1. Listen and allow yourself to feel inspired
Americans tend to tell a lot of stories, some people like it, some don't. I really love listening to them - and I believe you should, too. Look out for the older guys though: They don't do this to brag. Those are guys who have been in the business for more than 30 years. Those are the ones that built up Silicon Valley. They love telling you how they used to hang around with Steve Jobs and how great their last weekend with Mark Zuckerberg was. Allow yourself to feel inspired - get over your german suspiciousness.
2. Get a stage and build a reputation first
Nobody will care if you don't. I've been pitching at Plug and Play's Retail Event and I believe it was important to get some initial exposure. As in all other parts of live you should try to find a mentor before making the move. You'll need someone who's going to be your host and built a reputation for you. It's always better to have someone people already trust to tell your story for you. Robin, part of Plug and Play's Team and Saeed did an incredible job at filling up my schedule and providing some initial exposure for our small company Asuum.
3. Raise money there and make sure to build bridges early on
We felt good about raising our seed round in Germany, but american venture capital is just on another level. Valuations easily triple and there is so much experience in the executional advice and feedback you'll get. Don't get me wrong: Berlin is a beautiful city with an ecosystem that works perfectly. But sometimes you don't want to be in the next Silicon Valley, you kind of want to be in the Silicon Valley. I believe it makes sense to raise a seed round within your network in Germany. As soon as it gets to a Series A you should start looking abroad. International accerlerators as Axel Springer Plug and Play have an important part in connecting you with the right people at an early stage.
4. Plan ahead and take time to follow up
Something I learned the hard way is planning our trip. We only had 2 days to do so, which left me fully unprepared (Luckily I got an email from Saeed as I arrived. I wasn't even sure if he remembered inviting me). Next time I'll make damn sure that I identify the 5 most important persons I have to talk to - before I leave Germany. And you should probably leave on a Sunday and fly back Friday evening the week after. Schedule all the meeting for the first three days, get some public exposure on the fourth and go from there.
5. Use corporates to accelerate
This is probably a more general thing I learned in the last couple of months. Plug and Play is known as the hub for connecting corporates and startups - they have 300 corporates and 800 startups in their portfolio. If you have a B2B startup, there's nothing better than getting your first initial customer, that pays you for building a product for them. And they might be your first investor, too. Axel Springer has been incredible helpful for us as we are working with publishers. Think about strategic partners early on, no matter if they are in the US or here.
6. Take your time to move the company
Even if this sounds all like you should be leaving tomorrow, don't move over too early. Berlin is the perfect place for us - and I believe many others - to be at an early stage: I believe it's already tough to find great talent in Berlin. In Silicon Valley you'll find yourself competing with other employers like Facebook and Google that pay salaries that you just can't. Rent for both - office and housing is triple. A lot of people adviced me on making the move when you have an american series A or B with the respective legal knowledge on board - and I believe it's the right thing. In the meantime you can start by going over there quarterly. Evaluate how it worked out and might scale it to monthly before a financing round, but leave the engineering team in Berlin.
(7. Be thankful and choose a few people you trust)
This trip also taught me a thing or two about who you should be working with when your company is at an early stage. This is the beautiful thing about Uli, Robin, Luise, Charlotte (you will for sure get to know all of them in this blog) and their american counterparts Robin and Saeed: They care. It's about building up longterm relationships in an environment that only allows shortterm thinking. It's the small things that show you are working with the right people: Robin picked me up every day as I was staying in San Francisco and Plug and Play is based in Sunnyvale. Saeed wouldn't mind spending all thursday night at Rosewood club with Tony Perkins, who founded the Red Herring and me talking about design, creating great content and the problems of monetizing it. He was the perfect guy to talk to with since we are in the business of freeing up content creators from the need of monetizing with unrelevant advertisments that annoys their readers. He just gets it. Those are the people you want to talk to. You might not know who they are yet, but you can figure out who can connect you to those. Be thankful for all the opportunities you get. I am.