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TIPS FOR SUCCEEDING IN
SILICON VALLEY AS A 1ST TIME
FOUNDER
Niko Bonatsos
General Catalyst Partners
@bonatsos
Last Night in Santiago…
@bonatsos
@bonatsos
@bonatsos
@bonatsos
@bonatsos
2 Magicians
Francisco - Nixter Greg - AngelHack
Who am I?
•  Made in Athens, Greece
•  Studied engineering at NTUA, Harvard, University of
Cambridge and Stanford
•  Worked as a computer engineer in Tokyo, Japan
•  Launched a social network for “networkers” with one of
LinkedIn’s co-founders; we failed – wrong platform to build
on top on.
•  Early stage investor in IT with General Catalyst Partners
in Palo Alto, CA.
@bonatsos
General Catalyst Partners
•  Early Stage VC firm with $2.3 billion under management
•  Offices in Cambridge (MA), NYC and Palo Alto (CA)
•  Investing in consumer & enterprise IT
•  Very active EIR program
•  Portfolio companies include
•  Investing in all YC teams through YC VC
@bonatsos
Off we go…
@bonatsos
Drive to Silicon Valley…
@bonatsos
@bonatsos
A short story
@bonatsos
Why be a founder in SV?
•  Tech is the no1 industry
•  There is a critical mass of early adopters, founding team
talent, mentors
•  Failing is ok
•  Risk appetite is very high and the gold rush mentality
pertains
•  There is a lot of $ up for grabs by startup founders
•  If things go well you can be on the fast track… before you
realize it…
@bonatsos
And…
•  You are far away from your parents & social circles
•  This makes it ok to do crazy stuff (at work)
@bonatsos
Key Challenges
•  You don’t know anyone
•  Nobody knows about you and your past is irrelevant to
them
•  You have no $ in the bank
•  You have no team
•  You have little idea about how to execute your vision
@bonatsos
But you have…
•  You
•  An idea
•  Hopefully a crazy enough idea
•  Insane drive to chase the dream
•  A lot of other folks around you that speak the same
language as you
@bonatsos
Some areas to focus on
•  The Idea
•  The Team
•  The “Wander”
•  Raising $
•  Keeping the Burn Low
•  Exit
@bonatsos
The Idea
•  Be different (aka no more photosharing)
•  Be particularly insightful about your space
•  Focus on a big market
•  Timing matters
•  Be insanely audacious
@bonatsos
The team
•  Everybody is technical…
•  Hire some locals & add some grey hair
•  Only hire A players
•  Get married to the right investors
•  Be smart about it (data exhaust: Github, LinkedIn, stack
overflow)
•  Create a culture for building a category defining product
@bonatsos
The wander (aka “I still haven’t found
what I am looking for”)
•  Tons of ups and downs… lonely journey
•  Lack of credibility
•  Building a startup is like surfing
•  Always look for shortcuts and leverage
@bonatsos
Raising money (aka “Running up and
down Sand Hill road)
•  Important… otherwise you will be running into a standstill
•  Need to find somebody who will take a chance on you
•  Build a network
•  Seek introductions from other founders
•  Focus on fundraising and get it done
•  Use Angelist
•  Leverage tech bloggers
•  Create hype
•  Know who you are meeting with
@bonatsos
Keep the burn low
•  Infinite runway
•  Investors like it
•  You can get more shots on goal
•  Cash in the bank is more important than your mom
•  “Silicon Valley proverb”
@bonatsos
Exit
•  Some foreign teams are bit further along and have top
technical talent.
•  If it is a small idea or the inflection point is in the next 2-3
years…
•  Sell now and get a green card and a salary
@bonatsos
The 7 habits of highly successful SV
founders..
@bonatsos
You are always hiring
@bonatsos
You are always selling
@bonatsos
You are always listening to customer
feedback
@bonatsos
You are always fundraising
@bonatsos
You are always shooting for the moon
@bonatsos
You are always building a product and not
a technology
@bonatsos
You are always disrupting a big market at
the right time, with the right team and the
right product
@bonatsos
Simple stuff we often forget
•  English
•  Immigration
•  First Stop should be SF
•  Socialize
•  Learn more about the status quo
@bonatsos
And…
@bonatsos
The Greek adds to this…
Be patient as it is a marathon!
@bonatsos

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Niko Bonatsos

  • 1. TIPS FOR SUCCEEDING IN SILICON VALLEY AS A 1ST TIME FOUNDER Niko Bonatsos General Catalyst Partners @bonatsos
  • 2. Last Night in Santiago… @bonatsos
  • 7. 2 Magicians Francisco - Nixter Greg - AngelHack
  • 8. Who am I? •  Made in Athens, Greece •  Studied engineering at NTUA, Harvard, University of Cambridge and Stanford •  Worked as a computer engineer in Tokyo, Japan •  Launched a social network for “networkers” with one of LinkedIn’s co-founders; we failed – wrong platform to build on top on. •  Early stage investor in IT with General Catalyst Partners in Palo Alto, CA. @bonatsos
  • 9. General Catalyst Partners •  Early Stage VC firm with $2.3 billion under management •  Offices in Cambridge (MA), NYC and Palo Alto (CA) •  Investing in consumer & enterprise IT •  Very active EIR program •  Portfolio companies include •  Investing in all YC teams through YC VC @bonatsos
  • 11. Drive to Silicon Valley… @bonatsos
  • 14. Why be a founder in SV? •  Tech is the no1 industry •  There is a critical mass of early adopters, founding team talent, mentors •  Failing is ok •  Risk appetite is very high and the gold rush mentality pertains •  There is a lot of $ up for grabs by startup founders •  If things go well you can be on the fast track… before you realize it… @bonatsos
  • 15. And… •  You are far away from your parents & social circles •  This makes it ok to do crazy stuff (at work) @bonatsos
  • 16. Key Challenges •  You don’t know anyone •  Nobody knows about you and your past is irrelevant to them •  You have no $ in the bank •  You have no team •  You have little idea about how to execute your vision @bonatsos
  • 17. But you have… •  You •  An idea •  Hopefully a crazy enough idea •  Insane drive to chase the dream •  A lot of other folks around you that speak the same language as you @bonatsos
  • 18. Some areas to focus on •  The Idea •  The Team •  The “Wander” •  Raising $ •  Keeping the Burn Low •  Exit @bonatsos
  • 19. The Idea •  Be different (aka no more photosharing) •  Be particularly insightful about your space •  Focus on a big market •  Timing matters •  Be insanely audacious @bonatsos
  • 20. The team •  Everybody is technical… •  Hire some locals & add some grey hair •  Only hire A players •  Get married to the right investors •  Be smart about it (data exhaust: Github, LinkedIn, stack overflow) •  Create a culture for building a category defining product @bonatsos
  • 21. The wander (aka “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”) •  Tons of ups and downs… lonely journey •  Lack of credibility •  Building a startup is like surfing •  Always look for shortcuts and leverage @bonatsos
  • 22. Raising money (aka “Running up and down Sand Hill road) •  Important… otherwise you will be running into a standstill •  Need to find somebody who will take a chance on you •  Build a network •  Seek introductions from other founders •  Focus on fundraising and get it done •  Use Angelist •  Leverage tech bloggers •  Create hype •  Know who you are meeting with @bonatsos
  • 23. Keep the burn low •  Infinite runway •  Investors like it •  You can get more shots on goal •  Cash in the bank is more important than your mom •  “Silicon Valley proverb” @bonatsos
  • 24. Exit •  Some foreign teams are bit further along and have top technical talent. •  If it is a small idea or the inflection point is in the next 2-3 years… •  Sell now and get a green card and a salary @bonatsos
  • 25. The 7 habits of highly successful SV founders.. @bonatsos
  • 26. You are always hiring @bonatsos
  • 27. You are always selling @bonatsos
  • 28. You are always listening to customer feedback @bonatsos
  • 29. You are always fundraising @bonatsos
  • 30. You are always shooting for the moon @bonatsos
  • 31. You are always building a product and not a technology @bonatsos
  • 32. You are always disrupting a big market at the right time, with the right team and the right product @bonatsos
  • 33. Simple stuff we often forget •  English •  Immigration •  First Stop should be SF •  Socialize •  Learn more about the status quo @bonatsos
  • 35. The Greek adds to this… Be patient as it is a marathon! @bonatsos