How to break into Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur from overseas
Cultural differences can be a huge barrier for businesses and entrepreneurs when entering new markets. Add this to the potential language barriers and the situation is all the more complicated. But for many entrepreneurs around the world that want to break into Silicon Valley, and its unique culture, this is a necessary challenge to overcome.
Marcin Kłoda, VP of Hi-Technology at intive, a global product development company based in San Francisco Bay, is well aware of how tough it can be to make the move. Armed with a personality that exuberates positivity, Kloda has done well to conquer multiple areas in Europe before crossing the pond and entering the US.
The Poland native started his career as a software engineer but found a natural talent working equally well with people. As a result, he became a Business Unit Manager at Cybercom Poland, managing a team of 30 employees while also managing long-term relationships with clients. This ability to skillful manage both these areas, accompanied with a strong technical background allowed Kloda to flourish in Europe, later joining Mobica to carry out their US operations.
Five years on and the move was a huge success, which saw the company produce $21M in revenue in 2016. This would be the ultimate stepping stone before Kloda joined intive, ultimately leading to his position today, which sees the business savvy European working closely with top-tier 1 partners in the Silicon Valley area. These include huge industry leaders such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.
When asked what it takes to create and maintain these high-level partnerships, Kloda tells me it is all about honesty. “Being reliable, always avoid overpromising and under delivering,” he stated. “I am an honest person. If I say yes it’s yes, if I say no it’s no.” This clarity and honesty is understandably an important aspect of business if you want to be taken seriously, especially in long-term business. And being true is a major factor for Kloda’s success and is deeply entrenched in his advice for newcomers to Silicon Valley.
When asked what advice he has for entrepreneurs looking to enter and succeed in Silicon Valley, Kloda told me “Never ever give up, if you truly believe in something never give up,” he said with a passionate tone. He went onto state, “I remember my first year in the US when I started here it was the hardest year of my life. My English was very poor, I didn’t have many connections, but I made it through the first year. Startups fail because they resign. If you are running a startup you need to be consistent, you can’t give up and don’t be distracted by temporary money. That is the biggest mistake in this area, you get $10M and you get carried away before a product is created.”
This positivity and passion for entrepreneurship are evident in all his endeavors. Kloda boasts a long list of positive recommendations on his LinkedIn account, a product of his down to earth, friendly approach to managing large teams. “It’s never easy, you need to keep a balance,” he said when asked how he successfully manages large teams while maintaining one of his key values, a zero politics approach to teamwork.
“I celebrate small successes, especially if someone is trying,” Kloda said. “But you need to also be serious, state ‘this level is acceptable’, ‘this level is not acceptable’, ‘I like you, I will do my best to help you out but at the same I’m a manager so we need to hit KPIs’, you need to honestly say what needs to be improved.”
This ability to balance large numbers of teams while also maintaining top business relationships speaks volumes for Kloda’s natural people skills. This is undoubtedly a fantastic attribute to help succeed in Silicon Valley, especially given the necessity to network. However, it is potentially his shinning positivity which can be considered the real secret to his success. For other overseas entrepreneurs that look at Silicon Valley as the overall goal, this should be an important lesson.
Disclosure: This article includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company