Agenda: Madeline Duva, Marvin Liao 500 Startups, Roman Kostochka Coursmos
Not having time to recover after a busy day at the conference, our teams have already met with Happy Farm mentor Madeline Duva the following morning. Madeleine is the perfect candidate for the start of a long series of workshops and meetings that we had planned for the next two weeks in the States. Madeline has 20 years of entrepreneurship experience. She serves on the supervisory boards of numerous startups in the mobile industry (such as Drop, Eyefi, mPerpetuo, Phone Halo, SplashTop), mentors Founder Institute, Happy Farm, Highway1 accelerators' startups and regularly advises hundreds of startups around the world.At a meeting with Madeleine participants of the tour had a great opportunity to pitch their projects, get feedback and answers to their questions regarding business models, technology development, starting a startup in the valley and promotion of the product on the US market.
The next point in our program - a trip to the most powerful startup forge in the United States - 500 Startups business accelerator and venture fund. The legendary accelerator was founded by one of the most influential people of the Silicon Valley startup industry - Dave McClure and is in the top 5 best accelerators of the USA. In just 3 years of its history they have invested in over 700 startups all over the world. Unfortunately, during our visit Dave was out of States, however we did have a meeting with a person just as great – 500 Startups venture partner – Marvin Liao. Happy Farm is working with Marvin Liao since the very first cycle and values him deeply for his extensive experience and deep expertise in startup industry. Former Yahoo Top Manager, today Marvin is one of the most active US startup mentors working with young companies from Eastern Europe and the CIS.
Marvin has told us how the work process at 500 Startups is organized, what they are looking for when selecting projects and what the startup needs to attract investments. Interestingly, during the current 500 Startups cycle there was one project from Ukraine – MyTips, an online constructor with step-by-step tips for complex interfaces. Our group has agreed that the situation needs to be changed and that no matter what, other Ukrainian startups should be sitting at 500 Startups in the nearest future.
After two meetings in San Francisco at the end of the day we hit the Silicon Valley, the wonderful city of Redwood. We had a meeting with Roman Kostochka there, CEO and Founder of Coursmos, Happy Farm second cycle resident (summer 2013). Coursmos is an online platform of micro courses, where during the Q&A sessions everyone can share their experience on a particular topic. At the moment you can watch and listen to over 10 thousand micro courses at Coursmos platform. It was a very useful and inspiring meeting as it was an opportunity for us to see an example of how a startup from Russia lives and works in the Silicon Valley, pros and cons of moving, building a business there and most importantly – how to overcome difficulties encountered in your way, when you are building a business in a foreign country.
Roman has moved to the Valley with the family less than a year ago, gathered a wonderful team of professionals, which he is particularly proud of. Roman’s team’s secret, as we have heard and saw it, is in the following:
1) Absence of a strict hierarchy: positions in the company are not given much importance. All the decisions are made together. The team has a high level of trust and mutual support.
2) Flexibility: if by trial and error the team realizes that it is necessary to do things differently – everyone can quickly refocus and direct all the forces towards implementing something new.
3) High inner motivation: each team member is in love with the company and sees the improvement and development of its product as a personal goal in life.
As a part of questions and answers session the guys have raised their concerns – startup monetization, promotion strategy, search for partners and much more.
Our meeting with Roman has ended unexpectedly. Leaving our group in good hands of his amazing wife and his team Roma has said his goodbyes as he had to rush to play hockey with Guy Kawasaki.
The main conclusion all of us made after visiting Coursmos is that nothing is impossible and all the barriers only exist in our minds.