Monday, May 20, 2013

Coming to the Silicon Valley to Raise Money

Recently one of our clients, Ruslan Pichugin, CEO of Yocto Games based in Moscow, Russia, came to the Silicon Valley for a short exploratory trip. We thought Mr. Pichugin’s experience may be interesting to other startuppers out there, who are contemplating a trip to the Silicon Valley to raise money, network, or both, and Mr. Pichugin kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.

 

(1) What were some of your goals in coming to the US? Do you consider the trip a success in light of those goals?

I had multiple goals for this trip. The most important goal was to incorporate my company, Yocto Games, in Delaware. In parallel, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the legal and financial aspects of forming and funding a corporation in the US. I am happy to say that I accomplished this goal.

My second goal in order of importance was to find investors interested in my company. I realized that in two to three weeks (17 days in total) it would be next to impossible to find funding, but I wanted to at least start that process. I met several people potentially interested in investing in my company, but our discussions are still at an early stage and it may take some time for us to reach final agreement on terms. So I consider this goal 50% achieved, but taking into account the fact that I did not know anyone in Silicon Valley when I arrived and was only here for a few weeks, I feel that this is not a bad result.

There was a third goal, and that was to see American life. I was able to meet with people from many different walks to life – businessmen, computer programmers, lawyers, chefs, doctors, and athletes. I was happy to discover that life in America is not too different from what I had seen on TV!

Overall, I gained a good deal of experience, made some great connections, and consider my trip a success.

(2) Where did you stay during your trip (hotel, city)? Are you happy with your choice of the hotel and your geographical location?

I stayed at the Pacific Euro Hotel on Main Street in Redwood City. The cost for a room without a shower (yes, those kinds of rooms exist!) is $65 per night, but I stayed in a room with amenities, which cost me $80 per night.

This hotel works well for a business trip, as a place to crash at night. But it’s certainly no Ritz Carlton.

My hotel was centrally located, only a five-minute leisurely walk to the Redwood City CalTrain station. And since both San Francisco and San Jose are only a 40-minute train ride away from the Redwood City station, I thought geographically I was in a great spot.

(3) Tell us about your cell phone situation during your trip.

Initially I used my Moscow Beeline (Билайн) phone. It worked well here, but because of roaming I ended up spending something like $250 in just a few days. After that, I stopped using it and bought a local phone. I settled on a $35 “dumb” phone from AT&T. As a result, calls home became one-third of the price I was paying previously, and local calls barely cost anything at all. Over my stay, I spent about $60 on this service.

(4) I know you used public transportation and taxi to get around and did not rent a car. In retrospect, would you do anything differently?

I think that for a first visit to the U.S., it is beneficial to walk and to try to use public transportation. It’s harder, but since I wanted to get a feeling for how people live here, it turned out not to be so hard after all. In Moscow, I am behind the wheel almost the entire day when I have to go somewhere, and it takes a remarkable amount of time and energy. Next time, I will definitely rent a car, but without knowing the local roads, I would have been anxious to rent a car on my first trip here.

Although I must say, local driving brings a smile to my face. I am certain that anyone who is used to driving in Moscow would feel in the Silicon Valley not unlike a world champion in swimming would feel competing at a YMCA against their juniors’ team.

(5) What were some of the most useful events that you attended in the Silicon Valley? What would you recommend to entrepreneurs coming to Silicon Valley with an exploratory mission like your own – where and how should they look for useful activities?

The best events are ones where you can meet interesting people and useful contacts. Where to find them? I think you can find them at any startup event. The most important thing is to attend as many events as possible and to be open to meeting people. Of course, the group organizing the event and the event “topic” is important too, but you can meet very interesting people at a not-so-interesting event.

For example, I attended an event where technology companies were recruiting software engineers, a kind of specialized job fair. So in truth, I had no business being there. But I spent a half an hour talking to an entrepreneur from Berlin, who told me about the startup scene in Europe (which turned out to be very useful information subsequently in meetings with other people). Then I met a doctor, maybe in her 60s, who is working hard on her healthcare startup. I learned a lot about the healthcare industry from her, and made an interesting new contact. Finally, I met some people from a large gaming company, one of whom may be interested in investing in my project.

So you can never know ahead of time what the best meetups or events will be. The best approach is to be open to the opportunities all around you, and to meet as many people as possible.

(6) In hindsight, is there anything you did that you realize was a waste of time that could have been avoided?

My approach is that any experience can be useful (so long as it’s not harmful to your health). And often it will take some time to know what the value of a particular experience really was, so I never rush to dismiss an experience as a waste of time. Time will tell!

(7) What general advice would you give someone coming to Silicon Valley in your footsteps?

The most important piece of advice I have to offer is to have a contact person who can offer advice and assistance. I met with Inna Efimchik, and she was able to help me find many different startup conferences and events to attend, as well as incorporate my company in Delaware. Other than that:

  • Check out www.meetup.com. This is a great website that allows you to find, and register for, events both in advance of and during your trip.

  • Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone and actively approach people that you want to talk to at events. Talk to everyone (almost everyone) that you meet.

  • Get a local phone! Not only will it save you money, it will make it easier to exchange information with new contacts.

  • Everyone in the Silicon Valley uses LinkedIn, so before your trip, make sure that you have a LinkedIn profile (and it’s up-to-date).

  • Don’t forget to bring with you business cards printed in English.

  • Be prepared that prices in the Silicon Valley are roughly equivalent to prices in Moscow, on everything (food, taxi, mobile service).

  • The best burgers are at Five Guys! They are better than Carl’s Jr., In-n-Out, McDonalds and Wendy’s!

Lastly, be prepared for new experiences and enjoy!

Thank you, Ruslan! If you'd like to hear more from Ruslan, he also gave an interview to Silicon Valley Voice (in Russian) which can be viewed here: segment 1 and segment 2.

Happy company making!

Inna


White Summers  Inna Efimchik, a Partner at White Summers Caffee & James LLP, specializes in assisting emerging technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond, providing incorporation, financing, and licensing services as well as general corporate counseling.
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