Silicon Vikings

#2 How to Get Started in SiliconValley – or How to Eat an Elephant?

Blog post   •   Aug 14, 2012 16:50 EDT

 

If you read our first post “Why Should I Move My Company to Silicon Valley” and want to know more, then keep reading. If you still can’t think of a good reason to consider setting up here, then readEuropean Entrepreneurs – Les Miserables in The Economist:http://www.economist.com/node/21559618?frsc=dg|a

A full-scale “market launch” is a really expensive, high-risk way to figure out whether your business model will work in the US market. Unless you have a streak of dare devil - enjoy zip-lining over lava pools and swimming with sharks - this is not the model we recommend. Swimming with the sharks often leads to sleeping with the fish. Whenever possible we will swim with the dolphins (no more marine metaphors – promise).

 

So how do you get started?

There is an old joke about how to eat an elephant. The answer is “one bite at a time”. That is also a good way to getting started in Silicon Valley.

This Lean go-to-market approach 1) assumes that your plan for conquering the New World is more of aGuess than a Plan; and 2) acknowledges that guesses need to be validated before you invest full scale. So instead of starting out with a Launch, you start out with a Learn. We recommend a three-stage process.

Stage 1 is the LEARN Phase where you focus on 1) documenting your assumptions (“guesses”) about customers, their problems, your value proposition, the competitive landscape, and where you and your product fit in.

This will take you two to three months and requires only a small team – 1 or 2 people -, a part-time or virtual office and a car, a Vespa or if you are in really good shape maybe just a road bike. You can do it in smaller chunks - e.g. iterations of 2 weeks at a time - or all at once.

The nice thing about this approach is that when you are done, you will be a whole lot smarter without having emptied your bank account.

Stage 2 is the SELL phase. You take what you learned and prove it by selling to your first customers in the New World. This can take anywhere from weeks to months depending on what you are selling to whom and how they buy. This too can be done with a minimalistic team and a lean budget. More about this in a later post.

The third stage is the GROW phase. Now you have insight, customers, proof points for your business model, and an investment case to take to Silicon Valley VCs (assuming your business requires venture capital).

You succeeded in “nailing it”, so now it’s time to think about scaling it.

This “three stage rocket” method is a Lean, capital-efficient approach to going to market and growing your company through Silicon Valley. Not everyone gets to product market fit, but even if you don’t you won’t break the bank figuring it out. And it should leave you the time and money – “runway” in Valley speak - to adjust your plan if you need to.

Next time we will talk about taking that first bite of the elephant – the LEARN phase – and how to do it.

 

Jeff Sniderjeff@startwings.com