Last week, as previously reported, Jerome and I were in San Francisco having been invited as one of the top 50 startups from Europe, to attend the Euro Tech Showcase, part of the Dow Jones Venture Forum. For some reason, every time Jerome or I are in San Francisco, the sun is shining! We couldn’t believe our luck when we disembarked the Virgin Atlantic plane to be met with warm sunshine and blue skies! It was a stark contrast to the day before, when I was in Moscow; enjoying -1 degree temperatures whilst on a weekend catch up with friends. Jerome and I like San Fran and the Bay Area – there is something about it that makes the place feel special. May be it’s the beauty of the city and good weather, or may be it’s the vibe, and the fact that we have some great friends there? No doubt it is also because of the fact that it represents the heart of the Internet world, and thus, almost a home away from home.
Last week was also Global Entrepreneurship Week, and in partnership with Make Your Mark, Jerome and I became international ambassadors for them with the aim of reporting on all the latest happenings from the Valley, whilst our UK and International counterparts were doing other things to promote entrepreneurship in their respective communities. The folks at Make Your Mark provided us with a Disgo Video Player, which was very nice of them, so that we could become avid reporters and video blog what was going on? This turned out to be quite amusing for us, and so we started off proceedings, by recording our introductory video in the infamous diner called Bucks, which is famous for being THE place where many deals are brokered between entrepreneurs and VCs alike. There were a couple of tables occupied by what looked like your typical US VC’s in their navy blue jackets with gold cuff links, light blue shirt, beige Dockers trousers (pants), brown shoes with little thrilly bits on the front, and of course, the trademark smart phone on in the back leather pouch on their belt. For all we know, the next Google deal was taking place as they had their laptops out and were engaged in a lengthy debate. We, however, were close to closing our own deal and were going all in… To find out more, click on the following link below, and please forgive me for looking like a twit, but I was on my day off from spiky hair day and so instead was showing off my wonky fringe!
We found out about Jacks from one of my mentors, Jon Gillespie-Brown, who we had the good fortune of staying with for the first few days whilst in town. Jon and his lovely wife Maria and their two kids Marco and Luca, upped sticks and moved from the countryside haven otherwise known as the Cotswold’s, to slap bang in the middle of Silicon Valley. They occupy a gorgeous house on one of the most famous streets in Woodside, just off the Sand Hill Road, and were being accompanied by their young and ambitious Sales Manager Lee, who was staying with Jon and the family for a few weeks to try and land some deals in the US as the UK market, which Lee normally covers has apparently all gone quiet. Perhaps a sign of things to come for us Brits, what with the economic climate looking direr than ever! Jon is a seasoned entrepreneur, and at the tender young age of 40 (or thereabouts) he’s done pretty well for himself having lived the life when he was ten years younger than we were, flying Concorde and driving fast cars, but he’s a bit more mellow these days (unless you get him a few wines, as we got to find out on Friday!) It’s always great to catch up with Jon and his wife and they are loving life in the Valley and I can see why…
The Euro Tech Showcase started on Tuesday, so we headed in our hired car to the Sofi Nova hotel in Redwood City, which was on Dolphin Drive (Only in America would they come up with a street name like that!). It soon became apparent at the event, that the Euro Tech showcase was very French focused, and had borne out of what was most likely a French event that grew to become more European focused as it became more successful. Or, it may well be to do with the fact that the organizers of the event, Jean-Bernard Guerree, and his financial advisory firm Avise Partners, is predominantly made up of French nationals. Their USP as an advisory firm, given that they are based on the US, is that they help French speaking companies to break through into the US market. It soon became clear that many of the other start-ups that had been invited were also French. We very quickly started to feel like one of the 50 companies that said yes to paying the 5,000 Euros price tag, rather than genuinely representing the top 50 European Start-ups. Still, we were there now, and the event was linked to the Dow Jones Venture Forum so some good must come out of it!
There were a number of panels that were discussing, you’ve guessed it – how to survive in the downturn, what opportunities still exist for start-ups and what corporate development executives are looking for in the current climate when buying or partnering with start-ups. The ‘big sell’ for the event was supposed to be all of the one-on-one meetings that they organize on our behalf, which was actually quite a good concept, albeit slightly too short in their length. Each session lasts about 12 minutes, which makes it feel like a speed networking event, but it gives you enough time to give your elevator pitch on both sides and explore whether there are any synergies on both sides. We had sessions lined up with Facebook, AT&T, Verizon, a few VC’s and a few other interesting companies, and also gave a presentation to those that attended our session. We also got to catch up with David from the Filter – a top lad who has was sounds to be a great business specialized on filtering recommendations and preferences for media and entertainment related content such as videos. Definitely one to watch! The other founders we enjoyed meeting were Glen and Alex from a company called Favy.com, which interestingly enough, is a site aimed at being smarter with your favorites. You can view our interview with them at the event here:
In between sessions, we took the opportunity to visit an old haunt that we once met Emily from DFJ in for drinks, called the Left Bank, where we were greeted by a very friendly Spurs loving General Manager from Detroit who had fond memories of his old town, referring to it as a “s*** hole”! Whilst enjoying a glass of red, Jerome gives a good summary of the feeling we were getting of the mood in the valley, which you can check out here:
We also took the opportunity to interview Dean Takahashi, one of the lead reporters / writers from VentureBeat, a leading online news provider, who covers the internet space. You can find the interview here:
To see what advice Baris Aksoy (an Associate from Intel Capital, one of the leading international private equity houses) had to share with budding entrepreneurs, check out his brief interview with Jerome here: