Lessons in the States

We had just started in the Startup Sauna when it was time to leave for the States. In a way it was sad but new adventures were waiting. Quite suitably the last sessions at the Sauna was about networking. A skill that would definitely come in handy on the trip. There was a lot to do and as I would have to be at the airport at 4am, I decided to save sleeping for the flight. Worked pretty well, as I fell asleep during the take-off.
On the same journey were three other startups from the Summer of Startups program in Turku plus our coach and four guys from Boost Turku ES. The startups had been arranging meetings to check the competition and possible partners. There were also some events for the whole group. In the Bay Area we were joined by a group of people from Aalto ES.
In Boston we visited Techstars, Dogpatch Labs and MassChallenge. Each one was offering, to some extent, the same services to startups but had entirely different business models for themselves. For our purposes Techstars was perhaps the most interesting as they have also been ranked as the best accelerator program in the States (and the whole world for that matter). MassChallenge was also interesting with the buzz of dozens of energetic startups in one floor of a skyscraper. And by the way, Boston had just had the first snow storm of the weekend – something we had not yet seen in Finland.
The Bay Area was as busy as could be expected. Everyone seemed to have something to do with startups. The atmosphere was interestingly open and people seemed genuinely interested in what you are doing. On checking Eventbrite and Plancast it was immediately clear that every day there were more events than you could attend.
My week in the Valley did not start too well. The first meeting was on Monday at 10am. I doubled the travel time given by Google Maps but found myself stuck in traffic with hope of being on time. After that I knew better than to try the 101 in the morning (Interstate 280 was the answer). The next meeting went much better and I was also told that about one quarter of the meetings in general are cancelled due to traffic.
During the week I learned a great deal of networking, how things are done in the Valley and met with a bunch of great people. One of the most important lessons was that people are not that different. The ideas and plans are not necessarily better than what we have. But they are closer to the big market. And they know how to be social and cheering. The last one is something we Finns should learn more about.
On the last day of the trip it was time to relax. We went to Santa Cruz to learn one more skill essential to startup entrepreneurs: surfing!

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