SpacetoCo co-founder Jeremy Hurst describes his team’s recent Plus Eight muru-D trip to San Francisco …
What does a Bird, Lime and a Spin have in common? Only those who have been to San Francisco (or SF as the locals say it), will likely know…
Walking down the average street you’ll stumble across one or a multiple of these brands of electric scooters. Easily scanned with a free phone app, you can whisk across the city at very low cost and bypass the traffic. The Bird scooters cost $1 to unlock and then $0.15c for every minute thereafter.
The point of this? These scooters are the perfect metaphor to the pace and change of Silicon Valley / SF. If you were in SF in February 2018, it’s doubtful you would know what a Bird, Lime or Spin refers to. In classic disruption mode, the scooters just appeared on the streets as our team arrived on our recent trip – even the locals curiously quizzed us about cost, ease of use etc… (Australians are always pretty keen to have a crack at anything new).
Interestingly, when heading across town to a new meeting, it wasn’t uncommon to beat the Uber and Lyft riders…. the disrupters in this case are being disrupted. (Maybe that’s why Uber just acquired the bike-sharing company, Jump, for $200 million.)
Debate about regulation is already simmering with the inevitable clash of convenience meets laws-yet-to-be-written. (At the time of writing, shareable electric scooters have suffered their first setback with the SF city labelling them a nuisance – we suspect they’ll be back).
Electric scooters aside, we were in SF for a 10-day tour of ‘the Valley’ as part of the Australian Muru-D accelerator program.
Our business, SpacetoCo, joined six other WA companies and another ten Sydney companies. What did we learn? What did we experience?
Well, there were two fairly clear parts to the tour.
Firstly, we had several activities organised by Muru-D such as speaker panel sessions and workshops. We heard from Silicon Valley success stories such as Dropbox and Salesforce. Team-building workshops brought out learnings around culture and an unparalleled view of openness and vulnerability between all participants.
The fast-paced mentor roulette session felt like business speed dating. The growth hacking session with Sean Ellis taught us to set our NorthStar metric. Hearing from Australians who had moved to SF to chase their startup dreams on Day Two was what really got us thinking. We met fellow Australian, Jindou Lee who had moved his startup, HappyCo, to Silicon Valley on the basis of market size – imagine what can be achieved with a market of 326 million. Not to mention, the perks of SF living…. Electric scooters, CafeX with their robot barista… whole foods groceries, sailing on the Bay…. hashtag distracted.
The second element of our tour was making our own way and connecting with people who we felt could add value to our business.
Thanks to the help of the Muru-D mentors sharing their contacts and leveraging contacts of our own, we successfully secured a swag of meetings. We were told to be prepared for straight-talking, no time wasting and to be bold.
Americans love a tall poppy. This advice served us well as we were prepared and on the front foot for every conversation.
A highlight included meeting with a similar business to ours – collaboration exists in the valley. We met with amazing, interesting people from Uber, Dropbox, Houzz, Airbnb, Google and Facebook.
The one element that was consistent across these experiences was the fact we could/should disenthrall ourselves around the hype of Silicon Valley – shaking hands with people who have tight schedules, having lunch at Uber with Uber employees and seeing where Mark Zuckerberg holds his meetings was all very grounding. We’re all just people, doing our bit and plugging away.
The difference with SF is the volume of people to help you prove business (market) validation, the concentration of knowledge and the capital raising opportunities that exist. It really is a place where opportunity lives, breeds, fails and succeeds… all at once.
It was during these many meetings that our lessons, learnings and consistencies started to pile up… and we left with a renewed sense of purpose for the next 6 months.
We feel inspired by the direction ahead. As we know though, anything can change with startup life. We’ve made some amazing contacts and friends. People have invited us to stay with them when we’re next in town with offers to ‘call anytime’.
We also learned by example, the importance of designing the perfect physical workspace. These are just some of the tangibles we came away with and the value of this for our startup business is priceless. We look forward to returning the gift of listening / feedback / mentorship – these things are the oxygen that startups need and it’s fair to say the trip exceeded our expectations in these areas.
It must be mentioned, we shared our trip with a cohort of amazing Muru-D humans. There isn’t always harmony on tour, but in this case, there was. It came in the form of help, support and generosity for what each company is working on. The collaboration dial was set to full strength so we’ll not forget this experience in a hurry.
So in summary – what did we come away with?
One of my co-founders said it best, “exactly what we wanted, but not what we expected.”
We learned that you can find advice that contradicts everything you came to believe to be true and then be swung the other way. Sometimes even SF is working out its compass. When we mentioned during a meeting how one of us was speaking to an investor while riding a scooter, the response was, “Oh man that is so San Francisco!” … just remember, those scooters weren’t around three weeks ago.
Jeremy Hurst and his co-founders Daniel Franco and Daniel McCullen are taking part in Perth’s 6-month Plus Eight muru-D accelerator program, based at FLUX.
MAIN PHOTO: Alcatraz Island with the backdrop of San Francisco.