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Taking on Silicon Valley

If inspiration is the best form of motivation, then what’s better than spending a few weeks in New York, San Francisco and Silicon Valley?

Last month has seen many exciting events for WeAreTheFuture. Exposing the UK’s top entrepreneurs to some of the most important people in technology was rewarding to say the least – here is how we all got on…

New York

Our first stop was the Big Apple, where we were delighted to appoint the hugely successful serial entrepreneur, Stacey Ferreira as our Entrepreneurship Ambassador to New York as part of our efforts to take the Startup Summit there next year.

We met many great people and organisations during our short stay, such as the President of the NYC Tech Council, SDI and UKTI, Conde Nast, andNew York University. Marching alongside Napier University, we also took part in the Kilt Walk as part of Tartan Week – it was great to see such a Scottish atmosphere stateside.

After four days, it was on to San Francisco, where we met with the entrepreneurs – the hilly city did not disappoint!

San Francisco

First on the agenda was a visit to United Kingdom Trade Investment (UKTI) for an introduction to Silicon Valley. UKTI is the first stop for entrepreneurs entering the Valley, so everyone was keen to hear their tips. Next was a Q&A session atRocket Space with its founder, Duncan Logan. Duncan gave us insight into the highs and lows of starting out in Silicon Valley, and stressed that failure is an opportunity.

Next day, we had meetings with both Airbnb and the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Silicon Valley Innovation Lab. Hearing Airbnb’s story in their impressive HQ was inspiring, as their rapid growth and success is something we all hope to emulate. The RBS Innovation Lab was interesting, as we saw value was placed on raw talent and creative thinking. Already we could see that the trip was having an impact on the group.
Wednesday brought more highly anticipated meetings and workshops when we visited StartX, Stanford University’s educational accelerator. The campus was just like the films, and the speakers were fantastic.

That afternoon was spent in glorious sunshine of Stanford University Campuspracticing pitch techniques and reinforcing the need for an ask in every pitch! Afterwards, it became apparent that the entrepreneurs had bonded well with each other, as their feedback on other’s pitches was very positive, while still being constructive.

We began Day 4 with a tour and Q&A at Techdirt, where we met the creators of the influential Silicon Valley blog, who discussed their lobbying interests and shared insights into what makes the valley so successful. Their advice will no doubt prove invaluable to our entrepreneurs in the future.

Next up was a visit to leading tech lawyers Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. Their talk on starting up in Silicon Valley resonated with many of us, and again it proved that this trip was the opportunity our entrepreneurs needed to take the next step. Our meeting with 500 Startups reinforced this, with their fresh approach to accelerating entrepreneurs inspiring further confidence in the expected success of the group.

That night, we had our first round of pitches at Startup Basecamp with WeAreTheFuture Global Entrepreneurship Ambassador, Eric McAfee, a renowned Silicon Valley VC and serial entrepreneur. It was fantastic to see so many of the group make a success of their pitch and it was clear that the success of Wednesday’s pitch practice had given everyone a boost. If nothing else, the trip had been worthwhile just to see the progress and development of both the entrepreneurs themselves, and their business ideas.

Our trip was coming to an end, but we still had time to squeeze in a few more meetings. On our last morning, we met Heidi Roizen at DFJ Ventures. Hearing Heidi’s experience with investment and venture capital was fascinating, and very valuable for those among the group who were hoping to secure Silicon Valley funding. Having previously invested in Skype, Twitter, Tumblr and Tesla, we were definitely talking to the experts! Our final evening was fast approaching, and with it, our final opportunity to pitch. Silicon Valley Bank was waiting!

The group dynamic was amazing on that final night. Everyone was so supportive of one another, and the energy surrounding the final pitch was infectious. Each one of our entrepreneurs absolutely nailed their pitches, and a few piqued the bank’s interest so much that they have entered talks regarding their futures.

During the course of the week, points for improvement were discovered and weaknesses revealed, but this too is an important part of entrepreneurship. The whole week was a crash course in Silicon Valley startup culture, and, amazingly, every single person rose to the challenge.

Witnessing the bond between the entrepreneurs develop was a privilege, and both the personal and professional development of each individual is the reason why WeAreTheFuture stage these events in the first place – the value of meeting people who are where you want to be cannot be overstated.

With special thanks to:
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