Last month, I was invited to Silicon Valley as part of a group of 15 female entrepreneurs, all interested in scaling our companies overseas.
This incredible programme was run by Silicon Valley comes to the UK (SCV2UK) and the Mayor of London’s Go to Grow Programme which seeks to help high-growth companies with mentoring, expert advice and real business opportunities.
Launched in 2006 by Sherry Coutu, Ellen Levy and Reid Hoffman, SVC2UK is a not-for-profit programme run by London & Partners to promote stronger networks and entrepreneurship between Silicon Valley and the UK.
With unparalleled contacts in the valley, the idea behind this particular trade mission was to give our growing companies the opportunity to connect with partners and venture capitalists, and learn lessons from the best on how to scale. Over four exhilarating but exhausting days we attended meetings, roundtable discussions, breakfasts and dinners with representatives of some of the world’s most impressive tech companies – Box, Twitter, X (formerly known as Google X), LinkedIn, Instagram and more – all of them start-ups once.
There are, of course, the classic stereotypical bits of advice that we associate with Silicon Valley – think big, move fast, get super funded and scale quickly, but the more valuable lessons I learnt came in the softer founder-focused guidance from extraordinary woman such as Obi Felten, Julie Hanna, Marne Levine and Hillary Smith.
So what were the three main takeaways from my visit?
As a travel company often it’s inevitable that you will need to globalise, open offices elsewhere and grow your partner and customer base around the world. There’s no rule book for how you do this and as the world seems to change tack on a daily basis, and technology innovation seems to be moving at light speed, having the time to sit and talk to people who are right there at the top, who have been there and done that, is invaluable.
I was inspired by the generosity of those super-busy people we met in sharing their time and advice and their passion for business and success, but I came home with much more than a lesson in scaling a business. I am the proud member of a network of 15 amazing women I can now call friends, and a WhatsApp support group I can turn to for business advice.
Tamara Lohan is founder and chief technology officer of Mr & Mrs Smith