The Wisdom of the West Coast: Why are 16 UK CEOs, travelling 5000 miles?

Jo Oliver is a partner at Octopus Ventures. This year it’s his turn to shepherd 16 portfolio CEOs through an intensive three day event in California. A group of iconic Silicon Valley leaders are lined up to meet them — Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO, among them — so what can they hope to learn?

Jo Oliver
Jo Oliver
Sep 26, 2018 · 4 min read
Photo by Joseph Barrientos

This will be our fourth US CEO trip. In previous years we’ve taken a group of our portfolio CEOs out to California, initially with an emphasis on exposing them to US investors. Since that first trip in 2015, things have changed: the European ecosystem now comes closer to matching the US in terms of available funds, so over time we have been moving our focus away from investment, towards transformational wisdom. It’s striking that so many of our top performing CEO’s have so readily embraced the importance of continued learning. They’re willing to travel continents and spend days away from their business for the opportunity to learn from the best.

“Silicon Valley remains the mothership of Western experience for tech startup CEOs”

“You’re going to meet some spectacular people”

One of last year’s attendees, James Brooke of Amplience, briefed the group on what to expect. “Pivotal change” was the gist of his experience. “Eye-opening”, “jaw-dropping” and “forces of nature” were other phrases James employed to describe his experience. More practical, down-to-earth advice was in there too, such as managing the eight hour time difference. James cited John Hamm, another Octopus Venture Partner, and Bob Wright of Firebrick as particular guiding lights for him. Both will be among this year’s speakers.

James also touched on the loneliness of the startup CEO, referring back to Pete’s point on vulnerability. EQ has as prominent part to play as IQ in today’s ecosystem, where stress-management is a requirement of any successful CEO. As Elon Musk tweeted last year, “the reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two.” This trip is a chance for the CEOs to relate to each other at a level rarely found in the day-to-day running of a business.

“I personally invited the group to pack their biggest, hairiest problems”

I personally invited the group to pack their biggest, hairiest problems in their suitcase — the issues burning a hole in their head. Their willingness to dive into this opportunity bodes well for a great 2018 Summit.

We’ll be reporting from the Summit (1st-3rd October) and passing on attendees’ learnings in the weeks following.

Want some help asking the right questions to help your business to succeed? Get in touch with our experienced team at Octopus Ventures.

Octopus Ventures

Practical support and insights from the team at Octopus Ventures, a multi-stage London VC backing unusual talent intent on global impact.

Jo Oliver

Written by

Jo Oliver

Partner at Octopus Ventures

Octopus Ventures

Practical support and insights from the team at Octopus Ventures, a multi-stage London VC backing unusual talent intent on global impact.

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