Guest author Michael Schuster, investor at SpeedInvest. Photo credit: SpeedInvest
It seems reasonable to set big goals for yourself when you travel to a place called Mission. After all, the district in the middle of San Fransisco is home to some of most inspiring web companies as for example Automattic, the makers of WordPress. Our mission for this trip was not bad either. Our Slovenian startup Flaviar went on a trip to San Francisco which should help them to find new investors and open the doors to the US market. Now, I was about to join them for two weeks during this important trip and crucial negotiations.
So not only 40.000km travelling were lying ahead of me but also seven intense meetings, at least the same amount of burgers, 75 of the best pitches I’ve ever seen, a lot of coffee and even the heaviest earthquake in San Francisco in 15 years.
From Ljubljana to SF in two years
In average I go on one or two trips a year with one of our startups. From my own experience I know that all of them are intense, but only in a few cases you achieve the desired success. Though, to go to the US with Flaviar was a logical step. After two years of product development and market research in Europe, the team around founder Grisa Soba has now entered the period of scaling. Their products – high quality spirit subscriptions and hard to get full-size bottles – fit the US market just perfectly. After all, some people were already enjoying Flaviar products in the US.
Our ‘home office’, Automattic’s HQ and during my trip visiting the YCombinator Day. Photo credit: Michael Schuster
The reason for joining them on their US roadtrip as an investoris quickly explained: it is part of our investment into the companies, to support them on an operational level, although travelling with the guys from Flaviar actually feels like a roadtrip with friends. Still, they shall benefit as much as possible from our connections and experiences. So I can help with Business Development and network but also Erik Bovee, who oversees the US operations of SpeedInvest is a great support. We help to arrange business meetings and introduce the teams to our contacts – in Flaviar’s case producers of spirits and potential investors. But we also give feedback from a different angle and together we try to understand how the US market works.
Pitching skills from a different planet
What striked me most at all the pitches and meetings is the level of ambition. During my stay in the Valley I had the chance to attend the Demo Day of YCombinator, one of the best American seed accelerators. Alltogether, I have seen 75 pitches there and every single one of them was clear proof of the enourmous pitching skills that people hone in the US.
Flaviar celebrating the outcome of the trip and paying a Napa Winery designed by Hundertwasser a visit. Photo credit: Michael Schuster
Although the potential of startups in CEE is equally impressive as in the US, their pitching skills need catching up – in terms of communication and but also in terms of goal settings. Most startups on the US list their market size with amounting up to billions of dollars because they simply believe that it is possible. And as matter of fact, quite a few of them reach their goals.
Tripling turnover, without changing anything
So with Flaviar camping out in San Francisco they wanted to achieve three things: Firstly, get to learn more about their target group. Secondly, build a local network and increase their local footprint.
They did well. By the end of our trip, I’ve not only learnt that the guys have great cooking skills but also that they had already tripled their turnover – simply by going with the US flow and focusing on growth with an increased ambition level. And that’s only a little taste of what’s possible on the US market.
Enjoying the wide selection of burgers. The Hot Dog was made by Flaviar. Photo credit: Michael Schuster
To sum up, the two weeks were not only full of excellent burgers (and in the end of the trip with a bit of a school week collapse feeling) – there were also good news on the business side. Yet the details can not be disclosed at this point, new supporters were found that will mark the next big step on Flaviar’s journey and turned this ‘On the road’ trip into a success.