After being accepted in to the Plus Eight Accelerator program, we were so excited to be headed to Silicon Valley, one of the startup capitals of the world, an entrepreneur’s playground! We packed our bags, practiced our pitch 3,000 times, and set off for an eye-opening adventure. With our first flight being delayed, we were sure we would miss our connection. They held the plane for us, however with the rush to make the flight, our bags missed out. That meant our first 2 days in San Fran’s chilly weather were spent waiting for our suitcases in our shorts and t-shirts.
We checked in to Base Camp, and thought we’d wander down the street and grab some subway for lunch. Derek and Kate had warned us about the Tenderloin, but it wasn’t until we were 3 blocks deep into the district where we received a massive culture shock. Between homeless people openly taking drugs and defecating in the street, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was at this point we swore we would never live in San Francisco unless we were offered millions of dollars in investment. Even then, we’d have to think about it!
Then the program started.
We were hustling hard on LinkedIn to set up a tonne of meetings. We reached out to anyone with a mutual connection in the valley, CEO’s, CTO’s, heads of product, marketing experts, successful founders, and unsuccessful founders. Our hustling paid off, as between the planned events of the trip we had non-stop back to back meetings with some of the most incredible people. Every meeting lasted more than an hour, and our minds were blown every time, with our to-do list getting longer by the second. We were warned that the fast paced culture of the valley meant people were very precious with their time, and meetings may last 2 minutes before people stood up and excused themselves. However we found that wasn’t the case, as people were very generous with their time, offering to help in any way they could and introduce us to other people in their network they thought could add value. Even our competition- crazy, right!?
Each meeting added tremendous value. We had tours of what a modern day office looks like, including dog friendly environments, full catered kitchens, and a rooftop park. We learnt about growth mathematics, sales funnels, and how important it is to not spend any money until you’ve customer validated everything you’re doing.
The planned sessions were incredibly valuable, and some of them were so much fun. On one of the first days we did an improv workshop. James was always first to volunteer and stick his hand up to be involved. We learnt about fire-starters (a warmer version of an icebreaker) and how to really get to know someone for who they are and what they’re like, rather than what they do. Our biggest take away from this session was learning how to be comfortable in any situation, and to celebrate failure, and accept it as a huge part of any journey.
One of our favourite sessions was the communications day. We learnt how to actively listen, open up into deeper conversation through an activity called “if you really knew me” and give and receive positive and negative feedback. This helped us not only as co-founders, but to take home and implement within business, and within friend and family circles
We also got tremendous value out of the product session and pitching to Venture University, making some incredible connections and receiving awesome feedback on our business. As we were driving back to the airport, we were contacted by Venture University, saying they loved what we were doing and wanted to talk further. Once returning home we had an hour long facetime with the partners of Venture University who were very keen to invest in us.
The experiencer we had pitching was so valuable. Between James and I we would’ve pitched our business around 100 times. Each time we got better and clearer at what we were doing, giving us so much confidence to be able to pitch to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The time spent getting to know the other teams in the cohort was amazing. Having been together for a couple of months in the lead up to the trip, we knew who the teams were, people’s names and faces and what their businesses were. But we didn’t really know them at all. We got to know each other on this trip on much a more personal level, developing real relationships. We are all going through this start up journey together, and have made lifelong friends.
Getting to spend valuable time with our mentors in Derek, Kate, and Brodie was also incredible. From drives up to Palo Alto, and cycling around the Bay Area, we got to know each other on a deeper, more personal level. The cycle also gave us a much more beautiful view of what San Francisco had to offer, riding down the pier, across the bridge and around the bay, it was magnificent.
So, was it worth it? If the trip cost 10 times as much would we still go on it? Yes we would. You get out of it what you put in to it. It is a massive opportunity to learn so much that you otherwise might not. Rather than making mistakes yourself, which you will make thousands, you get to hear firsthand about mistakes others have made, that you can look out for and avoid. This was a trip of a lifetime, and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on it.
Stay up to date with the founders of AriSave, James Lunn and Michael Breckler, you can follow their journey here:
If you’re interested in taking your business to the next level, keep an eye out for applications for the second Plus Eight Sprint cohort for 2019 starting in September or join the Spacecubed community by booking a free tour here.