. And to me, they embody what it means to come from passion.

Ryan Johns (Keep Truckin) Amir Manji (Tenjin)

Greed driven people may have an idea that will help the world in some way, but their come from is totally different. They come off as arrogant and spend all their time talking about the “how” of the company. How they are going to make it. How it will make money. And the greed-driven people who have “made it” seem to have forgotten that they too are people. It’s as if they want everyone to just struggle just like they did. When people ask for time or support, they treat them as if they are less than.

Acknowledging these two ways of being gives us power over it. I don’t take it personal when someone comes from greed and I gravitate towards people who come from passion. Easy :)

  • *********************

Writing these down has me totally inspired. I’m diving into this world of tech and startup because it is the most powerful vehicle I can see that will have me realize my vision of supporting people to live their most vibrant and courageous lives.

As a life coach and personal trainer who specializes in relationships and emotional intelligence, I couldn’t think of a better way to serve people than by starting a company that provides a mobile platform for people and mentors to connect on-demand via live streaming.

People are sick of being afraid to go for their dreams. They are tired of being stressed and anxious. Mentors are a way to work smarter, not harder. They open possibilities for people that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. And because of this platform, mentors will have the freedom to work when and where they want.

And so, in a nutshell, what I’ve learned is that I always want to remain vision driven, inclusive, and come from passion. It may take years to realize my dreams, but it’s my responsibility to do so because this will make the world a better place. It’s not about resources, it’s about being resourceful! If that’s who I am, I will find the resources!

If you happen to have some more tips for a newb, let me know in the comments! And btw, this post was inspired by Josh Elman. As he was waiting for his Uber, he kindly answered my question about being effective here on Medium. He said, “Just make a difference for people.”

:) That was my intention with this post. I hope I have done that.

With love and gratitude,

Kristy Arnett

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