We are just about halfway through the TINC Fall 2014-program in Silicon Valley, and I feel like my brain is overloaded already.
To clarify: I´ve taken in huge amounts of information. This means that the ROM-part of my brain is loaded with new data. Another part of my brain is pushing the CPU to its limits, and uses almost all my RAM in processing the data. And it feels good!
Through these two first weeks I´ve learned more than I would have managed to do part-time over several years back home.
“Through these two first weeks I´ve learned more than I would have managed to do part-time over several years back home.”
— Arild Nybø, CEO, Stift.io
My colleague Terje (our CTO) and I applied to the TINC Program through Innovation Norway. We were concerned that it might be a little bit premature to join TINC for us, as we don´t have any paying customers yet. But on second thought we saw that it would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Learning from failures and successes by other entrepreneurs, the best and the not so great practice in Silicon Valley, and thus save time and money by avoiding to do some of the same mistakes ourselves, and try to do as much as possible right from the start.
Our company, Stiftio, has built a a grant application management system, connecting grantees and grantmakers, making life easier for both parts, and saving costs for the grantmaker (as you can see I have to work on our pitch…). Back home in Norway we have had two pilot customers and beta testers on board for a year. By the end of 2014 we will be ready to take in many more.
But as soon as our americanized business cards arrived from the print shop, on day two, our mentors told us: “You can´t call it Stiftio in the U.S. When you stiff someone here, it means you run away from the bill. And it can also mean difficult, rigidly formal and other not so good things.”
However, we decided to keep our cards, the product and company name, at least for now. Because we don´t know if we should take on the American market, at least not for the first year or two. Or if we should try to build traction for our product in Scandinavia, the Nordic Countries, and maybe Germany, Estonia, France and others before we set up an Inc. and go for the American market.
Some mentors tell us: “Don´t come to the U.S. until you have enough traction back home. If you come here too early, and someone in the Valley thinks that you have a great idea, they might just outcompete you. It´s a blood bath”
Their advice is that Silicon Valley these days is good for scaling, but not for starting from scratch.
Others tells us: “You have to start here in the Valley. If you make it here, the rest of the world is yours – then you can make it anywhere.”
And that question is only one of many questions spinning around in my brain these days.
Anyway, we don´t have to make up our mind about it right now. When the day comes, and the question might need an answer, we will, thanks to TINC, have a much greater decision ground than before we started on the program. And for us, that is the most important ting about TINC.
Also: The month we are here, away from our family (bless them) and the daily trivialities at work back home, we can focus nearly 99 % on developing our new business, 24/7. Back home it´s hard to focus on Stiftio at all, as we also run a web development agency maintaining nearly 200 customers.
And third, but not least: The network we’ve built during this month, both with the other Swedish and Norwegian companies on the TINC-program, our mentors, the skilled people at Nordic Innovation House, and all the fantastic ”paying-forward”-people we meet, are extremely important.
My note-to-self is to not only maintain our business idea and build our product, but to maintain and keep building our new network. If we succeed in doing both these tasks well we should have a promising future.