14 Things I learned in my first 45 days in Silicon Valley

I recently moved to Silicon Valley to attend an exclusive session of the Founder Institute led by the founder of the program, Adeo Ressi. The past few weeks have been some of the most intense in my entire life, and although I have never been poorer than I am today I have also never been happier and more satisfied. The experience has been extremely intense with over 60% of the entrepreneurs dropping out or being kicked out, and it is in the midst of this exceptional time that I have been able to collect a few thoughts on the legendary area and entrepreneurs in Silicon valley.

Here’s my list:

  1. Building a single company is not cool. What is really cool is building 7, IPO’ing 1 or 2, and selling at least 2 more out of the 7.
  2. This place is extraordinarily productive because people glorify failure as phase, not a dead end. It is just another step on your ladder to success.
  3. However, failure and incompetency sting deeply. Especially when you have to fire people.
  4. Some people live on a “26 hour day”. No, they dont stretch the space and time continuum, they simply work for 26 hours and sleep for 8.
  5.  Most ideas suck. Really, they do. And to make them suck less you have to work harder and smarter than you could have ever imagined. Few people do this, and that is why most ideas suck.
  6. Customer development is far more important than business development. One is focused on selling what you think you should, the former is focused on figuring out what customers really want to buy.
  7. Working with fellow entrepreneurs is extremely freeing. Sharing wisdom, failures, ideas and criticism is a must if you are to be taken seriously amongst your peers. You don’t know everything, and neither do they. Face up to it and be willing to disagree amicably. It’s actually a really good thing because you will learn what you don’t know, you don’t know.
  8. The BART metro cars stink. Yes they smell bad. Who thought soft cloth seats and supple carpet in public transportation was a good idea?!
  9. Its hard to find anything architecturally inspiring in the valley. I miss Chicago.
  10. Overachieving is barely baseline around here.
  11. Venture Capitalists are 10X more evil and bloodsucking than I ever imagined. And I’m sure my opinion of them is probably 10X higher than it should be.
  12. A co-founder is key to success. Only idiots go at it alone, they may go fast, but they wont go far.
  13. Raising money is tough. Doing so feels like a mix between being a street pauper, superman, a stripper, scrooge, and Tim Geithner.
  14. Being an entrepreneur sucks. What keeps you going and excited is adrenaline akin to the same thrill as jumping out a plane when you skydive…. your brain says “Oh shit I’m going to die…” and you counter with “wooohooo this ride is beyond this world… I will survive and try all the tricks on my parachute to survive because there is no plan B”.

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