Here are some quick observations from an exciting and busy trip to San Francisco with Vaughan from Vend, specifically for other kiwis who are also working on a new technology venture and aspire to do the same…
First, the good news: It’s not nearly as hard as you might imagine to get to San Francisco or Silicon Valley and meet with people that can help with your venture. I don’t mean physically (it’s a single flight – about 12 hours – and you’re there). I mean mentally. We have all convinced ourselves that we need to qualify before we belong in the US. Ideally starting somewhere safer and easier, like New Zealand. Locals there don’t think that.
However, there is also bad news: Being a kiwi start-up doesn’t make you special. Nobody will care that you had to fly a long way to get there, or that you talk funny (we met people originally from India, Australia, Israel, Eastern Europe and Florida – everybody talks funny!) You will have to do the hard yards and earn it just like everybody else there does.
In Palo Alto we met with Elizabeth and Dan from ScienceExchange.com, the day before they presented to potential investors at the Y Combinator Demo Day. I told them that many people back home think we need a Kiwi version of Y Combinator. Their response to this helped to put into words something I’ve been struggling to articulate for a while: There is already a Y Combinator for New Zealanders … it’s Y Combinator … you just need to apply, and if you’re good enough you’ll get in. And if not, why should an equivalent program in NZ be interested in you when they are not?
Later in the day, down the road at Stanford we got to see Vend in use at the Student Store and spoke to some happy customers there. They found us on Google, signed-up for a trial and implemented it without ever talking to us in person. They think Vend is great POS software. We’re excited to have them as a customer which has opened other doors for us. Everybody is happy.
So, good news and bad news – it’s much easier and much harder than you think.
To get a foot in the door you just need to be worth meeting with!
So what are you waiting for?