ZEEF was invited to the Holland in the Valley Startup Bootcamp which took place from 3 to 6 June in San Francisco. Klaas and Robin flew to SFO to experience Silicon Valley.We arrived at Friday after a long flight. Just before we took off Klaas hurt his back, so with Klaas in a wheelchair we could quickly get through security. We were picked up by our Airbnb host and went for a refreshing bath before getting to work. We contacted several people we wanted to meet, and planned our week. In this blog we will tell about our experiences.
The startup bootcamp started on Monday at the Dutch Consulate General on the 31st floor of the Montgomery Tower, from where you have an amazing view of the city! First up: breakfast and company introductions. All 12 participating startups briefly introduced themselves. Clearly some real entrepreneurs were present! Anne Donker and Peter Laanen talked about Silicon Valley in general and Do’s and Don’ts to get us all in the right mindset. An important part of the bootcamp are the two Dutch Demo Nights, to prepare all participants a Skype session was planned with Angelika Blendstrup. She is a great pitch coach: sharp, to the point and very good feedback. Also important: pronunciation e.g. how do you pronounce Yahoo!?
Klaas Lameijer, Arte Merritt and Thomas Lyle, three entrepreneurs, then shared their startup experiences. Especially interesting were their thoughts on Venture Capital. The last event of the day was a visit to VigLink, their founder Oliver Roup was very open and had some good advice. This was especially interesting for us because VigLink implements a part of our business. The day was closed off with some drinks, where we had the opportunity to network with the other entrepreneurs.
On Tuesday we had to get up very early for a trip to Stanford University. Professor Douglas Y. Park gave us an interesting lecture on Governance of Startups: what’s the difference between your Board of Advisors and your Board of Directors? For both it’s important to find people with the right expertise. After the lecture and a desperately needed cup of coffee we took the bus to Sand Hill Road. VC Carl Showalter (Opus Capital) told us about their business and gave tips on how to work with a VC. Personality is very important, you have to work together closely. Before a deal is closed you need to get to know each other very well to decide if it will be a fruitful collaboration. We went back to Stanford for a tour of the beautiful campus. We also walked by the first Google server and a lab completely filled with Dutch equipment.
In Mountain View, the first place we visited was Mozilla. Mozilla is different from most startups in the Valley as they are a non-profit organization and working a lot with open source software. Pascal Finette told us about his view on making startups successful. Interesting is the war for talent in Silicon Valley, Mozilla doesn’t have much problems with attracting talent, because people want to work for Mozilla and believe in their mission. A completely different ‘startup’ was next: Facebook. I personally like the talk given by David Weekly and Bear Douglas as they talked about the development process within Facebook. They use several tools to automate their build, test and release cycle. Some of these are written by Facebook and published as open source on their Github. The Facebook offices are really nice, lots of space and possibilities to relax!
In the evening we visited SV New Tech, a monthly meetup where 4 entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. The quality of the pitched ideas was a little bit disappointing. One entrepreneur was quite brave: he pitched an electric bike in front of a lot of Dutch people.
After being welcomed by the Dutch Consul General, Jim Connor talked about angel investing. As Board Director of Sand Hill Angels he told us about angel investing and the difference with venture capital. This led to a good discussion on investing and innovation. The legal panel was a good follow up, with lawyers specialized in topics like immigration and intellectual property. The next speaker was Dennis Goedegebuure of Airbnb. He is a SEO specialist, but also well-known with the Airbnb history. They showed some very nice growth. The whole afternoon was dedicated to pitching. Angelika gave a lot of feedback on all pitches, all teams worked hard on improving the pitches and slide decks. Gawein joined us today and helped with perfecting our pitch. After some beverages and snacks the first Dutch Demo Night started. All twelve startups pitched their idea in front of the public and a jury. Each was allowed to talk for 3 minutes after which the jury had 5 minutes for Q&A. A lot happened between the first pitches on Monday and the pitches this evening, they improved, a lot! We had to wait while the judges deliberated about which startups would be allowed to pitch for a bigger audience on Thursday. Their decision? ZEEF was one of the startups that were through to the next round!
Thursday was already the last day of Holland in the Valley, time just flew by during the entire week! We had an quiet start this day with four workshops at the consulate. The first workshop was held by Barbara Wichmann who told us about how to establish a great brand for your company. Next up was Will Price. Although his official topic was Lean, he also told us about his business Flite, which turned out to be very interesting. Even more inspiring was Marc Tarpenning, the CEO of Tesla Motors. It’s amazing how much money they collected and how they achieved to bring an electric car to market with limited resources and time. The last speaker was Jacco van der Kooij on how to sell your product.
We were allowed to spend the afternoon as we pleased. We had organized a meeting with Thomas Hessler, co-founder of zanox and now CEO of UFOstart, a “Crowd Investor Network” for lean startups. We had a good discussion on our product and Thomas could give us some good tips!
It was now time to go to Harlot SF and prepare for the SF Dutch Demo Night. The best six startups, including ZEEF, were pitching in front of a jury (consisting of Steve Schlenker, Redg Snodgrass, Chris Gottschalk and Peter Kronowitt) and a crowd of about 300 people. The jury declared SimGas as the winner of the Dutch Demo Night. Peter Laanen, International Trade Director, called SimGas and ZEEF the two most attractive startups!
We slept a little longer than the previous days and worked hard to minimize the enormous amount of mail we received during the week. Although the event was over we still went to the consulate to talk to Anne Donker. She could help us with some tips for the following days and she could even help us with some office space for the rest of our stay! The rest of the day we worked for a while in ‘our office’ and met with a few people.
In the weekend we enjoyed the city by bike. San Francisco is a really beautiful city, especially Golden Gate Park, Lands End, Presidio and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of all the hills, biking is a great exercise!
For me this was the end of the visit to Silicon Valley. Klaas is staying for another week, he will probably post an update on that week when he’s back. I’m looking back at a very nice week with inspiring talks and great experiences. Thanks Holland in the Valley for the opportunity and good organization!
Photos: Robin Eggenkamp, Anne Donker and Peter Laanen (both Dutch Consulate)