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Secret to Success: Why Silicon Valley is a Startup Epicenter

Co-Founder & CFO at Dashmote Stefan Tan shares his experience from a recent trip to Silicon Valley. 

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of representing Dashmote on a company trip to the Bay Area. The aim of my travel was to further develop our business in the US through meetings with tech partners, talents, and investors. My time in Silicon Valley revealed a lot about the local ecosystem, where innovation is fundamental and ambition is a lifestyle. My goal in this blog post is to uncover what Dutch founders like myself should take away from the Silicon Valley way of life.

“Go big or go home. Those are the only options for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Executives are bold and competitive, confidently promoting uncharted concepts.”

The mentality is that creating a billion dollar market and dominating on a world stage is a hundred times more sexy than owning 5% of an existing market. Since most startup employees have equity stake, the hunger for success is present throughout entire companies. Especially with the growing popularity of RSUs in Silicon Valley, founders aren’t the only ones concerned with performance milestones.

The pomp and circumstance of Silicon Valley is not nearly as prominent in Dutch business practices. That is, my Silicon Valley counterpart would match my rusty bike with a yellow Ferrari.

“Like many other Dutch people, I was raised to be modest. In the Netherlands, boastfulness is highly frowned upon. The Dutch are quietly competitive, and everyone wants to undercut the Goliath.”

That being said, Silicon Valley demonstrates that tenacity is essential in company advancement. The lesson to be learned by Dutch executives is that arrogance is a chute, and ambition is a ladder when it comes to startup success.

Although they place a lot of attention on achievement, there is a great deal of interdependence amongst the startups in Silicon Valley.  It’s a known fact that 98% of all startups will fail (Dan Feld), so the success of one startup is a pat on the back for the entire community. The “give before asking mentality” has become standard (Donna Weber). That way, failure just means a new position at a friend’s startup.

With startup failure being such a common phenomenon in Silicon Valley, people are fueled by strong coffee and passion. Work takes up the majority of one’s life, so it’s essential that employees be enthusiastic about a startup’s cause.

Since the startup setting demands a lot of energy and attention, there is a lot of worker mobility in the community. When employees are snoozing their alarm five times before rolling out of bed, it’s clearly time to move on.

Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem is extremely unique. Unlike the startup ecosystem in New York, which is focused on fintech and media, the environment in Silicon Valley is extremely dynamic. Silicon Valley’s startup ecosystem is simply the blend of people that are attracted to it during a particular period of time. Permanent residents must bake a lot of welcome-new-neighbor brownies, as the demographics are constantly changing. Locality doesn’t exist in Silicon Valley: The area consists of unpredictable startups, travelling investors, and visiting delegations.

Thanks to its fluid nature, the ecosystem in Silicon Valley has almost no barriers, offering a lot of opportunity to startups. Although building deeper relationships can be more challenging, business people are generally more open and accepting in Silicon Valley than other places.

“The most notable quality of the Silicon Valley ecosystem is the extreme focus on innovation. Startups in the Bay Area thrive by embracing creativity.”

Take Uber for example: There was an enormous amount of entrepreneurs trying to develop Uber. The main issue was that nobody could break away from the biased mindset of the current system. However, a solution finally emerged when the company looked beyond current structures. An unlikely model was ultimately the key to Uber’s prominence.

“I believe that most successful tech startups practice a methodology similar to that of Uber. They understand that product and customer experience are key, bringing the right use cases (customer problems) to the right people (innovators) with a new mindset.”

Rather than getting caught up in the novelty of the new technology, they create fresh products by implementing existing technologies in inventive ways. By utilizing available technologies such as AI and Blockchain to focus on the end use case, they drive growth through innovation instead of sales strategy.

The consensus is that companies are better equipped than they realize. Many societal problems can be solved with current resources. You can indeed teach an old dog new tricks! (or give an established technology new purpose). The key is in the application: Entrepreneurs need to stretch themselves cognitively, using new technology to supplement brain power rather than relying on it. Once thoughtful application meets advanced technology more consistently, the solution possibilities will be limitless.

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