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Foreword: this is a guest post by Mikita Mikado, Belarusian co-founder and CEO of Quote Roller (finalist of Startup Week Vienna and the runner up at the contest at IDCEE in 2011). I originally read (and really enjoyed) his blog post in Russian. Having offered to translate and publish his post on GoalEurope, I was surprised to receive a completed piece, which did not get any reaction from TechCrunch Europe (read “Mike Butcher was busy”). Lucky me then, as this story of a hugely disadvantaged Belarusian passport holder is inspiring for the rest of the eastern European entrepreneurial community which might be contemplating the same question.
Should I live in Silicon Valley to create and launch a successful web startup?
I just landed in SFO airport and took a train to rental cars facility there. I booked the cheapest compact car possible, some kind of Focus.
The rental cars guy was friendly, asked where did I come from and why. Once I announced that I came from Europe and run a startup his eyes blinked. He almost screamed “That is soo awesome! You know, I’ve got this idea, it is something between forsquare and facebook… blah blah blah… give me your business card. I am going to apply all my employees discounts. Forget the Focus, you’ll drive this red Moustang for the same price.”
And I thought for myself: “Well, here I am – The Startup Mecca.”
Launching a startup involves a lot of work. Finding good developers and designers is really hard. Getting some user traction is a scrupulous work. Attention from the media is not a given thing. Investments are not just going to magically come to you regardless of how awesome you and your product are.
As entrepreneurs, we are always looking for the best solutions out there to the problems we have. Folks that are able to get all or most of the things described above done well are probably the ones that succeed. At some point while working on their startup, every entrepreneur is going to ask themselves “Would this be easier if if I was in Silicon Valley”.
I really like how Tony Conrad, who was the main investor in WordPress and creator of About.Me, compared today’s Silicon Valley for entrepreneurs to 19th century Paris for artists. San Francisco Bay Area is a unique place in a modern world that, as it seems from the first steps I take in it, is all about informational technology, startups, ideas, and entrepreneurship. Once you land there and walk through the San Jose airport you’ll find that 80% if not 90% of all the ads are representing IT companies. Likewise, highway billboards there advertise high tech companies. People are talking about startups, working in startups, and working on startups. And most importantly, they understand it and truly support it. Building a startup out of the valley might tremendously accelerate you as well as brings some challenges.
Every startup starts with an idea. Good ideas favor a prepared mind. The tech scene in Silicon Valley is at least 2 years ahead of the rest of the world. The best of the best gather here, and therefore, it is much easier to “be on topic” or “stay up to date” if you go out and network. Talking to more experienced people and passing your thoughts around them helps to shape your own ideas. All those things give folks in the valley a huge advantage compared to those who have to learn on the internet.
As the world’s IT center, Silicon valley has all development resources out there. However, finding a good developer in Silicon Valley actually might be way harder than somewhere else. Bright minds of the valley are usually grabbed up by such giants as Google and Facebook. As a startup, you can’t compete with them and offer better pay + benefits to a developer. And here is the reason I say that. Besides working on the Quote Roller, I also run a web development firm. While in the valley, I tend to attend as many events as possible, where I meet other entrepreneurs. Every event brings a sales lead for custom development. Every third entrepreneur is telling you how difficult it is to find a good developer.
Silicon Valley is the best place to create a buzz around your product. There is a startup event every 2 days here. Of course, bloggers and journalists tend to attend them, which gives a great opportunity to pitch to them with an idea face-to-face, not by email. This approach works much better compared to something like “Hey, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind to check out our product” sent by email. Besides, there is a bunch of hack-a-thons here in which you can win and promote yourself. And most importantly, people talk about startups here. If your product is viral, you can be sure word of mouth will work just fine to promote your product.
The largest technology companies are in Silicon Valley, as is most of the tech money. It is clear that SF bay area has more technology investors, angels and funds than any other place in the world. If you need to raise money, get yourself ready and go, then this is the place to be, period. There might be only one exception to this rule – if your startup is targeted to the local market of the country you are from, then obviously being local to that area might be more beneficial to your start up.
The decision to either enter the startup launch in the valley or not is really up to you. Leaving your home, friends and relatives for a long time can be a tough thing to do. We decided to take a medium approach with the Quote Roller. While the product is being made in Belarus, we tend to market it in the valley.
Follow @quoteroller on twitter so you can see if that approach really works.
+44 (020) 3290 3544
vita at goaleurope dot com