Johnathan Teh

The Global Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Bay Area, Part 2

cowork.jpg OK, so Part 1 was about the two things that every entrepreneur cares about: money and the start-up team. It’s not easy to acquire either in the Silicon Valley. Don’t get me wrong – it’s possible, but it’s never a piece of cake.

In the last post, I mentioned the immense value of building a network several times. Here’s how you do it.

Seek People (Networking)

San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the places to be if you want to network and attend events. Dozens of events occur every day and every evening. The cost-of-entry varies from free, paid to sponsored. The types of events range from hackathons, coding enhancements and pitch contests through cocktailing and networking. Take your pick.

It was shocking (coming from Sydney by way of London): San Francisco and the Silicon Valley are incredible when it comes to delivering quality and informative events. Hackathon, coding enhancement, learning, networking, there is something everyday. I remember back home, there were a few big events (and certainly growing) throughout the year, but over here things are very different. You actually wish that there weren’t that many everyday so you can avoid choosing amongst the variety. There are definitely lots to learn and experience around the Bay Area.

This is how I prioritize networking events in the Silicon Valley:

  • Evaluate the event host: Law firms tend to throw the best events out there (although usually not free). It’s reverse psychology: if you are seeking advisors or investors, lawyers are generally the ones with the closest relationship to these individuals.
  • Work in teams: Form groups of start-up friends to help each other out with event search and curation. You might be surprised -- some of the best events are those you spontaneously decided to attend. I remember signing up to Launch: Silicon Valley during a drive down to Palo Alto. It turned out to be one of the best events in the Bay Area.
  • Find yourself in the right place: Co-working spaces around the area tend to have good ties with great events/function. I am currently co-working at WeWork, which hosts great events from time to time (others includes PariSoma, NextSpace, CitizenSpace, etc).
For the starving entrepreneur, attending events can be good thing. You can kill two birds with one stone (i.e., eat and network). Free pizza and fried food is very common in the Bay Area, you can almost avoid paying for dinner for an entire month as long as you keep attending events (and I know two entrepreneurs done that). Keith Ferrazzi said it best: “Never eat alone.”

I don’t have to convince you of the power of a professional network, do I? Here’s some general tips that I hope help other Aussies coming to the Bay Area:

  • Don’t be overwhelmed with all the new people you meet in San Francisco or the Silicon Valley. It may be at first difficult to speak to all the Googlers, Facebookers, and CEOs/CTOs of the big, medium, and/or small start-ups. You have done the hard bit to push yourself to where you are today.
  • Keep that in mind when you’re networking. You should listen twice as much as you speak. Ask questions. Be truly interested in what the other person has to say. Remember, the goal is to build relationships when you’re networking, not collect business cards.
  • Be prepared. I research prior to the event. I try to ascertain who is planning on attending the event and identify whether a connection would be mutually beneficial. This generally involves research on LinkedIn, etc.
Seek Advice (Guidance) Ask a question out here and you’ll definitely get an answer! I heard about it back in Sydney – the people in the Bay Area are happy to help. If you’re looking to learn something, don’t be afraid to ask. If you are daring enough to knock on the doors, be sincere and do the hard yard, it will happen. In fact, a few people you speak with may see an opportunity for themselves (or someone in their network) within your opportunity. That’s when your networking efforts truly pay off!

I have done just this. And fortunately, I’ve been connected with several high profile individuals. There’s not much myth on this topic, the only thing I encourage you to do is “pay it forward” - help others during the process and in time they may help you too.