Guest Access @ SLP Silicon Valley

Once I landed in San Francisco with the knowledge that I would be spending one whole month in the Bay Area, I started racking my brains on things to do here. That's when it struck me that Startup Leadership Program has a chapter in the Silicon Valley. A couple of emails later Ankit Jain played the perfect host and invited me over to two sessions of the chapter that were happening the same week.

The first two sessions that I attended were at the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati office in Palo Alto. Rama Sekhar, VP at Norwest Venture Partners and a previous SLP fellow, talked to the class about financial modeling with a VC perspective. One thing that made Rama's presentation interesting was that he talked not only about the known issues when presenting to a VC but also things like "How we need to be early but expect the partner to reach late" or "How we need not get hassled by an audience distracted by BlackBerries".

The financial aspect and therefore its presentation will differ based on the stage we are in. However, it is important that we presented our financial model clearly. It is important to spell out your assumptions clearly. Incidentally, on a related topic, I read an interesting post by Jason Goldberg of Fab.com.(shared by, Kapil, again a SLP Silicon Valley fellow)  He talked about how he designed a new process to pitch to the VCs so as to ensure that the entire cycle of securing securing venture capital was not only shortened but less painful and less distracting from their actual goal of running the company.

Rama's presentation was very useful for understanding what aspects we need to keep in mind when making a presentation of the financials aspects of our venture. This was followed by an activity based session by Barbara Fittipaldi of Center of New Futures. As far as I am concerned, it was an "interesting" session. I am wary of activities that can be categorized as Self Help and I fought hard in my mind not to approach this session from that angle of skepticism. Even though it would be difficult to summarize the message from the session into a paragraph, the underlying theme of Barbara's message was "If you want to go great things, in all probability, you are not going to reach there by doing the normal". She gave anecdotes and pointers on how to map your path to achieve your goals. What was interesting to know was that there were so many people in the class were open to her ideas and her message. Belonging to the Hyderabad Chapter, I could not help thinking, what would be the value add and reception to such a session in my chapter.

The third session that I attended was on a bright Saturday morning in the TiE office, Santa Clara. The topic, Financial Modeling, was kicked off by Ann Rogan. Ann presented the class with a template of a financial model that she filled up with data from her enterprise. This particular session was the most interactive of the ones I attended in SLP Silicon Valley. Most of the participants, on account of being existing or budding entrepreneurs, were informed on different financial aspects about an enterprise. Some of the topics discussed were - "projecting your startups' numbers on a monthly or quarterly basis - when to go which?", "the sensitivity of your financial model to a set of parameters that you use", "how to arrive that Customer Acquisition Cost", "differences in your model depending on your startup being an enterprise or eCom ?(or similar) startup". After Ann's walkthrough, we watched a video on Balance Sheets from the Khan Academy.    Following that Sheila Maithel of Brillist, who was with SLP Delhi and is now with the Silicon Valley chapter, walked us through her thoughts about a financial model when she came up with her idea. Evidently, Sheila was still working out the financial aspect of her startup. But the discussion in the class was not only supportive but constructive too - for Sheila and for everyone else.

Overall, for me, it was a valuable learning experience to share time with fellows from the SLP Silicon Valley. One thing that struck me and which I also told fellows here was that it was interesting to note the kind of problems we were solving in Hyderabad (India in general) were different from what we were doing here in Silicon Valley. This obviously is a reflection of the needs of the market or shall we say the needs of the society in a particular geography. I wish all the entrepreneurs, best of luck, in their entrepreneurial endeavors. Hope to meet all of you again soon.

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