January 20, 2014
It all started with our participation at a hackathon in Berlin, organized by Evernote and Deutsche Telekom. We hadn't planned to join at all, but jumped in spontaneously two days before the start. Our hack Context Booster enriched Evernote notes with all sorts of related content from the web. And guess what, we won the hackathon, which took us right to the huge yearly Evernote Conference in San Francisco - and this is where the US story starts.
At the conference, we took part in the Devcup, where 200 participants of all worldwide Evernote hackathons competed. We won the prize for "best for productivity", entered the finals and came out winning the silver award of the Devcup!
From there we got the fast track to the first Evernote accelerator ever. Six startups from six countries spent four weeks at the Evernote headquarter. The accelerator is a great way for foreing startups to enter Silicon Valley - Evernote did not take any equity while paying for all the flights and accommodation. They provided us with an awesome office space right in their headquarter, and we even got a car and Evernote branded bikes.
One of the cool learnings the Evernote accelerator brought along was an intensive LUXR training for lean startupping (the same one which "500 Startups" is giving to their participants). And they set up countless meetings with famous investors, companies like Google and Pocket and great mentors like Guy Kawasaki.
The time in the accelerator was absolutely challenging. Many of the startups pivoted their products completely to aim for more users or more revenue. We’ve done some changes to Context Booster as well, but still remained one of the few teams who sticked to the initial product. We improved our algorithm to analyze Evernote notes even better and now aggregate an amazing page with facts, articles, images and videos according to any identified topic.
Along our stay we went through all phases of excitement about the Silicon Valley. The first: all the people are so great, we want to move to the US! The second: there is plus and minus, so what do we do? The third: we do stay in Berlin and we are confident about it!
What impressed us in the first phase (and still does) is the fact that in the US everybody "thinks big". When we pitched, the most common question was: "How are you going to scale the product?". We seriously and repeatedly heard the comment: "Why not become the next Google?". This is the sheer opposite of German thinking. Feedback in Europe consists of concerns and many reasons why the product will never work. The American way of thinking: try, think big, make things possible. This is very encouraging.
Our second and third phase was dominated by facing the reality of living & working in the Valley. On the business side, staying in the Valley would mean to compete with Google and Facebook in the field of augmented intelligence, especially when looking for talents. This is a losing game, as the big companies pay enormously high salaries complemented by mega conveniences and extras which no small company can afford. Compared to this, it is still possible to hire good staff in Berlin.
On the living side, the Silicon Valley has reached the incredible price level of New York - for no particular value except being where famous companies cover some suburbs. What you get there instead is fast food, daily commuting and the beach still too far for an evening surf.
Looking at it this way, rising a $1mil in the US pretty much equals to 300K Euro in Berlin. In Berlin, we have better access to talents, the quality of life is exceptional, and if you have a great idea you really stick out. When we explained this to US investors they mainly agreed with us - even if they just had told us we had to move to the Valley to get funded.
After all, the Evernote accelerator and the Silicon Valley trip has been amazing. We will definitely return there often, but Berlin won for our company! Also, betahaus is such a good, flexible solution for our team, as we work and meet here, but also work remotely from different locations. Now our team is growing and we are looking for the best geeks of backend and frontend development. Berlin, let's think big together!
Curious about Context Booster? Just register at www.contextbooster.com!
And if you want to join the community, follow this link!