Greg Law looks back on the SVC2UK events in London and Cambridge that bring together early stage entrepreneurs and investors with leading serial entrepreneurs and investors to discuss and debate how and why they have come to create and fund today’s most disruptive technologies that aim to change our world.
Last week, I had the honor of attending the Silicon Valley Comes to the UK (SVC2UK) CEO Summit. This is a beautiful example of Silicon Valley acting on its 'paying it forward' mantra. For this event, very busy, high-profile and in-demand people fly halfway across the world and offer free coaching and advice. In addition, this is also a great forum for the UK’s top 100 Scale Up companies to meet each other.
It's the second SVC2UK event I've had the pleasure of attending, and once again, it was really inspiring to be among such a select group of people. It was inspirational not just to hear the personal testimony of well-established industry veterans and mentors, but also from first-time entrepreneurs attending the event. Read on to hear my key thoughts and takeaways.
A lot of great insight was shared on the topic of hiring and building a team. One of my favorite one-liners from the day was that "every one of the first hundred people you hire is a culture carrier for the organization.” For me, this was a great reminder on setting the stage early for how you want your organization to be perceived, and making sure to hire talent that fits into this culture. There was also a lot of discussion on the importance of maintaining corporate culture through spurts of growth. It is crucial not to lose sight of who you are as an organization as you grow, and culture is something that needs to be actively nurtured and preserved.
Something I found interesting, that is not often discussed, was how landing a large high-profile company as a client can sometimes prevent a start-up from reaching its true potential. Oftentimes landing the proverbial “white whale” too early can turn a blossoming business into an outsourced service provider. As an example, we were told the story of a scale-up in the Valley that had a household-name unicorn as a major client, paying millions of dollars per year. The customer was let go, even though it was a great brand to have and a huge piece of revenue. Ultimately this relationship was severed because the scale-up saw firsthand that it could not grow to fulfill its vision while a single customer dominated every minute of the day. Great story!
There was also a ton of really useful tactical advice, on topics ranging from securing Visas through the US government, to auditioning all job candidates (not just engineers) before bringing them onboard. The thinking is you wouldn't hire a violinist for your orchestra based on an interview without hearing them play, so why would you hire developers without seeing what they can code? While most companies do require coding samples, the best companies use the same process for hiring everyone, including sales, marketing and operations.
There are over half a million start-ups created every year in the UK (and that number is rising steadily). But there is a big difference between a start-up and a scale-up. The scale-ups are those businesses with the potential and the ambition to grow to become really significant businesses. Undo was one of just 55 to be selected as a company that is most likely to build a global business worth £100 million in the next three to five years. It's a huge honor to be chosen to be one such a select group. In a sea of the networking events available, SVC2UK is truly far and away the most valuable I have attended.