It was a completely manic week – although very well-organised. One of my highlights was giving a presentation to about half a dozen of the Valley’s biggest VCs, which led to all sorts of follow-up conversations and meetings. If we had gone out there on our own, getting that far would have been much tougher – yes, you can set up meetings, but trying to get that sort of visibility is much harder.
We did some interesting tours of the startups out there – so we saw Twitter, for example, and we saw some great incubator spaces, which gave us a fantastic chance to see how some of the businesses out there are born and bred. They’re all sitting out there in their trendy warehouses, working away to produce the next hot startup – it’s very exciting.
One of the things the trip emphasised for me was the difference in the pace of business out there. We managed to close one deal with a relatively large company over a five-minute conversation and a drink, followed by a 15 minute meeting the next morning. They said ‘great’, we shook hands, and we were done. By contrast, we’ve been talking to one company over here – a much smaller company – for a year, and we’ve only just got to the same position. In the Valley, they are people of action: it’s either a clear yes, or a clear no. There’s no hesitation, which, for a small business where the longer it takes, the more money it costs, is immensely refreshing.
That said, the great thing about London is that it’s a huge market – but you don’t have to travel far to reach a lot of people. And we’ve got some great opportunities: at one point, for example, I was having trouble speaking to the likes of Sport England and the Olympics. Conveniently, though, I was given the opportunity to complain directly to David Cameron in a speech I made to him and Boris Johnson. It resulted in a policy change. And that’s amazing – you would never get that sort of look-in in Washington.
It’s very easy for a startup to get starry-eyed over Silicon Valley. But I think you have to be in the right place for your business, and that’s not necessarily the Valley. Not yet, anyway.