Spreading The Seed

I love spinning tales of romance in the Silicon Valley setting. I’m told I seriously over-glamorize the lifestyles of my heroes and heroines but whatever. I write FICTION so isn’t that kind of a requirement? I mean, I have to keep things interesting. right? WINK, WINK

As an entrepreneur, I am fascinated with goings-on in the Valley. There’s such an aura over Sand Hill Road; it’s just bubbling over with innovation, creativity and energy. Being part of that atmosphere, collaborating with fellow creatives and networking with famed venture capitalists must be so charging to a budding startup CEO. And coupled with the drive to build the next big thing? Well, the possibilities seem endless. Sounds like a dream (this is where my romanticizing comes into play)…but what companies really get to LIVE it?

funny silicon valley welcome sign

Enter Y-Combinator.

Y-Combinator provides seed money to a certain number of startups deemed worthy to relocate to Silicon Valley for a three-month period. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding for a company and it helps pay expenses, allowing startups to focus on development with no added stresses.

If selected for the program, startups have access to proven innovators who will help shape and bring early ideas to fruition. They will learn how to deliver a polished pitch to investors and how to close a deal and acquire more funding, if needed. It all culminates in a Demo Day, where the elite group is granted an opportunity to present their work to carefully selected audiences.

All this in exchange for a small financial stake in each company. Sounds like small potatoes, considering most startups would never get this opportunity on their own. Networking is so key…sometimes you need to give a little to get a lot.

Just as an aside, Hubby has already advised me not to get any bright ideas about applying. LOL.

Caffeinating Sand Hill Road

Having a business on Sand Hill Road just opens up all sorts of possibilities to fledgling entrepreneurs.

Close proximity to a boatload of venture capital means that your brick-and-mortar may actually qualify for some of it, IF you can prove you have the right vision and strategy.

Case in point?  Blue Bottle Coffee.

The minimalist décor of a Blue Bottle café in Oakland, Calif. Courtesy of Clay McLachlan/Claypix.com

The minimalist décor of a Blue Bottle café in Oakland, Calif.
Courtesy of Clay McLachlan/Claypix.com

If you roast it, will they come?

Evidently.  In droves.

Venture capitalists love the next big thing. And hordes of caffeine-starved fans spell lots of $$$. But note that this isn’t a tech company.  There’s no app. It’s an EXPERIENCE. No ambiance to speak of…the cafes are very minimalist and bare, there is not a large assortment of supplemental products offered to customers (e.g. CDs, travel mugs, Kind Bars or cake pops)…no, it’s the consistency and quality that have raised millions of dollars in seed funding to bring a unique coffee experience to aficionados.

Like Apple, Blue Bottle assumes that the best customer experience is one in which all of the hard decisions have been made—correctly—in advance. (Genius Barista by Will Oremus, Slate).

You won’t find a Blue Bottle café on the corner of every metropolitan street or avenue.  The name is not ubiquitous.  Each café has its own look, nonconformist in layout but still comfortable and down to earth.  The exterior doesn’t scream GET YOUR COFFEE, HERE!!!  It’s quietly cool…muted.

But investors are taking notice.  It’ll be interesting to see how much the Blue Bottle vision changes over time as more and more money gets thrown at the venture.  Will they go mainstream?  Time will tell.