Twice a year, the swissnex San Francisco Startup Camp brings together Swiss startups looking to make the jump over to the United States. Over the years, some of the best Swiss start-ups have come through, and in this post, the swissnex team has brought together eight central learnings for Swiss start-ups from past participants.
“As the markets in both Switzerland and the US have changed, we realized that startups benefit from talking to others about their experiences in the Bay Area, and this helps them to apply these learnings for the Swiss environment. That’s why we’ve restructured the program to give startups an opportunity to explore on their own, and to process these learnings for a Swiss context alongside a Swiss cohort,” says Gioia Deucher, CEO at swissnex SF.
Originally published in startupticker, here are eight central learning from startup campers:
To deal with big challenges, get into the mindset with a high level of energy — and you’ll be at the top of your game to overcome it. (Teo Borschberg, Oto.ai, Week 1 Fireside Chat)
When founder Teo was hit with a business crisis, he didn’t flinch. When their first term sheet was endangered by a key team member leaving, instead of freaking out and trying to solve the problem right then, he counterintuitively went to the sauna, worked out, got dinner with friends and a great bottle of wine, a full nights’ sleep, and then the next day walked into the meeting room with a smile. This energy spread to the rest of the team as they realized they would get through this. And they did! The team now knows Teo’s a strong leader – nothing can get this guy down.
‘No’ is always better than ‘maybe.’ (Suhas Ghante, Alchemai.com – Week 1 Toolkit Business Development USA)
Suhas, who has been through 500 Startups accelerator twice and specializes in business development, explained to us on the first Friday Toolkit that most of the time when talking with clients you’re dealing with hesitation and questions. Rarely do you get a straight ‘yes’. When you’re not getting a ‘yes’ however, most of the time founders are scared to push for the sale, thinking: “What if I get a no instead?”. But Suhas asks – what are you really risking? The upside is massive – a ‘yes’ – the downside is minimal – you stay where you are (not doing business with this client). So instead of fearing a ‘no’ and getting ‘maybes’ and ‘maybes’ and wasting months, put the cards on the table and get a clear ‘no’ – leaving you where you are – and move to the places with more potential to get a ‘yes’. Get a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ – everything else is a waste of time.
Good advice comes in the form of questions. (Can Olcer & Dorena Nagel, Kosmos – Week 2 Fireside Chat)
Every route will be different, so be wary of people who give you absolute (and unsolicited) advice. The best advice comes from people who ask you questions, rather than giving you oversimplified answers and solutions that worked on their own path. Your approach to solving problems will be as unique as your experience and business. Whether it’s investors, friends, colleagues or even your team, be wary of which kind of advice you accept. You’ll know good advice when it comes in the form of questions.
Tell your story in Rules of Threes. (Nathan Gold, Week 2 Toolkit)
Kinaps.co was telling their story and benefits as “we have x benefit, we solve y”. Adding the simple rhetorical flourish of “and it even does Z” was so effective that it convinced the audience — and they built it into their main pitch from that moment on. List your benefits in threes.
Get your business karma on. (Thomas Querton, Atlasrun.com – Week 3 Fireside Chat)
The founding team of Atlasrun helped a non-profit for many years, free of charge, simply because they liked working with them and they had a cool mission. They also had a great network and introduced Atlasun to two influential contacts – who are now two of Atlasrun’s main clients. Good karma will come back to you!
A demo says more than 1,000 slides. (Stephan Eberle, Scale Venture Partners – Investor Perspective & Deck Feedback, Week 3 Toolkit)
On the first slide of their deck, camp participant Parquery explained their relatively complex machine vision technology in one beautiful photo of the live product. The image was so effective because it showed exactly what the product does, and Stephan from ScaleVP immediately understood the concept and complemented the startup on their communication. With a core understanding of the product established, Parquery CEO Andrea and Stephan were able to lead a deeper conversation on the additional features and benefits of the product. One slide lead to perfect understanding of the startup’s project, value proposition, and technology – if you’re looking for an investor’s advice or money, you need to make your product understandable first.
Get a US phone number and address, even if you’re not based here. (Damian Felchlin, Switzerland Global Enterprise, Week 4 Toolkit)
This hack applies mainly to European startups expanding to the US, but if you’re a tech startup there’s no excuse for not having your web presence up to date — in English — and having a US phone number and address. This will make US customers more comfortable with doing business with you. A US phone number costs little, but the upside is huge.
Find startup friends to share your journey with. (Lea von Bidder, Ava, Week 4 Fireside Chat)
This last learning is not technically a Fireside Chat, but the knowledge Lea von Bidder shared spontaneously en route to Stanford in the car was valuable so we’ll recount it here nonetheless. If you can find colleagues and friends who are at the same stage of your journey, they can be a great asset – sharing knowledge, solutions, office space and even contacts. Being part of a cohort of friends, all thinking about the same things, will make you grow faster and be stronger.
The swissnex SF approach
Swissnex San Francisco connects Swiss startups to a Bay Area network, providing tools, techniques, training, and workspace in San Francisco. It’s a way for deep-tech startups to integrate into a network of founders and supporters in the Bay Area, while getting used to the US ways of doing business – marketing, sales, speed of testing, etc.