In the summer of 2014, I was soo lucky to have the opportunity to fly out to Silicon Valley and have a dream trip for a young aspiring entrepreneur and this was all thanks to a start-up company called We are the Future. So before I go on to discuss the trip, I will explain a little about them and the process…
So firstly, who are We are the Future?
We are the Future (WATF) is a start-up company which started as a high school project and 5 years on, it is now a global, award-winning company which has worked with close to 5,000 entrepreneurs from across 15 Cities on 3 continents. WATF’s main aim is to help young entrepreneurs around the world by setting up global start-up summits to inspire and connect entrepreneurs. To do so, these summits bring together the most highly regarded internationally renowned entrepreneurial leaders and organisations into one room for a day long programme. Also within the WATF team is Russell Dalgleish, who has helped me in so many different ways over the past few years and has acted as a mentor to my whole career and education.
Additionally, Michael Young, founder of MBN solutions and Gordon Merrylees, Head of Entrepreneurship at RBS have been a massive help and inspiration to me.
Secondly, how did I get the chance to go?
In my 2nd year of university, myself and 4 other girls (Lorna, Claire, Elizabeth and Lisa) set up a company called Monomise, which I will write a separate blog post about to explain. Anyways, having this company made us eligible to apply for WATF’s San Francisco Start-Up Summit competition and we decided (from pulling names out of an empty chips box from Mcds), that I would apply for a space on the trip, as unfortunately only one of us could go! The shortlisting process involved a written application and then a live pitch in front of a panel in The Royal Bank of Scotland HQ in Edinburgh. This was an extremely hard decision for the panel as there was some amazing applicants, therefore I was so grateful to be chosen!
Okay so now onto the actual trip itself..
During our first couple of days in San Francisco, we visited some exciting and innovative businesses including HP, Monkey Inferno, Airbnb, RocketSpace and Vintage Electric Bikes. It was so interesting to see how different the working culture is in San Francisco. The offices had such an informal, relaxed atmosphere with an obvious lack of structure which proved to stimulate a creative environment. We had some pitching practice with Silicon Valley Bank and were also shown the offices of Google, Facebook and Apple. It was very inspiring to be up close and personal with these house-hold names.
The trip culminated with the We Are The Future Global Start Up Summit which took place in the amazing RocketSpace studios. I had the opportunity to pitch Monomise in front of various venture capitalists, global business leaders and journalists which was an incredible opportunity that led to Team Monomise making valuable contacts.
The trip taught me some very important lessons about building a start-up in Silicon Valley..
(1) Firstly, how vital networking really is. We attended various networking events – including Start Up Grind – and it quickly became apparent how eager people in San Francisco are to help one another progress their businesses. It was great being involved in this sort of activity as I gained lots of useful feedback for Monomise whilst forming new connections.
(2) I also learned how important it is to use your initiative to get out there and make things happen. There are a huge number of start-ups in San Francisco so if you have a good idea, you need to start pursuing it before somebody else does! This definitely boosted my motivation to ensure Monomise reaches its full potential.
(3) Thirdly, I realised there is a lot of support out there for female entrepreneurs. Initially I thought that being the only woman on the trip would have its disadvantages but the reality was the complete opposite. In San Francisco, there is a massive buzz surrounding the topic of female entrepreneurs, with various events constantly being organised to encourage more female-led start-ups.
(4) Finally, San Francisco is unique when it comes to its business community. When I was there I noticed business meetings taking place around every corner. People were working on their laptops in coffee shops or in the park with impromptu team catch-ups taking place nearby. There were lots of networking events taking place nearly every day. The number of various business accelerators, start-up programmes and business mentors available was unprecedented and confirmed how willing individuals were to help start-ups grow.
How did it help Monomise?
For Monomise, the trip was amazingly helpful. We implemented the constructive feedback our idea received resulting in the adaption of our original concept. We also received some very useful advice on how to approach new funding opportunities which we believe will enable us to take our business to the next stage.
Not only did we establish a great network in San Francisco, but we also made very useful contacts within We Are The Future and its sponsors. We are so grateful to We Are The Future for the growth opportunities it has provided us. I strongly recommend budding entrepreneurs to get involved with one of the huge number of entrepreneurial events and competitions available, as they have the potential to give you the tools and confidence you need to take your business idea to the next level.
It is definitely worth mentioning that following the several start-up events and socials, San Francisco has an insane nightlife which we were also lucky enough to make the most of. From the several bars in the centre of the city out to the warehouses located further out, there is definitely something for everyone. Just don’t enjoy it too much and end up missing your flight home, its a stressful experience.
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