What’s next? — A Line of Thought after Silicon Valley

Port of San Francisco viewed from a ferry.

The San Francisco Bay Area — which includes Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale, among others— is home to the best of the best technology startups of the World.

But more importantly: minds.

The Orion Technology Park , located in Chihuahua, is one of the most well-known startup ecosystems in Mexico. We receive yearly north of 500 startups, which are run into different programs that we cover: from TecLean, which is a startup school; our incubation program, seeking projects to become startups; a venture capital fund, investing $30K USD in high-tech startups; a business accelerator, developing +$4M in revenue companies; and Landing, for big tech companies betting to be here.

I’m Head of the Venture Capital Firm Acceleration Program since January 2019 and have been in charge, mainly, in setting its direction to better understand, develop and grow our portfolio companies. To this day, we have invested in 25 startups and are in the selection process for the next six.

Silicon Valley is Orion Startups goal for 2021. Why? Because there is no better ecosystem in the Continent for follow-on rounds and exits. Nevertheless, to achieve the right metrics needed to be in the Bay Area we have to rethink our selection process, our program and our portfolio management. From ground up.

Back in 2017 I was an intern at Lumia Capital, where I discovered that there was much more to do besides founding a startup.

And, man, I wanted so bad to end up in Venture.

San Francisco opens up your mind to new everythings: Technology, funding, founders, businesses… possibilities. For me, it was my Renaissance. I learnt a lot about myself and this post is all about that. (Some of these thoughts might sound too self-centered, but I mean no harm.)

· People expect a lot from me. The first question that came up into our minds was what would happen if…? My answer was pretty direct: exit strategy. But others have different thoughts for me, ranging from connecting with foreign funding for startups up to a 30 Under 30. Ok… Things were getting serious.

For those who know me, one of my main goal of my 20s is to be part of the 30 Under 30 list. And, if you happen to know anything about this list, it is damn difficult! The things people have achieved in order to be even considered into the selection process are HUGE. So, if I want to be in the 30 Under 30, I have to rush.

· It is easy to manage what already exists. This is one of the major challenges of a startup: most of the founders are dealing with such a big uncertainty that makes it close-to-impossible to succeed. Oh, dear, but they do! And we get to know some of them: Microsoft (of course), Intelix, Miroculus, Qapla, Indiebio and all its fabolous startups, GSV Labs, Hitachi, and Google (of course x2).

Good startup founders are purpose driven, with a self-efficiency, resilience and desire mindset; which all come before the opportunity identification, solution development and execution that we all know are fundamental for startup success.

· The real reason we were there. It was divided, from my standpoint, into three main stakeholders:

Orion Technology Park was there to have a top-of-notch benchmark and to challenge the Menudo Project (read about it here). It was to answer one simple question: What is next?

Orion Startups was there to clarify next steps, specifically in the exit strategies we where starting to plan. Again: What is next?

I was there for one purpose alone. When I was working with Chris, Martin and the Lumia Team, I learnt about velocity and accuracy. Having perfect things in a timely manner is an exquisite art. I lost that somewhere back in Chihuahua, where the ecosystem is not as fast as the SV’s. I was there to pursue a same-old dream, but renewed. What is next?

· I learnt I am not good enough, but I know I can be. The method used to center ourselves into the picture, and not our job, was to travel from the paintings, to the technique all the way to the painter. Let me explain, it’s quite simple: The paintings are what we do; the technique, how we do it; and the painter is us.

This is what I found out—both from my perspective as from others’: I sometimes am sloppy, with insufficient planning and very emotional, but I am also quite centered, based in theory and goal-driven.

· You have to feel the mission AND OWN IT! One of the main leanings in all of the companies we visited, from startups all the way to big-corps, is that they all (I mean all, from the C-suites all the way down to the interns) are very well aware of the mission they are pursuing.

This is what Bryan Cuadra told us:

We do not focus on being the best company, we focus on found and develop the best people. The fists part comes along.

He works at Microsoft.

If you, as a C-suite, put yourself in the line of fire, defend your beliefs and your people, people will do so for the company.

· Investing is hard to understand, therefore, hard to do. Most of the investors in the Valley wouldn’t invest in something they do not understand. But they as well are human beings — although they might seem like they’re not, sometimes. It is the founders and the actual investors interest that follow-on investors fully understand what the startup is solving. This might be difficult to do with high-tech startup, but it is possible.

· Challenges and success stories come in combo. (With no fries, tho.) Luis Almanza says this quite often:

It is difficult to do! That is why not everybody is doing it.

And, hell, it is difficult. This drags me back to a couple of points before: We all have to learn continuously. There is no way for us to know it all and have the answer to everything. This is one of the main things I love about the Industry we are at: technology is evolving in a way nothing has, so we have to be up to date with trends, knowledge, studies…

· I am scared to make mistakes and fail. I think this point is often repeated in several other stories. The thing here is that I have already made some mistakes — some bigger than others—and I have already failed.

What I learnt is that 1) having people around you that supports you both in the professional side as in the personal is a key aspect to surpass whatever comes your way, and 2) take a step back and come back as the super-you and start working towards success.

· #SimplementeChigueSuMadre (aka: #DuckIt). As simple as that. Entrepreneurship essentially means to leap forward into the abyss and learn how to fly in mere fall.

The only way to know if you will succeed or not is saying #SimplementeChigueSuMadre and doing it.

· He is going somewhere… The thing is that not even me knows where. And this has happen before. I tend to have a very wanna-do-it-all mindset. This sometimes has come to happy endings, but lately, I have found that I have to focus on something in order to achieve it substantially.

This kinda validated Jack Ma’s point:

“When you are 20 to 30 years old, you should follow a good boss [and] join a good company to learn how to do things properly,” Ma said.

“When you are 30 to 40 years old, if you want to do something yourself, just do it. You still can afford to lose, to fail,” he added.

Soon thereafter, though, Ma recommended that people start prioritizing stability, family and the future generations.

Instead of diving into a new field or subject toward the later years in your career, he said, “when you’re 40 to 50 years old, my suggestion is you should do things you are good at.”

“When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time training and developing young people, the next generation,” Ma added. “When you are over 60 years old, you better stay with your grandchildren.”

· The mind is powerful. But I have to nurture it. I learnt that I haven’t learnt enough. So I set a goal that I hold all of you accountable for making me achieve it: I’ll read 30 books, 50 scientific articles, have more than three courses all focused on building the next steps for Orion Startups by December 2020.

At the end of the trip, I wrote something in my notes. A whole new vision for me and for Orion Startups. This is it:

I will end up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was thinking, while someone else mentioned that she had found a light, “I’m only deeper in the dark!”.

But in retrospective, it made me wander all the way back to my 2017 dream: to come back to the Bay Area.

Why? Because fish grow depending on the size of the pound they live in. And I, as many other of the same group that was there, are not fit to Chihuahua anymore.

Managing Director Orion Startups

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Sebastián Hernández

Sebastián Hernández

Managing Director Orion Startups

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