Don’t Force Yourself on Silicon Valley. It’s Not for Everyone
For most young people who aspire to make it big in the technology industry, the dream is to go to California’s Silicon Valley with a great idea or a working prototype, get funded there, and then grow companies. If you happen to be in this category, allow me to help add some structure to your plan so that you will not make the mistake that many others have made. As someone rightfully said before, “technology is easy, plans are easy, but people are difficult”. Everyone you interact with between today and the day your company becomes successful will either be helping you accomplish your mission or adding no value to the success of your mission. So, how do you position yourself to be in front of the right people?
Understand that Deals Never Come from Strangers
You already know that you need some funds, called runway, to sustain your company until it is able to financially support itself. The next thing you must know is that, unless you have a deep pocket to fund your company’s operations, somebody or some people must give you money. Well, whether you are crowdfunding or looking for an angel, the donors/investors must know you. Even with crowdfunding; this people will research who you are and see how many other donors have supported you. Angels will do even more research before they choose to invest in you. The bottom line here is that by the time someone is giving you his/her money, you are no longer a stranger to that person; he/she knows you! Therefore, if you can makes waves in your own sphere of influence and raise funds there, then don’t rush to Silicon Valley where you have no contacts and hope to raise funds there.
Investors are Betting on You, Not Your Idea
People often rush their ideas to Silicon Valley because they believe in their own ideas. Well, remember that someone once said that ideas are worth a dime a dozen; it is the execution that counts, not the ideas. The only way that you can clearly separate yourself from the crowd is by showing that you have executed your idea and that it is working, even if it is just a handful of paying customers. That is the status that will separate you from the crowd, not the crafty explanation of why your idea will work. Well, if you really wish to copy so and so who have moved to California before proving themselves, then you better look like them and know who they know in California before making the move. Otherwise, you will come back and tell me that I am right.
Why You Should Start with Your Local Ecosystem
Do you understand that people buy from people and people invest in people they know? This two statements are very important to a small company. People who can relate with you through their school, state, county, sports team, etc are much more likely to try your product/service. Investors in this same sphere of influence are much more likely to support your cause and the same goes with other founders. All these people have ways to connect with you and, statistically, will try to help you succeed. This is the easiest way to win your first adopters and get feedback that is useful in improving your product/service. If these early adopters are not buying into your idea, don’t fool yourself into thinking that they all just don’t get it. Instead, take a second look at what you are doing. The rejection might just be a warning sign that you are working on something nobody wants. Don’t be so full of yourself; take their input seriously.
Nothing Wrong with Silicon Valley
To cap it all, I am not saying that there is a problem with Silicon Valley. Instead, I am pointing out that startup ecosystems are, by virtue of their operation, like those exclusive clubs that you can only join through invitation from existing members. If no one brings you in, it’s not impossible but very difficult to find your way in. Most people create this advantage by going to ivy league schools in startup communities or by joining other organizations like code camps, incubators, and accelerator programs in startup communities. Therefore, if you have to move to Silicon Valley, joining any of these organizations will be one smart way of doing it.