25. February 2014–
Been toying with the idea of moving your startup to Silicon Valley? Before you make any big decisions, read on to find out what one European founder wishes he’d done before heading across the pond…
A lot of European founders are keen to move to Silicon Valley. But it’s hard to know if your startup is ready for the move – and what you need to do to maximise your chances of success.
I wish I could’ve read this article seven years ago, when I moved from Germany to the US. I had an idea for a startup, sold everything I owned and bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco. I didn’t know anybody over there, I didn’t understand the market properly, I was just super passionate about my startup and felt like Silicon Valley was the best place in the world to try and turn it into a massive success.
For five long, intense and painful years, I struggled with my first Silicon Valley startup – until it ultimately failed. I could have saved myself a lot of pain had I done what I’m advising you to do. Hopefully, reading this will help you make your entrepreneurial roller coaster ride over the pacific less painful and more awesome.
Without further ado, here are eight simple steps every European founder with the ambition to move their startup to the Valley should follow:
Step 1: Get To Know The Valley
The first thing you should do as a European startup is make sure you have a thorough understanding of Silicon Valley and that you’ve done your homework from afar. Who are your competitors over there? Who are their customers? What do they blog about? How do they acquire customers? What’s their pricing? Spend time doing some basic research before thinking of moving anything.
Step 2: Geotargeted Ad-Campaigns or any other type of US centric customer/user acquisition
Once you have a website online, start driving US traffic to it. Spend a bit of money on Google AdWords, Facebook ads, retargeting campaigns, all with US-only traffic and see how it converts and if your product is hitting a nerve in America.
Step 3: Pitch To The Tech Press
Reach out to SV blogs and see if you can get mentions for your startup there. If you get press traction in the US even before moving to the valley it’s a good indicator that what you do has strong appeal.
Step 4: Connect With Other Immigrant Founders
Look for founders who have moved from your country to the US and reach out to them via email and Twitter. Try to set up a Skype call to get their advice and start building relationships and a Silicon Valley network (always feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org :)).
Step 5: Connect With Other Startups In Your Space
Also reach out to startups that are somewhat related to yours and have comparable traction and try to establish a relationship with them so that once you make the big move, you already have a network of great people.
Step 6: Visit The Valley Before You Move
Come to visit Silicon Valley for a couple of weeks. Plan that trip well in advance. While you’re here, attend plenty of meetups, conferences and other events (there is never a shortage of those in the Valley). Ping lots of people on Twitter and LinkedIn and see if you can meet up with them for coffee. Join a coworking space where you can get to know founders and freelancers. Put a face behind your startup and deepen your relationships and network locally.
Step 7: Visit Again (and again)
If after your first visit you still want to move to Silicon Valley, come visit again. Repeat this for a year, coming every three months or so. It takes time to build a network, establish legitimacy and understand the finer but important nuances that will be involved in your transition.
If you hear repeatedly from different people that you should move to the US, see if you can find someone who will be your first US team member or employee, before you even actually move there. You want to come every quarter and hustle with that person, but when you leave he or she will still be present to follow up and look for new opportunities and grow your local traction.
Step 8: Move The Whole Team?
Depending on the size of your startup, it might make sense to move just the business-focused people to the US and keep developers in Europe. You’ll be able to recruit much better engineers than you could in hyper-competitive Silicon Valley.
There can be a lot of upside to moving to Silicon Valley from abroad ( more funding, talent, business development, acquisition offers etc.) but also a lot of distractions. Making that big of a leap for your tiny startup might mean the big breakthrough or the kiss of death.
Make sure you prepare correctly and take that step once you’ve established a local network and have proven traction so you hit the ground running once in Silicon Valley.
Interested in hearing more from Steli Efti? Catch him at the Heureka Conference in Berlin on May 6.