How to take off from Silicon Valley as an international founder

Do you live outside the USA and have a beta version of the product released? We want to help to think big and launch your product from the Bay Area.

Photo by Jasper van der Meij on Unsplash

Incorporating a Silicon Valley startup if you didn’t live in the United States was not an easy task just a few years ago. Today, thanks to online services like Stripe Atlas, everyone outside the USA can decide to create a high-tech startup legal entity in a few clicks. We suggested this type of service to foreign founders many times in the past two years, and recently we have become a Stripe Atlas Partner.

As a founder, incorporate your startup is just the first step. It’s an important decision, though, and you have to be pretty sure that you want to create a fast-growing business eventually. Startup founders and ordinary business entrepreneurs are very different kinds of people. They are both passionate about their company business, but the former has a real obsession for growing his/her company to become a big one. He/She wants to grow and do it fast. That’s where venture capital can help.

At LombardStreet Ventures, we bet on many different young startups in Silicon Valley in the pre-seed and seed stage. Today, many of the people who launch these ventures come from outside the USA. Some of them have great potential, but for the most part, they don’t know how things work in the Valley. They are from Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Asia, and many other places. Pretty soon, they discover that creating a Delaware corporation is not enough. They underestimate the impact of the local culture. They don’t know how to create the right network. They don’t fully understand the value of the company cap table. They don’t know how to reach out to people for feedback, advising, or investing. They are literally unprepared to the Bay Area, and that’s a bigger problem than most founders think. You could have a great product and an excellent team in your own country, but learning how Silicon Valley works the hard way is not a good strategy. You lose time and opportunities.

Things changed a lot in the Valley during the last ten years. VCs’ expectations, growing competition, and abundance of opportunities forced startup founders to move faster. Ten years ago, we were in the great recession, and today’s economy is booming. Back then, it wasn’t unusual that you might have the time to learn everything from your own coming from Italy or Poland in the first twelve or eighteen months in San Francisco.

Marco Zappacosta, founder and CEO at Thumbtack, recently interviewed by Jason Calacanis said:

I worry about founders today because of how much noise there is around the expectations of how quickly things should happen.

And again:

In 2009–2010 our goal was just to build a great product and survive as long as it took to get it to really click and take off. And there was much less of this sort of like FOMO and pressure. I don’t think we could have figured it out if we were starting today.

Today, if you have the opportunity to get access to a faster lane — as an international founder — to understand Silicon Valley’s written and unwritten rules, local culture, and the usual way to do things, then you should take it. It gives you more time to be focused on your product and customers. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

Since we started to travel to Silicon Valley twelve years ago, we learned a lot about the startup business in the area. Today investing in startups and advising founders has become a full-time job for us. Talking to hundreds of international founders in the last three years, we understood that a lot of them are not ready to raise a round in San Francisco, and we do know that they need help to fill the knowledge gap between the Bay Area and the rest of the world.

We are trying to invest time in a professional and continuous advisory. Still, it’s time-consuming, and it costs money — and many founders don’t have money for this kind of training.

International Founders Advisory Program for Pre-Seed Stage

We decided to open a new International Founder Advisory Program for founders with a C-Corp already created, just landed in San Francisco with an early version of the product. They can get three to six months of LombardStreet Ventures partner’s support in the exchange of 0.25% of their company’s common shares.

Minimum Requirements To Participate In The Program

You must:

  • Be the (co)founder and CEO of your company
  • Have your company already incorporated
  • Have a beta version of the product online that we can play with
  • Have a strong determination to win in Silicon Valley
  • Convince us with your vision, skills, and storytelling

If you like what you read and you think are ready for our International Founders Advisory Program, send us an email, and we’ll talk soon.

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We look for mission-driven founders, pre-product-market fit. We love to back distributed teams with HQ in Silicon Valley.

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Massimo Sgrelli

Massimo Sgrelli

Software engineer & venture capitalist @ LombardStreet Ventures. I love my family, coding, and writing.

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