Don’t Move to the Valley Before Reading This
The pinnacle of success for a tech startup has long been to ‘make it in Silicon Valley’, but is that really the be-all-and-end-all it’s made out to be?
Silicon Valley is, with due cause, the global centre for innovation. Its world renowned startup-centred ecosystem is the envy of nations, and the model is continually being replicated in other countries, or at least an attempt is made.
So what are your options as an entrepreneur? How can you make it from garage to global without moving to the Valley? What are the options out there for a budding entrepreneur?
1 – Get Incubated
If you are able to attend a business acceleration programme or incubation programme then by all means, do so.
These programmes are geared to teach you essential skills and ways of thinking that will open your mind to bigger thinking, and global success.
There are a number of local incubation programmes run out of Cape Town, (The Bandwidth Barn, 88 MPH) that will set you up with mentors who have made it out there as well as provide a networking environment for you to collaborate with inspiring, like-minded peers and fellow entrepreneurs.
First prize of course is to attend a Y Combinator or Blackbox.VC immersion programmes that will put you on the map to investors from the get go, but being accepted onto those programmes is a challenge, but certainly worth a try.
2 – Get a Mentor
Find people who have made it to sit on your board as advisors, or less formally to act as mentors, even if you have to pay them an hourly rate.Select individuals who are in a similar industry or who have made a success out of one or two businesses.
They are usually only too happy to give back and if you don’t waste their time, to donate a little time back to someone who has big dreams.
Try to get hold of ex South Africans who are living abroad that you might know, or reach out to people who made it in the Valley and who have returned. They just might be willing to give you an hour of their time a month, you never know.
3 – Make it Locally
The best option for you as an entrepreneur is to grab large-scale market share locally. No matter which industry you are in, you need to focus on becoming the dominant player. This means having the most users per month, and here we’re talking millions at least.
This is where a good VC comes in.
The right VC will help you focus on traction (market share) and not profitability. If you chase profitability right out of the starting blocks you will be focused on the wrong metric, and you won’t become the biggest player.
Once you’re the biggest player you can take your success story to any VC in the valley, or the world for that matter, and negotiate Series A or B funding that will take your brand global.
4 – Other Countries
There are a number of countries in the world that are actively seeking South African startups as they recognise that we are an innovative nation hungry to make it internationally.
Canada recently launched a programme whereby entrepreneurs are eligible for a Startup Visa and programme that encompasses support for qualified entrepreneurs relocating to Canada.
France has an incredible support programme for entrepreneurs including office space, free wifi and the ability to claim unemployment benefits whilst establishing your business. Startup Chile is also actively seeking new entrants, luring them to Chile with bonuses and other benefits.
5 – Think Like the Valley Thinks
If you want to make it big you have to shake off the shackles of South African thinking and lift up your eyes to the global horizon.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Collaborate, don’t compete: how many times has someone said they don’t want to share their idea in case you steal it? Stop competing, put two heads together and work together on your idea; you’ll go further, quicker.
- Solve a real world problem: Don’t build the solution and then go find the problem. It helps that you know the market or have experience that you can build on.
- Get massive traction: It always helps if you’ve got millions of users, profitability is less important than the fact that you are the preferred app for whichever niche market
- Usable: Make sure your product is easier to use than any competitor product.
- Mobile first: Build it first for mobile devices, and then for PC’s.
- Think big: Don’t build something for a tiny niche that nobody has managed to make a profit off of yet, go for larger markets that are potentially or can scale into global.
- Disruptive technology: Break things, make people stand up and take notice.
And remember, as an entrepreneur you can choose whom you hire, and whom you work with, so there’s no reason to accept people in your life who bring you down, partner with great people in order to achieve great things.