London to Silicon Valley
Since my first purposeful trip to Silicon Valley last summer, I’ve visited the area twice more, spending more than six weeks there in total. My experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. The people I’ve met out there have been welcoming and helpful. They’ve spared the time to meet with me and leveraged their network to make introductions to people and companies that I would never have been able to access otherwise. The overwhelming impression is one of openness, optimism, a desire to help others succeed and a collaborative, “pay it forward” culture. There’s no sense of “What’s in it for me?”.
I hate to say this but, regrettably, I don’t think we can say the same about the tech startup sector here in London. I think we’re making progress with the growing success of open, inclusive networking events like Silicon Drinkabout, but I think we have a long way to go. To quote James Clark’s MBA dissertation (in which he looked at the question “Why is there no British ‘Google’ and what can be done about it?“), “rather than being open and free flowing, business networks in Britain are stratified, resulting in poor transference of information”. We simply don’t have the same open, collaborative, helpful culture that exists in Silicon Valley.
There are, of course, other factors at play. Young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley seem to have a far higher risk appetite, with a “Let’s just do it!” attitude that is born, I suspect, out of the supportive culture that surrounds them, in particular a far greater tolerance of failure. There’s also no sense of entitlement, in stark contrast to the sentiments I saw expressed at Digital Sizzle 4, where London-based entrepreneurs seemed to expect the government to help out with a host of challenges, from keeping Shoreditch office rents low, to forcing banks to lend to pre-revenue startups.
Fadi Bishara of Blackbox VC gave an excellent presentation to HackFwd a few months back on the differences between American and European startups.
On the flight back from my latest trip (in August), I found myself pondering the differences between the Valley and London, and wishing that we could infect London with some of the Silicon Valley attitude and culture. Then the idea came to me – why not try to get a group of entrepreneurs to visit Silicon Valley together, and expose them to the same experiences that I’ve had?
Thus, the idea of LDN2SFO was born – a group trip for London-based entrepreneurs and early-stage startup founders to Silicon Valley, with a series of events where they can meet, network with and learn from other entrepreneurs. When I floated the idea with people here in London, the response has been positive and when I started reaching out to people in Silicon Valley, the response has been so positive that we already have three great Valley-based entrepreneurs willing to help out:
- Scott Allison, founder and CEO of Teamly, who moved from the UK to Silicon Valley and has just graduated from the 500 Startups accelerator
- Andrew McLoughlin, co-founder of Huddle, who moved to San Francisco to open Huddle’s US office
- David Weekly, co-founder of Gaston Labs, PBworks, Mexican VC (which recently merged with 500 Startups) and Hacker Dojo
The idea behind LDN2SFO is that attendees will arrange their own travel and accommodation to suit their own budgets/tastes. We plan to schedule a series of events in the Bay Area and we expect to charge attendees a fee to cover the costs of those events. However, to be clear, this is a not-fot-profit venture. Any fee charged will be purely to cover the expenses of putting on the events and not to pay any of the organisers or to give anyone a free trip.
In terms of timing, we’re currently looking at the end of January, to coincide with TechCrunch’s Crunchie awards in San Francisco.