It’s week one of the MaGIC e@Stanford program, so classes haven’t started yet, but we’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing startups and businesses in the Valley, including Google, Thumbtack, Twitter and many successful Malaysians who currently live here. I’ve already learned so many things, not just from the people I meet here, but also from the other Malaysian co-founders travelling with me.
Here are some of the top things I’ve learned for e@Stanford!
1) Collaborative communities
Entrepreneurs in the Valley are generally incredibly collaborative. The ones that are still at early stages of their startup discuss ideas with other startups and share resources, and the ones that have “made it” try to give back by giving advice and mentorship to those still in their early stages.
This is something I really admire, and it’s this community spirit that we need to create and replicate if anyone is ever going to want to be the next Silicon Valley.
2) Appreciation for innovation and long term
Startups in the Valley can fetch high valuations when they try to raise funds, even before a clear monetisation strategy. The matrix in which investors evaluate startups move past just looking at financials, as they consider whether your product has any network effects, or is potentially game-changing, and trust the entrepreneur (if they have a proven track record) to be able to monetise and bring the product to market at the right time.
Put simply, to get investors interested, startups will of course have to be able to show traction, but traction in the Valley is not measured just by looking at money.
The good news is, there are more and more investors looking to Asia now due to it’s high growth, so over time, some investors in Asia will start to look past the initial financials, but it will depend on the nature of your product.
3) If you want a mentor, you have to be coachable
I heard this quote and thought it was pretty funny “Don’t be an *sshole, if you’re not Steve Jobs, you shouldn’t act like him.” And he was referring to how some people want to have a mentor, but because very often mentors may not come directly from your industry or have product knowledge, it’s easy to think that you know better than them. When you start to think like that and are not open to hearing the mentor’s input, you will be seen as uncoachable, and it’s something that would also concern investors.
4) Strategy to grow in SEA
Almost every country in SEA has different cultures and speak different languages, and governments have different regulations, therefore when it comes to scalability in the region, there are a bit more challenges compared to trying to scale in the US. However, it will be the same for your competitors as well, therefore if your startup actually executes its regional expansion well, this creates a significant barrier of entry for your competitors, and therefore it can turn into an advantage.
To plan and execute a strong strategy to scale your business, consider where your product falls within this matrix:
– Culture specific, or culture neutral
– Physical world, or virtual world
It’s true that culture, conditions and the mentality of the entrepreneurs here in the Valley are different from that in SEA, and because of that many people say that it’s almost impossible to replicate Silicon Valley.
But we don’t have to be an exact replica of Silicon Valley. What we can do is to continue supporting entrepreneurship, not just through funding, but also through events and communities to bring people to together, and continue to share ideas. Entrepreneurs can learn to adapt and communicate with investors in Asia. And we need to bring brilliant and talented non-Malaysians into our ecosystem as well, as the flow of ideas, optimism and sharing of skills is what makes Silicon Valley such an amazing place for startups.
The MaGIC e@Stanford program is so much more than just attended classes, it’s about networking, sharing of ideas, and learning directly from actual startup founders here in Silicon Valley. No textbook or class can be better than that.
If you’re as aspiring entrepreneur, definitely check out when the MaGIC e@Stanford program is running again!