How to bring your startup to silicon valley
Last month I traveled to Silicon Valley and met with several entrepreneurs — from early stage entrepreneurs to successful exits and venture capitalists. Here are the five important tips about how to transition your startup from Europe to America.
1. Visit frequently instead of relocating immediately
Steli Efti, the founder and CEO of Close.io and a Y Combinator alumnus, grew up in Germany and transitioned from Europe to Silicon Valley. He did so in a very inconvenient manner — he bought a one-way plane ticket and just moved to Silicon Valley.
It took Steli 5 years to make it and he says that this way is very unlikely to lead to any success for most people. Instead he suggests that you start visiting the valley frequently — every 3–4 months for a period of 1–2 weeks to get started instead of relocating from the beginning.
2. Build a local network
Once you follow this advice, try to meet as many people as possible during your time in the valley. The right network is so crucial for business success that you can’t start building it early enough. Attend events, cold email people you want to meet and try to be as specific as possible about what you are looking for and about what you want from the people you meet.
The positive thing I recognized when traveling to the bay area: People generally open to meet with you because their sort of is a fear of missing out on the next big thing or the next successful entrepreneur. Play this to your advantage! And one additional tip: Always ask the people you meet for other interesting people that they could connect you with (ideally again with very special requests — e.g. I want to talk to someone who built a successful SaaS company as a founder with 100+m $ ARR).
3. Follow up and keep people in the loop
After you connected with great people in the valley and you are heading back home it will be crucial to stay in touch and keep people updated about your business and latest developments. Not with a weekly newsletter but with a short personal message from you every quarter about what happened and what you achieved and of course also with interesting connections to other people or topics that you can help them with to provide some value.
Steli Efti explained that this is the part that most people don’t do. So, by doing this you won’t only stand out from the crowd but will also build valuable long-term relationships with the people you met.
4. Close first deals through your network
These long-term relationships will be crucial for this next step. Instead of just bringing your company to the Silicon Valley and hope for the best, it is much wiser to stay in Europe, keep the costs low and proof your product market fit. By building your network in SV in parallel you will then be able to acquire your first clients before even going there. And this step is crucial to have a good start.
Through the network you built over the past visits you can now reach out to them to introduce you to your first clients in the US. This can be launched as an exclusive beta program or already a fully finished live product — it’s just super important to get the first client before you move there, and your network can help you get there.
5. Relocate to Silicon Valley
Once you acquired your first US clients through your network and gathered their feedback and KPIs to proof that you have a suitable business opportunity in the US it’s time to go big. This means relocating to the US — if it makes sense with your whole company — or at least opening a business development and sales office in the Silicon Valley.
Thanks to step four you already have traction, first reference clients and learnings about what works and what doesn’t. From here you are now in a much stronger position to not only make it in Silicon Valley but also to get funded by a prominent VC there. Good luck!
Check out my personal website for more blog articles: www.silvankraehenbuehl.com