Cardinal was fortunate enough to be picked as a participant for the C100’s recent 48 Hours in the Valley event in Palo Alto.
It was a fantastic whirlwind of an event, and one that I would encourage everyone to apply to attend. I’m back from my first Valley trip, and now that I’ve had a chance absorb and recover, I though I’d share some of what I learned from my 48 hours experience.
These are my lessons – they may not be true for you, but these are things that I think will help me over the coming months, and maybe they’ll help you.
Thing #1 – The valley feel: Aside from the very obvious fact that I was in California in the fall, I learned really quickly that the Valley has a different pace, viewpoint, and approach to technology and being an entrepreneur. When everyone around you in a coffee shop is probably working for, or on a startup, it really makes you do a gut check. If that fact that you’re trying to change the world just like everyone around you doesn’t make you work harder, then you might want to rethink your future plans. Quad grande americano at table 3 probably has a music startup too. Learn to deal with it.
Thing #2 – The valley model: Sand Hill Road. If you’ve never heard of it (I hadn’t) then look it up. That’s the place where I learned what institutional VC means. This is the real-deal heart of what made me realize that Silicon Valley is truly an industry unto itself. This is not a loosely run group of dabblers – these are high-risk, high-reward pooled vehicles for making their investors money, and they see people like you every single day. Learn from striking out and develop a thick skin.
Thing #3 – Think small in scope, and large in market: Hi – I’m Christian from Cardinal and I’m building X, Y, and Z over the next 2 years. No. Fail. I learned really quickly to focus on only one problem, your unique solution to that problem, why you’ll succeed when others haven’t, and why the 5 million people with the same problem will pay for your solution. Sounds simple right?
Thing #4 – You can’t phone it in: When I attended Day 1 of Grow 2010 in Vancouver earlier this year I heard it, and I didn’t really want to believe it. Now I understand – you need to get to the Valley and the Bay at least a few times a year to meet people and network. It has nothing to do with there being better then here. It has everything to do with the fact that virtually everyone and everything that can get your business to the next level is located in one spot. Think of it as Superstore for Canadian startups. Go. Get what you need. Go home.
Thing #5 – Be yourself: To be honest, I’m still figuring out what this one really means. “Be confident, but not cocky. Take in everything that you’re told, but throw away what you don’t agree with. Dress sharp, but don’t be a suit.” What does it all mean? I think it boils down to conviction. You’re going to hear the word no a lot, and if you’re busy changing yourself along with your business, I don’t think you can succeed. Besides – when you succeed and exit for 50 million people will quickly call you a quirky visionary instead of an odd guy with tattoo’s and a hat.
A Bonus thing:
#6 – Start local: Your local startup community is awesome! Wait – it’s not awesome? Then change it. Find 2 other people who dream big, and have beers regularly. Now you have the start of something. Find a way to get organized. Connect with people like the A100 or C100. Use them for every introduction, piece of advice and suggestion you can. Their reach and connections are amazing and these are people want to help you grow and succeed.