After spending an exhausting first week in New York and Boston, we continued to the West Coast, specifically San Francisco, for our next stop.
San Francisco – a warm welcome
Coming in from cold Boston, the first warm weekend weekend in San Francisco was perfect for digesting meetings, contacts, and new introductions from the first week.
On Monday, we were invited by Twitter to see presentations about a range of highly interesting topics. Besides a surprise welcome by CEO Dick Costolo, the team around our host Jason Costa talked about growth, product, design, platform/API, engineering, M&A and corporate development, and gave us a full picture of the diversity of issues that the fast scaling of Twitter brought along. The afternoon was spent racing to the bay to meet the linkedIn team for an overview of their developer network and API, and of course the Biz dev and Corp Dev activities. Afterwards, we got a tour of the Mozilla’s new webFWD accelerator space and heard about Pascal Finette’s experiences of playing David vs. Goliath during the early days of the “browser wars”.
Tuesday morning brought us to the cool offices of OATV – Bryce and Renee told us a bit about their investment thesis, their backgrounds, and the San Francisco tech scene after listening to the teams’ pitches. These pitches were well oiled by now – something we were proud to see during the mentoring afternoon that was held at Orrick’s offices in the afternoon. Like in the previous week, about 80 of the city’s best entrepreneurs, investors, and startup experts were present to spend their day with the Seedcampers. In comparison to last year, we could really feel a surge of new activity and action in San Francisco – which also reflected in the intense mentoring sessions of the day.
After a few catch-up sessions with investors and partners for the teams, we spent a few hours of Wednesday at the Angellist headquarters with Naval and Nivi to talk about fundraising, the success factors of startups on Angellist, and key learnings from the platform over the past year. Especially with Angellist getting a more important tool in the fundraising tool belt, this session held a lot of valuable insights. Terrence from Index Ventures – a truly tried and tested Seedcamp mentor and investor – spent parts of his afternoon with us, and gave each company some feedback on their businesses and products. Afterwards, we made a dash to the Rackspace offices to meet Robert Scoble, who interviewed a selection of the companies, gave them feedback, and listened to what they had to say about the European startup scene.
Sand Hill Road & the Valley – Meeting the big guys
Most of Friday and Monday was spent touring up and down Sandhill Road – the Mecca of the fundraising entrepreneur. In sessions with some of the most successful VC funds, the startups had the opportunity to pitch the partnerships in a very intimate setting, getting direct feedback and input from folks who have funded and worked with the best companies in Silicon Valley. After already having met a lot of investors during the mentoring days, this very direct interaction was an immense value add for the companies, and the highlight for many.
We met with the teams of Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Greylock, Softtech, and a new kid on the block, the Social+Capital Partnership in Palo Alto. Besides the valuable feedback on the businesses themselves, some of the experiences the VCs shared of learnings from their own portfolio companies were extremely interesting. Besides this operational input, the warm welcome and the genuine interactions were a reminder of how engaged the investor community in the Silicon Valley is.
Also on our list was a visit to Dave McClure‘s 500Startups tower – Saturday afternoon was a great time to meet both Dave and some of the startups for a more informal pitch and feedback bartering session that culminated in a relaxed happy hour with a view over the Bay Area. Some more Valley highlights included a Stanford Basketball game, a tour of the dSchool on Monday, and the obligatory pilgrimage to the Apple Campus. Jeff Clavier at Softtech hosted us with a Panel of successful founders from their portfolio – Victoria Ransom of Wildfire, Sam Chaudhari of ClassDojo, Ariel Seidman of Gigwalk, and Manish Chandra of Poshmark shared not only their own backgrounds, but much more importantly talked about crucial decisions they took in terms of fundraising, building their teams, and being foreign founders in the Valley.
The last batch of meetings were instrumental in a different way: A view on how larger companies do things, how they grew out of being startups to major global players and category leaders. We visited the Microsoft Research Center to hear about Windows 8 and Mobile, Foursquare’s San Francisco offices to hear about their expansion and local presence from Holger, and the PayPal and eBay HQ in San Jose where we talked about the future of commerce, new products, and the trends in connecting offline commerce. We were also glad to be part of Facebook‘s first startup day – a good opportunity to hear from different product teams about new features, the possibilities of using Facebook’s APIs to expand feature sets in products, and to chat with the relevant people in person.
I’m on a plane – there’s Tech beyond the Valley
Off to the north we went on the following Wednesday to visit Seattle. Microsoft welcomed us in the computer museum and showed off past and present – quite a showdown of technologies and upcoming products – Bing Maps, the new Bizspark Plus program, and Windows Mobile. Amazon didn’t disappoint either – the AWS team made sure to shed some light on all the features and offerings of the platform. Just as last year, Seattle was impressive – home to two of the biggest names in Software and the internet, and seeing to such massive players in one day.
Northern California was a great place to finish the trip for most of the teams who came along – welcoming and sunny, with friendly people all around. Qualcomm welcomed us to their Campus in San Diego and showed us some impressive upcoming products, and had us spend some time with the corporate venture unit. After a drive up the coast, we were invited by Siemer Ventures in Santa Monica, who treated us to sundowner drinks on their terrace right on the ocean. The last day for most of us kicked off with a visit to Idealab – the original incubator started by Bill Gross in 1996, which built successes like Picasa, eToys and IPOed more than 30 companies. A pitch session with about 30 LA investors, co-organised by our friends at confluence, and hosted by netxstpace in Culver City, and a visit to Santa Monica’s Betterworks were a great opportunity to round off the trip and call it a day after these whirlwind three weeks.
Tired and happy – Home or Austin?
Most teams from there on made their way back home – some with a stopover in New York, some with another exhausting weekend at SXSW. Suffice it to say, all of us had bags chock full with business cards of new friends and contacts, an overflowing email inbox from 3 or more weeks on the road, and certainly a sleep deficit that put everyone to REM state within 2 minutes of sitting down.
Thanks to our supporters and friends!
We want to profoundly thank all of the old and new friends we met on the road – this years’ US trip was an incredible journey, and included more highlights than possible to list in even multiple blog posts. The unspeakable openness and support we received in all cities made it possible for us to pull this off, and the insights and experiences we were able to share surely put the Seedcamp companies ahead of anything they aimed to achieve. Thank you for making it possible.
More about the US trip:
Want to check out our diary? This is what happened on Tumblr.
Want to see some pictures? Here’s our Flickr stream.
Here are some posts from the companies on the trip: