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From Oxford to Silicon Valley, part two
By Kulveer Taggar
Chief executive, Auctomatic

Kulveer Taggar
The spirit of co-operation is strong, says Kulveer Taggar
Kulveer Taggar moved to Silicon Valley in California after graduating from Oxford and working as an investment banker. Here he talks about the lessons of the first few hectic weeks.

I was pacing around outside the Y Combinator offices in Mountain View, vigorously reciting the presentation we were about to give in my head, when I saw a swanky Lamborghini pull up and park at the office.

Then it hit me: this was really it, the long-awaited Y Combinator Investor Day.

On this day, all of the startups funded by the venture firm Y Combinator would present and showcase their product to 70 of the most important - and richest - people in Silicon Valley.

There were big name investors coming, including partners from the top Venture Capital firms and the "godfather" investor of the Valley himself, Ron Conway, who was one of the early backers of Google and has invested in more startups than anyone else.

Pick up the pace

The presentation was quite nerve-wracking, but thankfully the live demonstration of our technology went smoothly. We had practised a lot, and made sure the flow between ideas worked, and this preparation paid off.

Now, we're very busy with our follow up meetings. Whilst we already have a small amount of investment, it pays to have the right investors involved, and so we are being fluid with what happens next. It's very exciting.

One thing I love about being here is the speed with which things happen. Ideas develop quickly, leads are chased up quickly, and typically everything seems to be very fast paced.

The past six weeks have involved us brainstorming an idea, researching the opportunity, building a team and launching a new product, on top of the weekly dinners we have and preparing for Investor Day.

Meet and greet

It's an understatement to say the last month has completely flown by, but in terms of our own development, the change is significant as well.

We have a new product, Auctomatic.com, which simplifies selling on eBay. Users of our original product Boso.com, a student marketplace, said they liked our site precisely because it was so easy to use, so we thought we'd tackle that problem in eBay itself.

In making this pretty significant change, the setup provided by Y Combinator has been fantastic. Paul Graham, one of the partners, makes himself readily available for help. We met up with him early on in the trip, as we were unsure how to tackle the American market, and his advice was really useful - that's where the idea for Auctomatic was born.

Not only that, but he is a great motivator, and encourages you to tackle big problems with confidence.

I've also learnt something useful from each of the weekly dinners they set up. I'm lucky to have met successful entrepreneurs such as Joe Kraus, the founder of Excite, who talked about the value of being persistent, and how in his case that was the difference between his company evaporating and selling for $6.5bn, and previous fundees such as Sam Altman, who founded Loopt aged 19 and talked in detail about the process of raising venture capital based on his experiences.

The key lessons I've learnt are the importance of being persistent and flexible in your mindset. It's inevitable that you will go through tough times, and that your idea will evolve a lot, but what differentiates you as a startup founder is the determination you have to stick with it, and your ability to adapt.

Big names

I've stayed in touch with friends back home and one recently said how he was so surprised that I had such an amount of interaction with the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter to name a few.

He actually asked if San Francisco was "one big happy family" rather than closed, secret rival groups.

And this brings me back to the first Viewpoint piece I wrote: people here are really open to collaboration and co-operation. There is definitely competition here, and some startups are "stealthier" than others, but on the whole, people are very willing to talk, make introductions and generally help. I love it.

To sum up, the past couple of months have been my most productive and enjoyable as an entrepreneur. The experience has far exceeded my expectations and I'm very happy to be here.

From Oxford to Silicon Valley
12 Feb 07 |  Business

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