Advice for Entrepreneurs visiting Silicon Valley

I recently went to Silicon Valley (SV) for several weeks as a part of the prize we won with our startup Dialective at a startup competition . Now that the dust has settled, I'd like to share my experience with anyone who would like to know how it's like to visit this holy land for entrepreneurs.

I wrote a post about practical advice for foreigners travelling to SV.
This post is about advice for entrepreneurs that applies to both, US-citizens and foreigners.

Advice for Entrepreneurs visiting Silicon Valley

There are many things for an entrepreneur to do in SV, but most of them require planning. I'll describe here the main things you can do and how much planning they require. 


How: Use Eventbrite and Meetup to find interesting events about marketing, sales, lean startup, leadership, legal matters, investing, pitching, you name it.  You can go to the events by car, even if it is in San Francisco, since most events take place after 6:00pm when parking is free. 

Planning: Plan at least 2 weeks ahead, because the most interesting events are very popular and they run out of tickets easily. If you find all tickets sold out don't give up and write your name down on the waiting list because you might get a last-minute spot. 

Networking: If you come from Europe you may not be used to the kind of straightforward networking that is done in SV. Here's a crash course: If you see three or more people talking in a group, don't hesitate to join them and introduce yourself. Don't feel shy, everybody does that all the time, it's perfectly normal. 

Pitching: there are events where you can pitch about your startup. Sometimes in front of investors. Get ready to deliver pitches of various lengths (1-sentence, 1-minute, 3-minutes) and in various formats (with powerpoint, with your mobile device, or without any kind of technical support).

Price: Many events are for free, others cost from $10 to $50. But the best thing is that most of them offer food and drinks, so the ticket includes dinner. 

A Dark Secret: There are events not listed anywhere to which you can only go by invitation. Those tend to serve the best food and drinks. Also, the best networking. Your only chance to get there is to know someone who extends her/his invitation to you. 


A great complement to the events is actually having personal meetings with people in SV. If you know someone there, this is the time to pick up the phone or send an email and arrange a meeting. Everyone is very well connected in the valley, so even if this person is not interesting for your startup you should go and talk to her/him. If you don't know anybody there, keep on reading.

How: You can arrange meetings in the valley with people you've never met before. This is what I did: I used LinkedIn to look for entrepreneurs (mostly from my country) who live there, then I invited them to join my professional network writing a personal message in the invitation. In most cases I got a new contact and a meeting because this is the great thing about SV, everyone is very busy but willing to give you some of their time. 

Planning: This might take some time, so I would recommend starting at least 1 month in advance. 


Have some extra time and would like a nice place to work? You can go to Paris Baguette or University Cafe, both in Palo Alto. You'll find there Wi-Fi and roumor has it that investors sometimes go there to meet entrepreneurs. I don't know about that but I met a guy in one of those secret meetups who told me he was working in Paris Baguette and suddenly came this other guy and invited him to the secret meetup.

Planning: No planning required. 


Want to visit Google, LinkedIn, Apple, Twitter, Wikipedia, NASA, HP, Stanford, you-name-it? Hmm, unless you know someone working there it's not going to be so easy. Different companies/institutions have different policies towards visitors though. Let's see about some of them:

Google: In Googleplex you can walk around the complex and visit the shop. If you are attending an event there (look for instance for Startup Grind events) you'll obviously get to see more. 

Twitter, Apple and NASA are not very visitor-friendly. We got there only because we knew people inside. 

Intel: You can go there, they even have a public Intel Museum at their main location (Robert Noyce Building on Mission College)

Stanford is a must-see, and I also recommend attending one of the many Stanford Events.

What to Expect from the Trip

According to my experience you can expect to get the following from your trip: 
  • Knowledge: yes, tons of it
  • Professional contacts, friends: yes, many
  • Investors/money: I would say it's difficult (although not impossible). Most investors want the founder's team to actually be located at a 50-min driving distance from where they live. 
  • Mentors: yes
  • Lawyers: yes
  • Employees: it's full of awesome ones but they are very expensive (>$100.000/year) 
  • Technological Insight: yes, about what's coming next (check out the Singularity University).

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