Johnathan Teh

The Global Entrepreneur's Guide to the Bay Area, Part 1

golden_gate.jpg There is so much to learn here. It really can be overwhelming when you arrive at the airport. So much to do, so little time!

But I’ve been here … and I’ve done that. I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve also made some great inroads here with some fabulous people in the pursuit of building Onswer from the ground up.

This will be a 3-part series of how a global entrepreneur can survive the Bay Area – and how to avoid common startup pitfalls. This post, the first part in the series, will examine the top two things that every entrepreneur cares about: (1) money, and (2) building your team.

Money (Capital Raising)

I think most entrepreneurs, whether from Australia or other part of the world, perceive that VCs and Angels in Silicon Valley are ready to cut a cheque for anyone that comes to town ready to build a concept. While these financiers may be ready to cut a cheque, unless your idea is extremely compelling, you might not receive that cheque immediately.

There are tons of ideas and tons of entrepreneurs here. Consequently, raising capital is a competitive process in the Silicon Valley. For instance, I was at an event just the other day. At this same event, there were six entrepreneurs from every corner of the world seeking capital in one form or another (VCs, Angels, Accelerator, Seed).

After speaking to different types of people in the area, ranging from advisors through investors and accelerators, it’s clear that many people from across the world fall into assumption that raising money is an easy feat in the Silicon Valley. I think much of this can be derived from the media (TechCrunch, Mashable and AngelList). The problem is, the media is only telling stories of funded startups, rather than those that are working extremely hard and in the process of making it all happen.

My recommendation? Be patient. Your quest for startup funding should really focus on relationship building with Angels and VCs than to impatiently ask for money right out of the gate. You may have the expectation to immediately be funded upon arrival – I think a little dose of reality may help! It’s a hard road, be patient. Work hard. Work your connections and network.

Building Your Team (Recruitment)

Recruiting talented and great people in the Bay Area is apparently extremely difficult! I always assumed that I would easily find the best and the brightest around.

While it may be true that the Bay Area is home to many of the world’s smartest fellows, many of these bright individuals have already affiliated themselves with a startup or are receiving a massive paycheck from a large corporate (think Google). Interesting conversation I had last week with a partner in a large law firm in Palo Alto: I was told that searching for great engineers are more difficult than seeking funds. This gives you a perspective on how competitive it is out here.

My recommendation? Build your network, attend a ton of events and communicate your message. It’s simple, the more people you know, the better off you are. Also, sometimes asking simple questions helps too.

And how to network in the Bay Area and maintain relationships? Well, you’re just going to have to wait until Part 2 of this How To Guide (next post).