I just returned from my second trip to the valley (read my report of my first trip here, (German)). It was again a very inspiring trip, so I'd like to share my notes with you.
It's been _the_ week of the crisis and it was exciting to follow. I'm not sure if exciting is really the right word for this. Until I had a talk with my landlady who was telling me about how her retirement funds and the college funds for her daughters had dropped, the whole crisis was very abstract to me. Just then I realized how much value has been destroyed during the last 10 days and that it of course already started to affect all of us. Time will tell of how hard the impact is going to hit us but I'm pretty sure that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg.
However, I believe that if you as a start-up did your homework than you should be okay. Of course, it doesn't apply to all start-ups - the one's currently looking for funding will have a hard time. But when I read i.e. Jason Calacanis list, Fred Wilson's additions, etc. I always thought, come on guys, that's what we've been doing since day 1. Bootstrap as much as you can, only spend marketing money if you've proven it works for your model, etc.
I even think, that the downturn might offer some opportunities. We as start-ups should be the most flexibel companies out there so we might aswell adapt quickly and see where our chances are. Maybe, I'm too optimistic but I seriously think that the crisis does offer opportunities.
//Quality? Which quality?
I had an interesting conversation with a guy who I introduced to Jimdo. When we were discussing its quality he said "it's only the Germans who care about Quality. The French care about Theory and the Americans about Money". Well, since we're a very quality driven company it got me thinking. Anyway, a couple days later I met with another guy and he was very enthusiastic about the quality of Jimdo ("beautiful German Engineering"). What's my take on it? So I started thinking again. Quality is only one of many success factors - it alone won't make you the master of the universe but it can certainly help you getting there. I think it's also something about the company's soul. For us, for example, it's very important to serve our users a first class product. It's just the way we are. If we didn't offer a high quality product we just wouldn't feel comfortable. That's why we're definetly going to stick with premium quality.
When listening to the ads on the radio, walking through the streets, talking with people, I realized that the States are ahead of us when it comes to offering value for the customers. There's for example this ad running on the radio offering a color for painting houses. The speaker introducees the color as the easiest way to make changes to the look of the house. Not that it's ten times thicker than the competitors color.
And I get the impression, that US companies are faster adapting to market changes. Just days after the crisis, products were marketed differently (i.e. a bank that's pointing out the amount of private savings it has as a security). I was pretty amazed by how quickly that happened.
What I really like about the valley is the open atmosphere. If you go to one of the several events in the valley, you'll meet lots of very interesting and open minded people. Even big guys take the time to give you their opinion about your product, your positioning and are also willing to help out with contacts. It's something I find very inspiring - and that I really appreciate.
//Why did I go?
We want to establish Jimdo as the world's leading website creator. And of course, the US is a core market. In order to get even more traction we've decided to put more focus on
the US. to be honest, it's not that easy to do that out of Hamburg. So we decided that I was going to book flights and take it from there. When I sat in the plane to the US I really had no clue of how we were going to proceed. It's not completely clear yer, but I've got a way better picture.
So, all in all, it was a great trip and definetly worth going.