5 lessons Silicon Valley can teach UK tech entrepreneurs


Silicon Valley is the biggest area of technological businesses in one area in the entire world and it is what framed the basis for the idea of Tech City – sometimes known as Silicon Roundabout – in east London.

The pace of growth in the digital and technology industries is moving so fast and combining in such a way that it’s hard sometimes to imagine where the businesses are going to go next.

However, it is true that London has become something of a powerhouse when it comes to the opening of new global offices. For example, Facebook, Google and many others have set up shop in the UK in this particular area of London.

Tech Wearables

While this is true, The Guardian has – quite rightly – pointed out that Silicon Valley still has a century’s worth of an advantage over London’s Tech City. But just what is it that gives this area of California, in San Francisco the model that all other technology companies want to emulate?

According to experts directly from the Valley there are five things that UK tech entrepreneurs can learn from their experience, starting with…

Saying ‘yes’ more often

No, is probably one of the best words in the English language, particularly when it comes to areas of business. At least, this is what has been generally accepted in the past – hasn’t it? If you want to get ahead, you have to learn how to say ‘no’ to people in order to spend the vast majority of your time doing the right things with the right people.

In fact, this way of thinking has become completely outdated, and now the business world has been continuously developing itself into a place where scepticism is no longer rife.

Americans from Silicon Valley believe that by saying ‘yes’ you are opening yourself up to taking risks and dreaming bigger, which will make yourself more successful overall.

This is less about throwing pasta at the wall and hoping something will stick, instead it’s a page directly out of Mark Zuckerberg’s playbook, in which he created Facebook by being one of the most ambitious youngsters the world has ever seen.

Experts from Silicon Valley will tell you that positive thinking has a lot to do with their own success and the success of others. Startups like Airbnb and Uber are the key examples of saying ‘yes’ and having the ambition to build a new company that feeds directly into the digital market and both, as we know, are functioning extremely well.

Sophie Adelman, UK marketing manager at Hired.com, says: “Brits usually respond with scepticism to new things and find reasons why it won’t work, rather than reasons it will work.”

Some would argue that this is how you sat-nav yourself away from disaster; expect the unexpected but, in reality, is this just killing creativity?

Think big and move fast

Renaud Visage, co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) at Eventbrite, has cheerfully commented that successful entrepreneurs at Silicon Valley have a tendency to think bigger and move their businesses along much faster than companies in the UK and Europe.

For example, Eventbrite has offices in San Francisco, London, Argentina, Sao Paulo and Melbourne – how many does Ticketmaster have?

Moving quickly isn’t something that is done by the seat of a CTO’s pants either, you had better believe that these decisions are calculated – they’re just done much more quickly.

Raise more money than you need, for obvious reasons

Although London’s tech startups have been recognised for gaining an impressive amount of fundraised money, it’s still the case that funding continues to be a big challenge.

What businesses in the UK need to remember, is that raising seed money is the easy part, people are always interested in getting on board with investing in new businesses to see what will become of their money. However, if you’ve asked for the exact amount of money you need, you haven’t factored in any wiggle room, which can hamper the success of your business and it’s difficult to convince people to part with more funds, when they’ve already done so for you once and you haven’t done what you set out to do.

Tech Enterpreneurs

Traction, although a good thing, can really be the enemy of the tech startup – avoid this by making sure that you’ve thought properly about your funding, otherwise you could risk early failure.

Investors and founders are looking for what is known as “social proof”, according to Andy McLoughlin, US-based co-founder of Huddle, which has offices throughout the world. What he means by this, is that it’s important in Silicon Valley to known where or who the money came from to give the startup gravitas and put it in an appealing position for future funding.

Pay it forward

This is a phrase that rings throughout Silicon Valley and is a large part of the technology industry’s culture.

Basically, the idea is to give to the community as a business and help it grow. Smart founders of startups will be spending their time teaching the next generation of minds how to do what they did through mentor programmes or workshops.

Doing this can also help young people make important connections in their relevant industry to push their careers along and also to help businesses acquire the best and brightest talent.

This is beginning to happen more in the UK and particularly in London, but it’s something that Silicon Valley still has the monopoly on.

What’s starting to happen now, is that these communities aren’t just working amongst themselves, as Silicon Valley is now starting to work with leading technology startups to harvest new talent for themselves and vice versa.

Give your employees more money

It might sound counter-productive, but making your employees rich could be the best decision you make for your business.

Employee perks in the UK tend to be based around things likes the season tickets to the football, or boxes at various concert arenas now and again. However, in Silicon Valley, founders of businesses are more likely to hand out equity to their employees – that’s right, stock in the company.

People who are hiring in the Valley know just how tight competition is for the best staff out there, as technical hires are poached from one company to another. Offering employees share options in the company makes them feel much more valued and important, as they literally have ownership in the business. In this way, people will also remain loyal to companies, rather than feeling as though they’re being bought off with nice things like trips out.

The reality is that for employees, having a stake in the company makes them feel more secure too, in the sense that they are on a good wage and will be able to support their families, instead of having to shop around for a new company to give them a better salary.

Often, this is how companies lose the best people that they have, they feel undervalued and are offered things as bonuses or perks that can actually become massive demotivators.

Trust in the Silicon Valley experts with these five pearls of knowledge and you’re sure to not only build a successful company, but gain employees who honestly care about its success and expansion.