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Pitching and Networking in Silicon Valley

By Ola Clark - Posted on 18 September 2014

Business Enterprise undergraduate Ola Clark shares her and her team's experience of taking their new smartphone health app, Monomise, across the Atlantic with business incubator ‘We Are The Future’

We Are The Future helps start-ups and entrepreneurs reach their full potential.  They host a number of start-up summits in different countries and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to represent our idea, Monomise, at the Scottish Start-Up Summit in San Francisco.

Monomise is a smoking cessation programme that consists of a carbon monoxide reader and motivational app. The reader’s purpose is to calculate the levels of harmful carbon monoxide in the user’s body, with results being transferred onto a motivational app that tracks the user’s progress over time and rewards them for doing well.  The main focus for Monomise is to help individuals sustain their progress and keep off cigarettes for good.

During our first couple of days in San Francisco, we visited some exciting and innovative businesses including HP, Monkey Inferno, Airbnb, RocketSpace and Vintage Electric Bikes. It was so interesting to see how different the working culture is in San Francisco. The offices had such an informal, relaxed atmosphere with an obvious lack of structure which proved to stimulate a creative environment.  We had some pitching practice with Silicon Valley Bank and were also shown the offices of Google, Facebook and Apple.  It was very inspiring to be up close and personal with these house-hold names.

The trip culminated with the We Are The Future Global Start Up Summit which took place in the amazing RocketSpace studios. I had the opportunity to pitch Monomise in front of various venture capitalists, global business leaders and journalists which was an incredible opportunity that led to Team Monomise making valuable contacts.

The trip taught me some very important lessons.  Firstly, how vital networking really is. We attended various networking events - including Start Up Grind - and it quickly became apparent how eager people in San Francisco are to help one another progress their businesses. It was great being involved in this sort of activity as I gained lots of useful feedback for Monomise whilst forming new connections.

I also learned how important it is to use your initiative to get out there and make things happen. There are a huge number of start-ups in San Francisco so if you have a good idea, you need to start pursuing it before somebody else does! This definitely boosted my motivation to ensure Monomise reaches its full potential.

Finally, I realised there is a lot of support out there for female entrepreneurs.  Initially I thought that being the only woman on the trip would have its disadvantages but the reality was the complete opposite. In San Francisco, there is a massive buzz surrounding the topic of female entrepreneurs, with various events constantly being organised to encourage more female-led start-ups.

San Francisco is unique when it comes to its business community.  When I was there I noticed business meetings taking place around every corner.  People were working on their laptops in coffee shops or in the park with impromptu team catch-ups taking place nearby.  There were lots of networking events taking place nearly every day. The number of various business accelerators, start-up programmes and business mentors available was unprecedented and confirmed how willing individuals were to help start-ups grow.

For Monomise, the trip was amazingly helpful. We implemented the constructive feedback our idea received resulting in the adaption of our original concept.  We also received some very useful advice on how to approach new funding opportunities which we believe will enable us to take our business to the next stage.

Not only did we establish a great network in San Francisco, but we also made very useful contacts within We Are The Future and its sponsors.  We are so grateful to We Are The Future for the growth opportunities it has provided us.  I strongly recommend budding entrepreneurs to get involved with one of the huge number of entrepreneurial events and competitions available, as they have the potential to give you the tools and confidence you need to take your business idea to the next level.

Have you previously worked with a business incubator like We Are The Future?  What do you feel is the most valuable thing these organisations deliver?  Let us know your thoughts below.

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