Enter Silicon Valley – Creating Your First Presentation

This is the second post of a series named “Enter Silicon Valley“. It is a personal journal written as a how-to guide about how you as an outsider entrepreneur, can get your startup in one of the high tech communities, find people, funding and grow your company.

Haute Cousine

The Presentation

Many support that creating a presentation for a seed-stage startup is not needed, their reasoning being that it’s all about the entrepreneur at this stage anyway. While that is true, it never hurts to be prepared and to go through that many-a-times revealing process.

So off i went to create my first presentation. Since i had already prepared some applications to accelerators and funds i had a starting point. I read all of them once more and got overwhelmed by how much i had to communicate. I needed a fresh start, something that would surely represent what my vision was. To get started, i needed a startup presentation template, so i looked around the web. I couldn’t really find many examples, i figured it was only natural that startups won’t share their presentations on the web. So i decided to use Mark Suster’s take on the issue [scroll to middle of page].

I completed the first draft in a couple of days, shared it with friends and the very few experts i could find at that time. The presentation was continually evolving for the next month or more. The longer i worked on it the better my understanding  for my project was becoming. That is a very important reason why you should start your presentation early. When i finally finished the presentation, it had about 14 main slides and 8 slides as appendixes.

This presentation was to be e-mailed to investors along with an executive summary, and so i did exactly that, only i sent it to a friendly lawyer to whom i had never talked about my project. The whole point being, if / what he would understand from the presentation. His comments where revealing. The presentation was too large, requiring a lot of time to read and didn’t quite help him get the picture. Following Mark’s template i created a deck that was to be used for a company seeking it’s A’ round of investment, way ahead from where i was at the moment. Plus it was a presentation that had to be presented, not e-mailed, many points and clues were left for the presenter to make or give.

That happened two weeks ago. Today i have a completely new presentation which is just 6 slides and satisfies me and every expert / advisor i have presented it to. Is way more understandable when shared through e-mail and gives a clear picture of what my vision is. Could i have done that without wasting so much time and resources? I doubt it, that journey was necessary, visualizing my idea before i could compact it. Was there somebody around to explain that lesson to me in time? Certainly not. +1 why i need to be in a high tech hub.

So to recap, what my advice would be to any entrepreneur creating his / her first presentation:

  • Start as early as possible
  • Define who is the target audience (investors, general public, early adopters)
  • Define what is the medium (live presentation, e-mail, videocast)
  • As soon as you have your first draft, share and iterate as if it was your startup project
Posted in Enter Silicon Valley, Startups | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Help Entrepreneurs, Be Challenging!

Having talked with quite a few people about my ideas and projects overtime i have noticed a common theme. Everybody tries to be gentle. That is ok but doen’t really help me move forward. What entrepreneurs really need is to be challenged.

Cal Poly Mustang Mentoring

I will speak for myself but i know in heart that the same principle applies to any entrepreneur. When we meet an entrepreneur we try to be polite and soft, and if we believe he is doing something wrong we choose the most indirect way to let him know.

It is in our nature to want to avoid confrontation. But in this case it is not helping anybody. Doesn’t help you, as you consumed three times the time you would need if you gave your opinion straight away. And it doesn’t help the entrepreneur as he/she is left wondering what the meaning [if any] between your words were. The result is mixed feelings and a gray area of uncertainty. In these situations an entrepreneur either chooses to ignore the feedback as noise or if he/she understood your points, he/she will try to validate it with another source or a followup call. So you both waste valuable time.

The fear of a backfire is quite valid and true. You may think: “If i tell that pumped up kid that his business model is h*******t, he will jump on me with all kinds of points why i am wrong and he is right”.  That is true, yet, this kid needs that valuable lesson. If he is to fail, then be absolutely sure that he will think of that moment. And if there is a next time for that kid, he will ask WHY you believe that before anything else. Needless to say that especially applies to anyone highly involved with entrepreneurs.

Being challenging and blunt with entrepreneurs is only making them stronger and better. They may feel like trash after the discussion but it’s only in these situations that they can bounce back with a vengeance. It’s like playing squash, hit the ball hard and it will come back, hit it soft and you may need to pick it up…

Entrepreneurs are seeking validation and satisfaction from the result of their work, not what their friends, mentors of colleagues tell them. What they expect from them is valuable feedback, constant debate of their ideas, practices, style and all. If your intensions are to help somebody, it is far better to express exactly what you believe than to let him realize it by himself, possibly the hard and long way.

So give entrepreneurs what they deserve, your sincere, blunt and fast opinion about their ideas and actions.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Rants, Startups | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Finding the Right Place For my Startup

As i wrote in my previous post, selecting the correct home for your startup is of critical importance. I am in this stage now, trying to collect more information about the communities i am interested in. So far i incline towards SF, NY and Boulder CO. I am starting a research on this front in hopes of collecting as much information i can find.

Looking for a home

At this point i am more interested in the metrics of each community, like how easy it is to find engineers, funding and support. I will try a direct e-mail campaign with people and contacts that already live in these communities. When i have collected enough data i will post my results here again.

With all the objective data in the world it is still not wise to take the decision without visiting these communities. After all, it’s people you interact with in your daily life, so it would be wise to say that the “feeling” of the community is more important. So i’ll take my final decision after i have visited each one of them, creating my subjective opinion, which of-course, i will share with you along with all the details.

Feel free to answer these questions directly in the comments or mail me with your private answers at thp at@! geowarp dot com. Here are the questions:

1. How long will i need to find a co-founder for my new startup? I am looking for a highly skilled engineer on back and font-end web technologies, who is willing to dedicate him/herself to our mission. Don’t care about age, i have enough funds to get started and i am a very like-able deep geek, with above average communication skills.

2. Having a typical all-ok startup as our sample case. How likely is this startup to find seed funding in [NY/SF/Boulder] and in what time-frame? I know and understand the numerous variants that play a key role in this process, try to be as abstract as you feel comfortable with.

3.[Only for NY/Boulder] Up to which scale can a startup grow in [NY/Boulder]? The most important resources being:

  • The pool of  available or recruitable engineers. A good metric would be to think how long a startup will need to hire 50 engineers in [NY/Boulder].
  • Options for A, B, C, D+ rounds of funding. I know that at B+ rounds geography is less important but still i’d like to know which are the local options.

4. At what price would you set the average cost for office space in  [NY/SF/Boulder]? From what i’ve found in SF it is about $400/cubicle/Month, how [NY/Boulder] differs to this?

5. In your opinion, which is the cost of life in [NY/SF/Boulder] for mid-term (2-3 months) stay? I know in SF renting a room in a 3-4 bedroom house costs about $500/mo. How the rent and all the other costs of living differ in [NY/Boulder] compared to SF? [(or even NY)]

Posted in Enter Silicon Valley, Startup Communities, Startups | 5 Comments

Enter Silicon Valley – Getting Started

This is the first post of a series named “Enter Silicon Valley“. It is about how you as an outsider Entrepreneur, can get your startup in one of the high tech communities, find funding and grow your company.

Sprout Lightbulb

So you reached a point where you realize your local fuel will not send your startup to space and beyond. You really believe in your startup and are willing and determined to do whatever it takes to make it a success. You have to get to a more fertile ground, but you really know nobody there and have no connections.

I am in this exact situation, i will try to write down a complete multi-part how-to, in hopes of saving you time that i wasted. We will use Silicon Valley (SV) as the target community as it’s the most condensed and accelerated community in the world.
Continue reading

Posted in Enter Silicon Valley, Startup Funding, Startups | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

How Gist Solved my Contacts Mapping Problem

Starting from scratch is an opportunity to  select the best tools out there for any issues, problems or tasks you face. One of the problems i had, was how to organize my contact information, now that i am preparing for my trip to the US.

Weaving Silk

The Problem

I needed to map out the people and companies i want to get in contact with. The relations they have with each other and any other piece of information i can find out.

My past experience as a sales executive helped me know what kind of features i need. I also had the luck to work on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It is a fantastic tool for any company, but as any CRM, requires dedicated people for feeding it with data. So i decided to follow a typical CRM’s flow. Start with a lead, which converts to an opportunity (phone-call, cold-email, date), which converts to a sale.
Continue reading

Posted in Products I Use | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Why Europe Leaks Startups to US

It has been some months now that i have been actively engaged in my local internet startup scene (in Greece). In paralel i have been researching funding options for my startup [geowarp.com] and studying about other startups in Europe and the world.

Flower in the desert

Focusing on the European startups, i noticed a big trend towards the absolute local, creating the facebooks of [put country here], or the groupons of [same]. There is also a notion that all startups are required to be cash flow positive within a few months, if not right after, their launch.

Many startups focus on niche markets, mostly local and a few global. These do pretty well actually but as with all niches, they have a small total addressable market. Very few of them seem to make any move towards a wider audience with a global reach.

The few globally scoped, disruptive startups that originate from Europe all seem to have set up shop somewhere in the US. Don’t get me wrong, i know of numerous startups that are in this category and still have offices in Europe. But if they are to become the next 100 million registered users service they will soon run out of fuel…

There are three main reasons why this will happen and why the European startup scene is so introverted.

1. No Funding Resources

There are simply very few funding options in Europe. I have spotted no more than six true high tech, Venture Capital firms. And they are spread out all over the continent. There are many more, bank-owned, VCs but they really are a bad fit for an internet startup.

Bankers try to overcome their inexperience in the tech sector by having cumbersome requirements  for the entrepreneurs, like unrealistically detailed business plans, positive cash flow and real market proof. Funny but real. The sad thing is that all European Union funds for high technology and innovation are funneled through this channel.

The seed funding projects are even fewer. And their capacity for funding is quite small, doesn’t exceed 50 companies per year.

A successful entrepreneur and currently a partner at GRP V.C., Mark Suster, notes in his podcast that he pitched to a total of 83 VCs and had only 6 YESes. And this is a high ratio, the norm being at around 40 NOs for a YES. So what are the chances of a European startup geting funded when the only choices are one, two at best seed funds in the country it starts in?

2. Not Enough Experience

The sum of startup building knowledge, is simply not adequate to mentor all the needy up-and-coming startups. You have to have mentors and leaders in the community who have built multi-million dollar dot com startups.

i don’t say that such people don’t exist. But they are very few and spread around Europe – there is no central point of reference. Who will guide me (an entrepreneur) through all the common pitfalls i will face? Who has the experience to mentor me? Who can connect me with the CEO of x company to make a deal? Who can get me the super star engineer i need, to build the y technology?

Europe is missing the network, in the broadest sense. It’s not entirely cultural and it’s not entirely policy-related. There are benefits that accrue from growing a habitat for entrepreneurship organically, over several waves of innovation.

3. Scarcity of Human Resources

While anyone can come around with a team of 5 to 10 people, there is no way you can hire 50 to 100 high tech engineers in the short period of time it is often required for startups with traction and momentum. [let’s not discuss the thousands scale].

Not only can’t you find that many developers anywhere, but the vast majority of developers have a preference for safer, big company jobs. It’s quite unlikely that a top-notch engineer in Europe will bootstrap a year for a third of what he would normally get paid, just to live the startup dream. With the global economic crisis at hand, this may hopefully get a twist, but not there yet…

Actually, it’s not just developers. Good marketing / business development people also tend to avoid startups. Let alone experienced managers. It’s both cultural and a chicken-and-egg problem.

i’d just call it the eurozone crisis.

These are the main reasons i have decided to go to the US and discover all the options for my project. I would highly encourage anyone engaged in the funding community in Europe to read Brad Feld’s blog post on how to create a sustainable entrepreneurial community. It is a real insight on how Boulder actually achieved the wet dream of every developed or developing country in the world, to replicate the success of Silicon Valley.

Posted in Rants, Startup Funding, Startups, Venture Capital | 3 Comments

The Manifest

I can’t believe i’m 32 with no solid footprint on the net. Considering my passion for technology since my first contact with programming in mid Elementary school, and my history ever since on the tech industry, makes it even funnier…

One of the main reasons for my zero net presence is my craze for privacy. No single entity (looking at google) would have the sum of my information, so i kept actively changing handles and names on the various online projects and communities i joined… All originating from the early beliefs and values a young hacker had.

After my first two startup ventures failed on 2003,  i was disheartened with the options i had in the Greek tech industry at that time.  So i started a MBA course while i was developing a workflow application for my family’s business [suxess], which is a strong national packaging company. After i finished MBA i went on with the family business as head of sales and marketing.

For years i turned off the switch, focused on business and only kept minimal contact by reading the blogs i love, slashdot and gizmodo.

Mid 2009 i decided it was time to move on and get back to what i love best. High technology startups.

Having left the scene for so many years, it was like waking up from a time capsule. All these amazing new technologies,  all these exploding startup worlds, oh all the cherries!

In this blog i plan on chronicling my adventures, ventures and rants from my life as an Entrepreneur and beyond, from my time-capsule point of view. So mind the gap.

This is the story of how this blog started

Posted in About Me | 1 Comment