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Think Silicon Valley, mate


Traditionally, entrepreneurs explore new frontiers. But few look beyond Australia – either for markets or for venture capital.

Australian entrepreneurs with ambition need to add Silicon Valley to their horizons. The outlook is necessary to comprehend the sheer size of global markets, and to opens one’s mind to opportunities.

Entrepreneurs who wish to have a real and meaningful impact in a market the size of the U.S. there is no substitute for showing up in person. The digital world may be fast evolving but seasoned business folk know that in successful business personal relationships still come first.

For long, it has been suggested that Australian companies should establish an office in the U.S.

When I visited San Jose to attend the recent global Cleantech Open Global Forum, it was a recurrent theme among potential investors and one that was supported by Viki Forrest, CEO of ANZA Cleantech.

Forrest asserts that virtually any service or product that is a success in the home market is ripefor  huge rewards in America. But to make this happen, your sales and marketing team need to be close to your customers. Skype and email are great but are no substitute for real interactions, especially in the early and critical days of relationship-building.

Here are five reasons why an Australian entrepreneur needs to eye Silicon Valley:

Sheer size. The U.S. clean tech market is about 15 times the size of the equivalent markets in Australia and New Zealand combined. Between 20% and 40% of the world’s venture capital is raised in California’s Silicon Valley.

Thinking big. Americans teach us how to add another zero to any number we might originally consider in terms of investment. This is a big country with big demand and big orders. But don’t be overwhelmed.

Niche financing. Given its size, the U.S. venture capital market has more niche segments than we can imagine. The good news is, there is an investor for anything you might come up with. The hard part might be identifying the investors quickly.

Sharpen your minds. Silicon Valley is a highly mature market and potential investors are both highly knowledgeable and street smart. You need to come not just well prepared but with a business strategy that covers the entire commercial “what ifs.”

Just do it. Australian investors tend to be relationship-focussed. The U.S. investors, on the other hand, focus on deals because they are addressing a much larger local market. Significant numbers of them are also ready to “do it.”

Tony Fehon, director, enLighten Australia, attended the Cleantech Open Global Forum in San Jose where his company’s Chamaeleon light was one of six finalists in the Global Ideas competition.