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The power of networking…

If I had a pound for every time I heard “Sorry, my business cards are being printed” or “Ahhhh, I didn’t bring any with me” I’d be at least a few hundred quid better off.

The thing is, I didn’t hear any excuses like that when we took a number of Bath-based startups on a trip to Silicon Valley (BubbleBath). Everyone I met gave me a business card (some nicer than others – the cards that is!) and, what’s more, followed up via LinkedIn or an email in the next few days. How often do you do that? I know I don’t do it often enough as I’ve still got a pile of cards in front of my monitor right now.

This is another one of those fundamental differences in attitude between the UK and the US. Everywhere you go is seen as a business networking opportunity in San Francisco. But why is that any different than here? Bath is a city where there’s only a couple of degrees of separation (especially if you like Rugby), so it’s got to be easy to make useful business connections here, right? And with all the digital tools at our fingertips now there really is no reason not to have hundreds or thousands of friends (BTW, I know they’re not really “friends”!) who can help your business grow faster.

Perhaps it’s time to brush off that LinkedIn account and to think of Facebook as a fantastic business tool? Oh… and actually get 1000 of those business cards printed and stuffed in all your jackets pockets so I don’t ask you for a quid next time we meet up…

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Fail Road Image

image by FireFlyThe Great http://www.flickr.com/photos/fireflythegreat/

So… (apparently all West Coast folks start a new sentence with so…!)  learning #2 from BubbleBath 2011 was about the West coast attitude to getting things wrong. You know, getting things wrong so much that you lose the company and have to sack your friends and colleagues.

In Silicon Valley, failure just means you’ve probably learnt something – if nothing else, not to do that mistake again!  Pretty much every entrepreneur we met has some serious screw-ups under their belt and some even seemed to think you can’t be a ‘proper’ entrepreneur without some carnage being left behind you as you clearly can’t have been pushing hard or fast enough! As an example, one company we met have “pivoted” (one of the “in words” from the lean startup approach – essentially meaning you failed!) after investments of tens of Millions of dollars and genuinely see that as a positive move for the business – after all, why would you carry on with Plan A if it isn’t going to bring the out-sized returns you need?

In the UK we naturally think of business failure in a completely different way. For those few who actually take the risk of moving out of a paid job to take on the start-up world it’s usually a one-off. It tends to go something like… “I’ll give it a jolly good go, and if it all goes tits-up I can always go back to a 9 to 5 or contract for a bit”. Silicon Valley on the other hand is pretty much “I’ll give it a go. It’s bound to work and even if it doesn’t I’ll learn from it and do it better next time”.

Then there is other people’s view of failure. Instead of the attitude I sometime perceive here of “hmmm… she failed last time, so perhaps we should use someone else” we saw more of “Guess it failed but she got over it and now she’s got that to learn from. That’s gotta deserve another try”.



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Stuff that people from Silicon Valley say

This is a great video of classic “Silicon Valley speak”. Anybody up for making one like this for Bath? With added west country accents…

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