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FOWA 2010 - Fighting and Thriving in the Valley


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Presentation from FOWA 2010 discussing tips for European businesses doing business in Silicon Valley.

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FOWA 2010 - Fighting and Thriving in the Valley

  1. Fighting & thriving in the valley<br />Tips for UK businesses going west<br />
  2. My name is Andy McLoughlin<br />Co-founder<br />Organiser DrinkTank events<br />Spent the last 6 months in SF<br />
  3. 2 years ago<br />SpinVox were the #1 start-up in the UK<br />Paul Carr was still drinking<br />Tweetmemewas a side project<br />Dopplr were still independent and growing<br />A twitter clone won TechCrunch50<br />Huddle was a small handful of people based in South East London<br />
  4. I spoke at FOWA ‘08 about ‘surviving prospering outside the valley’ <br /><br />
  5. I argued we have everything here we need to prosper...<br />
  6. So if Europe has everything we need, why do I find myself in San Francisco?<br />
  7. For Huddle, it was a combination of factors:<br />Our new VCs are there<br />Our big partners are there<br />Our customers are there<br />A strange desire to take on the Americans at their own game<br />
  8. It was never a wholesale move<br />}<br />Co-founder<br />Product and engineering<br />Marketing<br />Global sales<br />Huddle will always be a UK start-up<br />London<br />
  9. The good thing is, doing business in the US is easy!<br />... right?<br />
  10. Not quite. But it is do-able. <br />(and with a team of 12 in SF, here’s the stuff we’ve learnt along the way...)<br />.<br />
  11. Do you really need to be there?<br />?<br />This should be the very first question you ask yourself. <br />Is it really worth the time, expense and distraction?<br />
  12. Don’t go in blind<br />Flights are cheap so get out there<br />Immerse yourself in the start-up culture<br />Familiarise yourself with the geography<br />Meet people<br />
  13. Great events to meet other start-ups, angels and VCs<br />SF Beta<br />SF New Tech<br />Startup2startup Dinners<br />SuperHappyDevHouse<br /> is your friend!<br />
  14. Useful conversation starters when meeting Americans<br />Angelgate (or “I wish Ron Conway was my dad”)<br />Tyranny of high fructose corn syrup<br />“Trader Joe’s is awesome!”<br />Hand sanitizer<br />
  15.<br />Gaping void silicon valley<br />Navigating The Bay Area<br />
  16. Google map – SF to San Jose<br />San Francisco<br />(hipsters and winos)<br />
  17. Google map – SF to San Jose<br />Silicon Valley<br />(khaki and Googlers)<br />
  18. It’s kind of like Reading<br />
  19. (but with sunshine and palm trees)<br />
  20. Still intrigued (or love Reading)?<br />Read Paul Graham’s latest blog post on ‘Where to find Silicon Valley’<br /><br />
  21. Borrowed from<br />For us, it was always going to be San Francisco<br />
  22. Office space<br />Surplus of space in SF so ask around!<br />
  23. Office space<br />Surplus of space in SF so ask around!<br />
  24. Office space<br />Surplus of space in SF so ask around!<br />
  25. Office space<br />Surplus of space in SF so ask around!<br />
  26. Office space<br />Surplus of space in SF so ask around!<br />
  27. Office space<br />Surplus of space in SF so ask around!<br />
  28. Location sorted. You’re on your way!<br />Create US entity<br />Register to trade in State of California<br />US banking<br />Visas<br />Hiring + benefits<br />
  29. Regardless of where you trade, incorporate in Delaware<br />Generous tax benefits, well-defined body of case law<br />Suck up the cost and get a lawyer to sort this<br />Valley lawyers often willing to defer costs until VC financing and trade cost for equity<br />
  30. Great lawyers on your doorstep<br />Chris Grew<br />“the American one”<br /><br />Barry Vitou, Danvers Ballieu<br />“the ones that do Bootlaw”<br /><br />
  32. US banking for the business<br />Great things about SVB<br />Set up the account from the UK<br />They’re connected to everyone in the valley<br />Regular networking events<br />Shit things about SVB<br /><ul><li>Their banking interface was created by Satan himself</li></ul><br />
  33. US banking for you<br />Opening a personal US bank account is easybut getting credit isn’t<br />Every ATM charges a fee<br />The answer = HSBC Premier<br />Free, instant transfers between international accounts, all ATM fees repaid, credit card based on UK credit<br />Accounts can be opened from the UK<br />
  34. Company sorted! Let’s go to work!<br />Create US entity<br />Register to trade in State of California<br />US banking<br />Visas<br />Hiring + benefits<br />
  35. FACT<br />It’s very naughty to come to the US and work without a visa<br />
  36. You are allowed to stay for up to 90 days, do business for your foreign company (partner meetings, client meetings, board meetings, conferences) and perhaps take a holiday.  <br />But you absolutely cannot work for a US company. Oh no.<br />
  37. Many visas, many options<br />There are a ton of options (including temporary and student visas) but the most popular are:<br />H1-B (Highly skilled migrant)<br />L1-A (Intercompany transfer)<br />O-1 (Alien of extraordinary ability)<br />
  38. Hands up who likes filling in forms?<br />Visa applications are paperwork-intensive process and one slight error will void your application so use an attorney!<br />April Nakanishi<br />Dunbar Harder, PLLC<br />One Riverway, Suite 1800<br />Houston, Texas 77056<br /><br />
  39. Standard L1-A process<br /><ul><li>You must be outside the US to apply
  40. You must attend the local embassy in person
  41. Entering the US during the visa application is allowed but frowned upon. Make sure you can prove the trip is temporary!</li></li></ul><li>My L1-A hell experience<br />
  42. Approved Petition <br />+<br />Passport with L1-A <br />+<br />Stamped I-94 <br />=<br />
  43. It’s business time<br />
  44. Making your first US hires<br />Create US entity<br />Register to trade in State of California<br />US banking<br />Visas<br />Hiring + benefits<br />
  45. International hiring 101<br />Hiring in the US is broadly the same as hiring anywhere else.<br />Don’t hire people you might hate, make sure they can do the job, use your network, avoid recruiters etc.<br />
  46. (but if you do need a recruiter)<br />Connery Consulting ( have staffed for, Zendesk and many others.<br />
  47. Gross generalisation #1<br />Hiring in the US is easy<br />True!Firing is also easy. Get at-will contracts from your lawyers. 3 month probation period and let go if not working.<br />
  48. Gross generalisation #2<br />Valley people are more start-up savvy<br />True!It’s all about the options pool. Bonuses less common. 15 days vacation. More flexibility but people know their market value and expect to be looked after.<br />
  49. Gross generalisation #3<br />British humour is always acceptable<br />False!Keep it out of interviews. No bad taste jokes. Don’t ask people their age or personal questions. If you think it might be inappropriate, it probably is and you may get sued for it. Just don't.<br />
  50. Gross generalisation #4<br />A great package of extras is expected<br />True!The more you offer, the more attractive you will be. This means amazing healthcare, lots of snacks in the office, lunch and dinner provided, Aeron chairs...<br />
  51. Actual start-up snack room<br />
  52. NTK: US healthcare<br />Healthcare with vision and dental is expected<br />This will cost around $500 per employee (extra for spouses and children)<br />Even the best health insurance only covers 90% of cost of an accident<br />Most popular plans in CA are Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Cigna, Kaiser<br />We chose Anthem Blue Cross EmployeeElect (with $20 copay)<br />Use High Street Partners to coordinate<br />
  53. The other stuff: US payroll, social security, IRS etc<br />Like company formation and healthcare, don’t even bother doing this yourself. It’s a massive, massive distraction.<br />Again, High Street Partners ( are recommended.<br />
  54. The stark reality is setting up in the US is bloody expensive<br />$50k to get a team up and running (visas, flights, office, accommodation, payroll, taxes, incorporation)<br />10% of this cost to cheat <br />
  55. Communicating with London<br />You get up earlier (7am starts are normal)<br />UK team work later<br />VOIP office phones<br />Rebtel for cheap calls via your mobile<br />Weekly team stand-ups with video conferencing<br />
  56. Thank youAndy McLoughlin@bandrewSlides online at Thanks to Stephanie Robogeisha, Scott Rutherford, Bastian Lehmann and Alicia Navarro for their tips<br />