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5 days in the centre of the tech universe from a startup

Written by Loral Quinn, Co-Founder - Sustainably  

A couple of months ago we created a 3 minute video pitch on a rooftop bar in a hotel in Edinburgh, sent the link to our YouTube video to WeAreTheFuture, and now we’re here in San Francisco, on their accelerator programme to help us grow and scale.

We’ve been here now for 5 days and, having worked in multiple countries in a past life, I can confirm that this is the most collaborative place I have ever been. If you're serious about tech and have a vision, get over here as what you’ll learn in a couple of days could change your life.

We’ve met some of the most influential and incredible people who have worked in or with the fastest growing startups in the world and they took time out of their day to meet us…

Here’s what we’ve learned.

Tips on how to fit in with the local ecosystem

No swearing or sarcasm as it doesn't go down well here. Network all day long. You might meet a billionaire in a cafe. Don't be misled by casual dress. And don't wear a suit as no-one wears one here.

On becoming the next unicorn from an accelerator who helped create one

Think: Passion. Huge vision. How can we do this really quickly. Focus on the why and why now, not the what or how. And on operational excellence. What are the things you are bad at and get them in your team quick. Delegate and trust your team. Communicate and execute - have a quarterly vision and focus on that. There is a formulaic approach to building a unicorn. Read ‘Exponential organisations’ and ‘Abundance’. And surround yourself in the best talent.

Choose one metric and focus on how to increase that by 10-20x week over week. Focus only on building your product and getting customer feedback. Leverage ‘Product hunt’ to test your idea. What makes you backable as a founder? What drives you and how can you demonstrate you are excellent?

On creating the best pitch

You might need to throw your old pitch in the bin. This is what we learned from a successful entrepreneur turned VC... Think: What is it about your team and product that is loveable? Focus on 3 things - the head, the heart (this is the most important) and the gut. Don't waste time talking about the problem. Be clear - the head. Articulate compelling value prop - the heart. Establish credibility - the gut. Don't lie or over-exaggerate your numbers. Put all the great stuff in the first 20 seconds as that's all you've got before they start checking their phones.

Why is this place so successful?

Collaboration and competition is what makes Silicon Valley different. Everyone wants to help and give back. Lots of transferring jobs which shares the knowledge. We’ve been to events every night and met loads of amazing people including founders who have raised multiple $100 million funding rounds. You can network and live on free pizza here every night.

Silicon Valley is a birthplace as well as a graveyard

High profile CEOs are always looking for the next big thing and to learn so will give you their time unlike CEOs in other countries. And most successful companies from 20 years ago no longer exist. We just spent 2 hours with a billionaire who has raised finance, sold and bought and scaled multiple businesses. And took the time to give us each a personal business planning session! They want to help as that's what helped them make it big and continue to be the best.

So get over here and happy scaling!

Notes: Special thanks to WeAreTheFuture, the other amazing businesses on our accelerator, and all the founders, VCs, partners, entrepreneurs and the eco-system that welcomed us this week which makes San Francisco and Silicon Valley the tech capital of the world and such a unique and inspiring place.

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