Before giving an abstract of the lessons learned so far, a small outline of the first few days.
A warm welcome by the Dutch Consulate assured the first introduction to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. Moreover the first round of pitches also introduced the group to the Silicon Valley community. At Haas Business School Professor Andrew Isaacs – Executive Director and professor at Berkeley University –made the introduction to the valley complete. He deliberately explained the Valley’s climate, culture, ethics and system and most importantly Isaacs’s empowered the entrepreneurs to get out there. And that’s what they did. Discovering their business opportunities, meeting with investors, possible business partners, the whole value chain has been explored.
Besides that, many more opportunities to get to know the valley’s way of doing business and building a network followed. The Eccosummit Lounge, first ever Silicon Valley edition. Steve Blank welcomed us at his ranche up in the Silicon Valley hills, and examined the business opportunities for every start-up. What did all this deliver? Beside the foundation of an enormous network. Some very valuable insights in the Silicon Valley way of business. Here a first glimpse of the lessons learned.
Know what you are where you stand and what you need. Are you a research project? A Startup A company? Develop a clear and direct message upon that. Listen to your customers. Understand that cleantech business is all about business. And that is the only possibility here in the valley. If you want to get funded or build your network, don’t build upon your long term return nor focus on the climate impact. Rely on your business case.
Veysel Berk an entrepreneur we got introduced to by Prof. Isaacs stated his clearly: “Every entrepreneur should spent 50% of its time on finding people and building a network”.That’s what Silicon Valley is all about. It is a very open community everybody is connecting and following up on introductions. And that is where this tour is for.
ClimateKIC introduced us to a very high value network and it all happened from there. So many introductions have been made, meetings with key directors, decision makers, investors, business partners. And all these different executives are more than willing to welcome startups, cooperate with them or to explore the possibilities to invest or become a launching customer. Startups are accepted, taken serious and seen as a great opportunity. It is understood that that is the way to innovate and speed and openness are required to realize this today.
A high speed environment
What’s among the most important things to understand and the key to success is the speed of the network. You get introduced – give or sent a slim and clear presentation or message – and you are able to meet with the right person that same week. This happened over and over again this week. Direct contact and immediate meetups, no long writings or presentations but direct and to the point.
Some insights in the investor climate
Over the week the investor opportunities and supposed resistance of investing in Clean-tech solutions has been a frequent matter of discussion. Clean-tech investments haven’t paid of yet and in the VC-world there are less-risk full projects to invest in.
Among others Mark Perutz, Partner at DBL Investors, has addressed this issue. But more importantly he also gave more insights in the decision making of Clean-tech VC’s. His advice. Make sure that you reduce the risks of to one form of shared risk, investors by technological or capital risk. Many cleantech companies present cases that contain both technological or … risks. This makes cleantech investments hard to get through. Show how you are able to cope technological difficulties or have a first line of investors, grants or reduce capital risk with partners throughout the value chain.
In his keynote speech addressed to the ClimateKIC group in Washington DC Michael Bruce addressed the resistance on cleantech investments. But he also ensured that many opportunities remain. The previously described factors of self-awareness apply. Know your market! And make sure you find the right market and form of innovation combined with the right partners, to make it work.