On September 12, 2012 the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce San Francisco/Silicon Valley presented the first installment of a three-part seminar series focusing on the extraordinary culture and systemic innovation unique to Silicon Valley. The seminars were appropriately conducted at the Computer History Museum, in the heart of Silicon Valley, where it is impossible not to be inspired by the dynamic environment.
After participating in the chamber’s seminars, I want to say to all entrepreneurs, start-ups and venture capitalists out there: Move to or at least visit "the valley of success.”
Silicon Valley, located in the southern San Francisco Bay Area in northern California, is home to several of the world’s largest corporations specializing in science, engineering and technology, as well as thousands of start-ups. First called “Silicon Valley” in 1971 by a local newsletter writer, the region is now regarded worldwide as the ultimate place for entrepreneurs and start-ups to achieve rapid success.

Driving through Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View (“the Googleplex”) is one way to observe the might of Silicon Valley. The region is also known for the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who built the first Apple computer in a garage located in Paola Alto, a story that still inspires entrepreneurism in Silicon Valley. Although it is a mission impossible to create a Silicon Valley-like region in Sweden, this seminar series aims to bridge the two countries and highlight insights that can be incorporated into Swedish society.
The first seminar, titled “Success in Silicon Valley,” investigated the underlying factors which have contributed to making the area a success. Why is it home to the most innovative companies in the world? While high technology research, capital and manufacturing procedures combined with a high pool of talent are important elements, the panelists agreed the key aspect is culture. One factor the panelists highlighted was the attitude toward risks and failure. In Silicon Valley failure is not a flaw but rather a valuable lesson that can strengthen the next venture. Entrepreneurs who once failed are never getting criticized—instead they are encouraged to continue innovating. So, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs never quit; they persevere: Failure teaches them how to succeed.
Another key factor is the idea of partnering; even potential competitors take chances together. The “Silicon Valley culture” enables people with diverse skills and backgrounds to collaborate and trust each other in ways that are hard to find anywhere else.
The format of this seminar was a panel discussion with highly experienced and well-regarded executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who have operated in Silicon Valley for many years. It featured distinguished speakers such as Dr. Arthur Bienenstock and Richard Elkus, Jr. attracted over 80 attendees from Sweden, Norway and the U.S.


Bridging Two Worlds
The second seminar, “Bridging Two Worlds—Helping Your Business Excel in Silicon Valley,” explained how a business can grow in Silicon Valley and what key factors to keep in mind when looking for new capital in a competitive climate. Silicon Valley has the most venture capitalists in the world with a constant flow of new investments. The seminar aimed to span the two countries’ cultures by incorporating Sweden’s investments in its vast start-up industry with those in Silicon Valley.
Besides important ingredients—talent, culture and leading tech companies—the discussion focused on the importance of establishing relationships. One panelist made his point by ironically comparing the first meeting between an investor and the entrepreneur to a first date: Both parties are looking for the relationship to “click.” The statement opened a lively discussion in the audience, which was both eager and open to sharing their knowledge and opinions.

I consider Silicon Valley to be a state of mind rather than a geographic area. A state of mind where failure and success go hand in hand. I do believe Sweden could successfully incorporate insights from Silicon Valley and learn a lot while doing so. I also think the spirit critical to Silicon Valley’s success was best summarized by Winston Churchill: "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

How to succeed?
Finally, don’t miss the third and final seminar this spring. It will cover the important topic of how to be successful when integrating your company after it has been acquired. For many entrepreneurs acquisition is what they hope for, but how can you ensure post-acquisition success? The seminar will answer that question from both the entrepreneur’s angle as well as the acquiring corporation’s point of view. A number of important personnel from the corporate business world will be present and offer insight on how to excel in this area.
On behalf of the SACC SF/SV I would like to thank law firm K&L Gates for generously sponsoring the seminar series. Also, a special thank you to Partner Lars Johansson for his support and participation throughout the project.

Rebecka Magnusson, Project Manager, SACC-SF/SV