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Going to Silicon Valley? Plan carefully (louisdorard.com)
58 points by louisdorard 1455 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

If you're pushing a real-estate tool, why on earth would you go to Silicon Valley looking for customers (as opposed to investors)? It's got one of the most dysfunctional, abnormal housing markets in the US, so any success you have in working with realtors there is unlikely to translate to broader market success. I'd have thought you'd have learned more by rolling up at realty industry conferences, working with professional bodies, etc...

Because, early evangelists.

Why a trip to SV specifically? Among the many reasons, there was the hope that, in SV, we would find early adopters for our technology product more easily. It took us a dozen meetings to finally realize that this wasn't true, and we didn't find people to be particularly more tech-savvy in SV — at least in comparison to Paris, London and Dublin which are the European cities I know the most.

I totally disagree with this. Having lived in London myself and now moving to the bay area, it's not that whether people are tech-savvy, but rather willing to spend time on something that may fail. This is what makes the SV gold. I found that culturally (specifically in London) that Brits wait until high tech get's proven in US markets and then they are willing to adopt it themselves. People "can't be bothered" to waste their time on technology that's not proven. Obviously YMMV, but this was my experience after working and building businesses there for 3 years.

That being said, you've already proven that people do want this product/service in large markets. All you really need to break into the US market is someone with industry knowledge and voila, you will have sales.

Note - I do find places like Stockholm and Berlin are also great places where early tech evangelists can be found in Europe.

Hey James, thanks for your feedback. Which part of the US do you think we should have gone to instead? Are there any conferences and professional bodies you could recommend us to check out?

Unfortunately I don't have any deep insight into the US realty industry, beyond having interacted with it as a customer recently. As a Brit who relatively recently came over to the US though I can tell you that from a European perspective there are probably a lot of things about the US realty business that might surprise you and affect how and to whom you might need to market the product. The seller's agent/buyer's agent split; realtor licensing and the consequent franchise and network-marketing business models, the web of different state regulations, the MLS system, "open houses", the role of online listing sites in real estate sales, and some rental markets; the dominance of craigslist in other rental markets...

Having visited the bay area from NYC, the point about travel time (1 hr on average) is useful. Before visiting the area, I had heard that things were more stretched out than on the east coast, but I still underestimated how much time we'd spend in transit.

In NYC, I take a lot of meetings (more than 5 a week on average), but rarely need to spend more than 30 minutes in transit. I'd guess the average is closer to 15.

Down in the Metro DC area it's not uncommon to spend 30 minutes to an hour travelling between meetings. In that way Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia are very similar to SV.

The title confused me a bit there - I thought the author was recommending against going to SV

At first I thought it was an intentional play on words, but perhaps it's an issue of English as a second language?

I have to admit that the title is provocative. I do think that going to SV can be a waste of time/money in certain situations, but hopefully those tips can help :)

Ironically, that title is more likely to turn away the very people the article is aimed at, i.e. if I was preparing such a trip I would not waste my time with people who are going to tell me not to.

Oh yeah, these are definitely a great bunch of tips :)

Thanks sn0v!

Also, if you're into the nerdly arts I recommend as part of "sightseeing" (all clustered pretty nearby):

Digital Guru Bookstore (and Madhuban has a great Indian buffet almost next door); Weird Stuff Warehouse (be sure to go in the back room); and there's a Fry's is close to those 2

Then slightly distant from those:

Unix Surplus (tell them Hacker News sent you and you might get a used hard disk or GBIC as a door prize, or ping me and I'll organize a time for a geek tour)

I live in the midwest and have been to SV many times but never heard of any of these places. I'll definitely check them out the next time I'm out there -- especially Unix Surplus which looks like it's just a few miles up the 101 from where I usually stay. Very cool, thanks!

I'd never heard of Unix Surplus! Looks fun. I wonder if they wipe all the media they sell, or if there's fun to be had recovering data.

I'd also recommend Halted off of Central Expressway in Sunnyvale. It looks like Haltek in Mountain View closed some time ago...

Another thing that surprised me was how people made themselves available to talk to us. We got quite a few meetings on relatively short notice, and it made it possible to learn a lot in a short amount of time. ... It may also be that they're investing some of their time to discover, before every one else, new stuff that may be useful to them. Or it may be that they're just happy to help out!

No doubt a little of all of these things. But Americans in general try to be helpful. If anything, people in the Bay area are a little more stand-offish, although this is not taken to an extreme. The helpfulness only extends so far for strangers (and even close friends) -- there often comes a point where people start to get a little impatient. This helpfulness is to be contrasted with the superb hospitality shown in some parts of the world. Americans are helpful but not very hospitable. Be prepared to fend for yourself here for anything beyond the basics.

"As I said in the beginning, we were surprised that in our industry people weren't as tech savvy or tech-minded as we thought they would be. ... Another thing that surprised me was how people made themselves available to talk to us. We got quite a few meetings on relatively short notice"

Could be that you were meeting with the wrong people - those with the time on their hands to meet over what is frankly a very unlikely opportunity for them (if you're based in France, and they do Realty in SF/SV etc) or are having to be so opportunistic are probably not the people who are going to be the best placed to help you. Those that can make that golden connection, have they key knowledge or can make something happen may be simply too busy to meet someone without a strong endorsement within their network.

I wouldn't tarnish all of SV as being "not tech savvy" simply from the bench of folks who would take a meeting like this.

I want to stress that I am only talking about my own experience and this isn't a study on SV. The comparisons I make are also based on the various tech meetups and events I have been to (unrelated to VA-Live).

No knowing how Hacker News is moderated, it'd be great, though, if someone would change the title to "Going To Silicon Valley? Suggestions on Preparation."

Then I wouldn't get cheesed off when I clicked on it, because I wouldn't click on it.

(Oh look, it happened while I was posting! Thank you Intarweb Gods).

Just changed the title based on everyone's feedback. Thanks for reading anyways!

"Going to Silicon Valley? How to maximize the time you have."

My intention was to have people really question whether it is the right time for them to go. Anyone else think I should change that title? If so, I'm happy to experiment...

Is it ok to change a title after the link has been posted?

I think your connitation might be getting lost in translation

not sure if "don't waste your time" is an american idiom or not

it comes off as "don't bother" which I don't think is what you're trying to convey

It's a UK idiom too, I also misread the title & quite a bit of the article to mean 'Don't bother going to SV'. I thought it was a bit odd he gave a bunch of tips after saying don't go.

My first impression reading the title was "don't waste your time going there".

> They are developing a click-to-chat solution for the Real Estate sector that offers 360° virtual tours of properties, guided in real time. It's a B2B technology product in an industry that's not particularly tech-savvy.

I guess it's somewhat fashionable to suggest that the industry you're targeting isn't tech-savvy, but I don't see how anyone with knowledge of the market can credibly suggest that this is the case with real estate.

My company does websites for real estate agents. I'll verify that in BC at least, realtors are not tech savvy. They'll ask for a wordpress site because someone told them that wordpress is easy, but it's still not easy enough, so they'll call us to make changes like uploading a photo or a blog post.

Many of them still write property descriptions as if they're paying by the letter in a dead tree publication - "2bdrms, 3bthrooms&snny blcny", randomly interspersed with lines like "this exciting property features exciting features like a sunny sunroof and utilities are included." Some of them are not just un-techsavvy, they're nearly illiterate.

This is an example of another fashionable exercise: assuming your customer/client base is representative of an entire market. The National Association of Realtors has over a million members. Some are obviously going to be savvier and more successful than others, but on the whole, real estate is an industry that has embraced technology and realtors use technology in a variety of ways to market listings, service their clients and complete transactions more efficiently.

You should consider that "knows how to use WordPress" is not the litmus test of tech savvy. There are a good number of folks out there who have made millions online who probably don't have any experience with a CMS.

I might have had the wrong idea. I am very interested in examples that point to the contrary!

Also, if you're going to be taking 2-3 meetings/day in the Peninsula or South Bay, rent a car. Public transit is ok in some cases for a routine daily commute, but it's a huge pain for going from one office to another mid-day. In SF itself it's different, since ~everyone is in SOMA, which is all walking distance.

In a similar vein, here's some travel tips I put together for people planning a trip to SV: http://www.ldn2sfo.com/travel-tips.html

Good general advice about doing business and meeting contacts in the US.

Bad link baiting title.

Thanks Iwan. Do you think I should change that title after the link has been posted?

Oh man, good blog post, but I opened VA-Live's website in a new tab and it scared the living daylights out of me with that awful music. I thought we weren't supposed to do things like that anymore...

Just updated the title based on everyone's feedback — thanks for your suggestions. Will update the blog itself soon!

Nice check list. Thansks

You're welcome qwerta!

Misleading, link-baiting, title.

Maybe. He's foreign, remember, so "don't waste your time" isn't the same familiar euphemism it is here.

Thanks for backing me up bennyg :)

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