PayOnline in Silicon Valley - or how we studied at the Founders Bootcamp Silicon Valley

    January ended, and we finally got our hands on how the PayOnline CTO spent 2 weeks studying in Silicon Valley as part of the Founders Bootcamp Silicon Valley educational program. The organizer of the program is Global Innovation Labs. What was taught, what was new, what kind of “califonication” in San Francisco at the tech startup party and photos from the trip - under the cut.

    About internship in general

    For several years now, the Moscow City Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship has been sending representatives of Moscow high-tech companies for an internship in Silicon Valley. This time, the payOnline technical director, Vladimir K., was among the participants in the two-week internship, who shared his impressions with us.

    The organization of the event was actively attended by the Fund for Promoting the Development of Venture Investments in Small Enterprises in the Scientific and Technical Sphere of Moscow, OJSC RVC, the Fund for Promoting the Development of Small Forms of Enterprises in the Scientific and Technical Sphere and the Skolkovo Fund.

    We left Moscow on December 5th and returned on the 19th. They lived in Palo Alto, a city in the south of the San Francisco Peninsula, in the county of Santa Clara, California (35 miles south of San Francisco). A very cozy and peculiar city: a beautiful mixture of architecture from the late 19th century, Professorville - “Professor's Village”, in which many of Stanford’s first teachers lived, and an indelible imprint of the ultra-modern high-tech Silicon Valley. From Palo Alto, we went out on trips around the neighborhood to study in Silicon Valley, San Francisco. We will tell you more about travels and parties further.

    At school and at field events, I met a lot of Russian immigrants who successfully work in the Valley, saw several branches of Russian companies that feel great under the warm California sun.

    We lived in the wonderful Crowne Plaza Cabana hotel, where they studied and met guests. Below is a couple of photos from the hotel website;) - and move on to the educational internship program.


    How and what we were taught

    The program that we received before sending on a trip contained only brief introductory notes: there will be many workshops and communication with experts; classes on presentation skills, legal and financial aspects of doing IT business in Silicon Valley; IT workshops await us; trips to start-up incubators of Silicon Valley and even two days of free time.

    The program turned out to be much richer than one could imagine by looking at a short program on one A4 sheet. First of all, it is worth noting the selection of teachers - real representatives of successful (or vice versa - 100% failed) startups. I was very pleased with the selection of cases for certain topics - for example, not only entrepreneurs who successfully passed this stage spoke about the features of attracting seed investments, but also the startup owner, who lost everything at this stage - money, a project, a team.

    A lot of topics rose in two weeks, some of them were especially interesting to us, possibly because they were “close to the body”, or maybe just because the technologies were interesting and promising: “private clouds” and big data.

    There were no dry and boring lectures - everything took place in an interactive format, a lot was left up to us: if you want, ask questions, if you want, study, if you want, look for new contacts. Here, in search of new contacts, as practice has shown, was the sacramental meaning of our internship. We talked with representatives of venture funds, with business angels and successful startups, representatives of data centers (including big-data). In general, for the internship participants, and our company in particular, the main purpose of the trip was to search for exits to the international market by expanding the number of useful contacts.

    We were told how the startup actually works - outside of Russian realities, where the startup culture was planted on top with the slogans “Everything is behind nanotechnology”, and in Silicon Valley, where the madness of venture capitalism was born. About how to assemble a team, present your project, attract venture capital investments, circumvent legal obstacles. About how not to lose the project, who is a business adviser, what are the main mistakes you can’t make, and what not to get out of.

    We considered three possible areas of activity for Russian startups:
    1. Clones of foreign services (soil preparation for the arrival of "parents" in Russia).
    2. Innovative projects (global services oriented to the whole world, the most difficult and promising direction).
    3. The project as a pre-sale presentation of the team (a high-tech and possibly completely meaningless project that reveals all the skills of team members).

    The third direction, by the way, according to the sad experience of our interlocutors, is often implemented without the desire of the startups themselves - the project receives investments on round “A”, loses control over the team and the project, crashes from its own startup, which is closed, and the development team is transferred to another, larger project.

    We also discussed options for attracting investments, their advantages and disadvantages, and tried to classify:
    1. Venture capital investments.
    2. Investments from business angels.
    3. Friends and Family Investments.
    4. Bootstrapping (fully independent investment in the project).

    You can talk about each of the options for a long time, touch on pitfalls, pros and cons - but this post is about internships. Once again we restrain the desire to start retelling the most interesting cases and expert presentations :)

    Presentation - how to sell to an investor

    Briefly about how the presentation speech to the investor should look: briefly.

    No need to highlight the features of technological processes, detailed marketing plans, analytical reports - all this is useless. As we were told by specialists from Stanford (a wonderful university, whose training focuses on practical business problems and preparing students to solve them), a good presentation should answer 7 simple questions:
    1. What problem is being solved?
    2. How many people have this problem (market size)?
    3. How is she solved?
    4. Is this the team that can solve it?
    5. Who else and how to solve this problem now?
    6. The scheme of "making" money (where, how, how quickly).
    7. What has already been done in this direction and how it is perceived by the market (prototype and traction).

    Especially such a “sister of talent” is typical for Silicon Valley - after all, an investor can be found at any party, in a pizzeria, but anywhere - thanks to the developed culture of business parties, and the combination of “fan” and business familiar to Silicon Valley. I was very pleased with the tradition at parties to stick on presentation stickers that characterize you around: "investor", "angel" - yes, even the "sun". This tradition perfectly characterizes the communication climate, pace and format of communication in the Valley: in 5 minutes you can meet the right person, present your project and attract investment. By the way, the average size of seed investments attracted at the first stage is 300 thousand dollars.

    apart from styding

    Two weeks passed like a day: constant practical training; interesting communication with internship participants, teachers and experts; trips to San Francisco, San Jose; visits to major incubators, offices of friendly companies, Berkeley and Stanford; a lot of new acquaintances, potential customers and partners, cool parties. I’ll end the post with one of the most impressive moments of the trip: on a rental cabriolet, along America’s most beautiful road, Road No. 1, along the ocean coast.

    You can’t tell everything that happened in 2 weeks, but if something is interesting - write in the comments, we will tell you with pleasure.

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