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From Oxford to Silicon Valley, part three
By Kulveer Taggar
Chief executive, boso.com / Auctomatic

Kulveer Taggar moved to Silicon Valley in California after graduating from Oxford and working as an investment banker. His start-up is now getting ready for business, but as his third report suggests, life in the Valley is not just about work and long hours.

Kulveer Taggar
Kulveer finds San Francisco a highly productive town

There has been a major change in our company. We have merged with another start-up, run by Patrick Collison, who is now the technical lead of the new company.

Patrick is only 18, but he joins as an equal partner because of his unparalleled ability (he wrote his own programming language aged 16, which won him a European Young Scientist award), and because of the overlap of his previous work with ours.

Patrick deferred his degree from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) a few months ago to start his own company, and then we were put in touch with him by our financial backer Y Combinator.

It's the team that counts

We met up in London last month and decided pretty much that same day that we were going to go ahead and join forces.

I think the probability of success for any new company really comes down to the quality of the team you can build, and I'm really excited by Patrick's potential.

The team is now three people. I focus on the distribution, marketing and financial side of the business, Harjeet looks very closely at the product, and Patrick is responsible for building it. We also have two interns joining for the summer, as we try to ramp up our development and marketing efforts.

The deadline

Our company is now called Auctomatic, and we are building tools to help people sell online at websites like eBay and Amazon.

The Auctomatic team
Three men and a plan to strike it big in the Valley

There is quite a lot involved in running an online store: you have lots of inventory to manage, you have to track how well your sales are doing and you have to manage the communication with all of your customers, for example. Our goal is to automate as many of these processes as possible, so that sellers can focus on the more important parts of their business.

Our experience of running the student marketplace Boso.com is proving useful; it helps to know what sellers need in order to be able to sell well.

In other news, we have a huge deadline coming up. We're going to be announcing the launch of our flagship product at eBay Live next month in Boston. It's an annual conference they organize, which in their own words "is the best place to learn the secrets of success on eBay, network with peers, and... meet thousands of other eBay Community members".

For us, it's a brilliant opportunity to reach out to thousands of sellers in the space of a few days. Our launch is also going to be covered by eBay's radio station (yes, they have a radio station), which apparently 96,000 sellers listen to, so there's plenty of pressure to deliver!

Money run

We've also started talks with a few venture capitalists about raising some more investment. It's not that we desperately need the money right now, but it's definitely the case that getting the right partners involved will help us broker better distribution deals and hire the best people a few months down the line.

The three of us went to the famous Sand Hill Road two weeks ago to pitch Auctomatic, and it went really well, so we've been invited back for some further evaluation of our strategy and team.

My gut instinct is that we are going to end up doing the deal we want.

Living the San Francisco life

For when we're not working, it helps that the social scene out here compares well to London. Drinks are about half the price of West End bars and clubs, and it never really gets that crowded like it does back home.

The "no-smoking in public places" policy is a dream. It really makes a big difference when your clothes don't end up smelling of smoke every time you go out, which reduces the amount of laundry we have to do!

The other thing I noticed is that San Francisco isn't really that large a city; I think it's only seven miles wide by seven miles long, which means that if you live centrally like we do, a lot of places are within walking distance. Everywhere else is usually a $10 or less cab ride away.

I definitely spend much less time having to travel to places than I did in London, which is a good thing.

The locals are very friendly and welcoming, and it helps that they like the British accent.

I've also realised that they tend to be quite physically active too. I joined a kickboxing club a few months back and it surprises me to see how busy it is. A high proportion of the people I know regularly do things such as biking, running, surfing, skiing (at Lake Tahoe) and so on.

To sum up, these little things quickly add up to provide a more productive environment in which to work, and we're definitely going to need one, considering what we have to tackle in the next few months.

I can't wait.

From Oxford to Silicon Valley
12 Feb 07 |  Business

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