The pre-Valley era and the post-Valley era
It has often been said that the life of a tech entrepreneur, like history, can be split into two parts: the pre-Valley era and the post-Valley era. The team from Smiirl (Season 4 Le Camping veterans) just recently made the trip thanks to the BlackboxVC program, sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs and can vouch for this – life is indeed different before and after Silicon Valley.
What is BlackboxVC exactly? It is a two-week program designed by Fadi Bishara, one of Palo Alto’s adopted sons whose passion for entrepreneurship is intrinsically linked to one simple notion: make sure people talk to each other! Sure, it may seem easy, but the man’s sure got a talent for it.
What’s so unique about the program then?
The program avoids the excursion-to-the-zoo feeling, not by organizing countless trips to lavishly luxurious premises of local unicorns, but by hand-picking teams to create a diversified and multicultural alumni. The experience is shared by 15 other startups from around the globe: Ireland, Australia, Canada, Israel, Pakistan, India, South Korea… And, of course, there are all kinds of projects: Bitcoin, Interactive TV, health-related big data, algorithms, APIs, to name but a few.
In this way, when we’re in a room listening to VCs, lawyers & mentors telling us how things go down over there, we end up gleaning as much from these speakers as we do from the others doing the program, who also have a somewhat (very) busy entrepreneurial life.
Friends all over the world, new clients, somewhere to stay over there (BlackBox is also a house in Palo Alto where we can stay at the drop of a hat), great memories – such as the early-morning eviction from Zuckerberg Manor by his guards when you’ve tried to get to his front door, in the hope of putting one of your products in his prized hands. (*You will also find out that, in Palo Alto, the parts of the streets where the Valley’s stars live are actually not on street view, curious, is it not?)
What did it do for Smiirl?
This short American get-away meant we were able to pop our heads up out of the rabbit hole and to get back to the spirit of Le Camping: get back to the big vision we had at the very beginning, one that can sometimes go missing when the cannons start firing.
There was also, of course, the idea of heading back there by the end of 2015, to open an office over there, raise some cash, source some partners… but equipped with the know-how, the vocabulary and some precious local contacts in our address book!