End of August, same week as Burning Man (thanks VMware – please reconsider next year), it has become a tradition: VMworld, VMware’s own trade show with their whole ecosystem and more than twenty thousand attendees.
One good thing is VMworld is again in San Francisco. I remember when it was in Las Vegas; the long ways from one hotel to another, the way inside the hotel to Sands Expo, how convenient is it here in San Francisco. I can walk to Moscone Center from both office and home.
In a nutshell, the show was a great success for my company. It was difficult to leave the booth, even when fully staffed, to get a meal or visit the restroom because it was always busy.
It started not so well though – our neighbors had a rollup that blocked our view and when we politely asked to replace that, everybody was very friendly; until their “boss” came and this person was rude as hell. I told him literally that he was “rude” and we’ll contact the trade show organization crew, and he just left. Now of course I could not resist to ask his employees why they would work for “such a jerk”. Everybody was silent. Minutes later the organizers were here and the rollup was gone. After several trade shows we know the rules and we knew we were right, and I wonder how somebody who is “Marketing Director” of a VC-financed company can a) not know about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and b) be so weak that he is unable to handle such a matter in a way that doesn’t leave his employees in pure embarrassment. Anyway, everybody can have a bad day, so let’s get over it. We had a great show, and they had a great show.
The VMworld party was also great. San Francisco’s baseball stadium, the AT&T park was the party location, and we had two world-class bands playing, Imagine Dragons, and Train – the latter local from San Francisco, which is kind of cool.
Yesterday I was at an event in Palo Alto by Sales4Startups Inc. I can highly recommend them and I like the idea. These are great, idealist people – good speakers also – with a mission. Check out their web page.
One can not reiterate how important it is to have good sales. So many people in Silicon Valley are engineers, some of them even despise sales. But sales is not bad. Not for the customer and not for the vendor. If you have a good product, you can have an honest sales process and don’t have to be ashamed of it – that’s part of entrepreneurship! And it is necessary to build up your company. In fact, sales does not even have to be about money. It is about promoting your product. This happens in the open source world as well. Why are some projects more successful than others? Take Linux for example – why is it Linux that has become what it is and not FreeBSD? Or MINIX? Obviously somebody was a better seller, even though it’s all free stuff.
What struck me a little though – unrelated to the actual Sales4Startups event – was a quick talk I had with a Venture Capitalist. Now, my company Stratodesk has customer traction and is not in need of buildup money, but still one engages in a friendly conversation. The VC said something I of course had heard often before in various forms: “We don’t even look at companies in San Francisco, it’s too far to drive up there”. So this is not about this particular person, rather the whole tradition has somehow has evolved: I mean I was driving 45 minutes from SoMa to Palo Alto yesterday around 5pm and it was the time President Obama arrived at SFO. Is this really a problem in a country where people drive an hour for dinner? I mean we are not talking about being in Wyoming or so. Now to put it differently I know that a significant portion of the Silicon Valley VC community indeed wants to see their ecosystem in a 20-minute-drive radius around Sand Hill Road. So far so good.
But is this what you as an entrepreneur deserve? Wouldn’t you rather want a VC that goes through thick and thin with you? That is flexible and adapts to change? How will somebody who refuses to drive even to The City then react to an important change in business plan or technology that you propose? That means, for all those VC companies that like to differentiate themselves (and I know a lot that successfully do), yes, I do think there is a market for you…
Now, back to the original topic of this post. The better you are at sales, the less likely are you to need early-stage money, thus increasing your company valuation and making you less dependent on VCs, but for those that you finally work with, it makes you a better investment.