To Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth

On July 26th, 2017, I spoke on a panel in San Francisco called “Innovation Bridge: Technology, Startups and Europe’s Connection to Silicon Valley.”

The Bay Area Economic Foundation organized the event.  I suspect they invited me because I was once CEO of a venture-backed European startup that moved its headquarters to Silicon Valley, and now I lead and teach innovation and entrepreneurship accelerators that span the globe.  

Our recent work has included corporate innovation accelerators sponsored by the German industrial giant Bosch, which have included Bosch teams from across Europe, Asia, North and South America.  We have also worked with the Catalan government to accelerate scientific research-based startups from leading Catalan Universities, and we have helped multiple European startups in global programs and competitions that our team has led.

When building “innovation bridges” between and across countries and continents, I think it pays for all sides to get back to basics.  We focus everything we do and teach at the UC Berkeley Innovation Acceleration Group (IAG) on the foundational idea that innovators launching new products, services and business models need to search for the truth instead of searching for affirmation.  They need to meet potential customers, users, buyers, partners, channels, sponsors, etc. – everyone who must say “yes” for the launch to succeed – to gain real insights about those people’s needs, problems and desires, so the innovators can find and validate solid product-market fit.

Sometimes we in Silicon Valley hurt ourselves by acting too much like an exclusive club, affirming ourselves in our comfortable “echo chamber” instead of focusing on facts.  On the panel, I recounted the example of a Silicon Valley VC who told me he did not invest in an international startup because he “didn’t know the guys who did their Series A.”  There may have been lots of good reasons for him not to invest, but the one he cited wasn’t one of them.

Check out the video to see a few of my other thoughts.

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