I just had someone whom I originally met in DC come by our office here in SF. He's out here trying to get a new startup off the ground.
I told him I'd send a few ideas his way to help him figure out how to take advantage of being in SF. Instead of sending him a private email, I figure it'd be great to get it going as a public conversation where other entrepreneurs can contribute as well.
So here's the question: If you were new to SF with a startup idea, what would you do first?
Here's my quick initial list:1) Create a demo or prototype. People in the Valley won't take you seriously unless you have something to show them. The litmus test: It's interesting enough that the person doesn't feel like they've seen it all before.
2) Find experts in your field to believe in you: Getting some social proof in the Valley is super important. Pick whomever is at the top of their game in whatever field they're in, and find a way to meet them, and show them the demo you made. Get them interested in what you're doing. And if you can't get them interested in what you're doing, then that probably means you need to iterate more on step #1.
If you're not sure how to get access to whichever Subject Matter Expert it is that you want to meet, then you need to start learning to think creatively. Hint: Use the networks (like LinkedIn & Facebook) of people you know to get intros to the SMEs you want to meet. People will usually take an intro if it's from someone they know.
And ideally, you can get one or more of them to become an advisor in your startup, maybe for a quarter point of equity or so.
3) Apply to Y Combinator, 500 Startups and all the other accelerator programs. It's worth doing, for a couple of reasons: First off, you'll get invaluable feedback from incredibly smart people in the field. And secondly, you might actually get in. There are a lot of places you can learn about how to optimize your chances for getting into YC. While you're at it, read all of Paul Graham's essays. They're incredibly good.
4) Go to Meetups. There are tons of meetups in the Bay area about every conceivable topic. It's a great place to meet people who are also doing interesting things in whatever field you're in.
Other than that, the best thing you can do is to actually build something interesting and get a group of users to be passionate about it. That type of traction trumps any amount of talk.
Once you feel that you're ready to start looking for funding, you can read a bunch of articles I have on leveraging AngelList.
And lastly, pat yourself on the back. Few people have the gumption to pick up their lives in another city and make a blind move out to the Valley. Welcome, and good luck.
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