Our time in Silicon Valley
We are Marc and Christopher, students of the Goethe University Frankfurt and currently in our 6th semester of economics. By closely working together with the TechQuartier we got the unique opportunity to support an American startup as part of our bachelor thesis. After our thesis, the San Francisco based startup “Startup Genome” invited us to join their San Francisco office for a month to assist them on their Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017 which is set to release in the first Quarter of this year. In this yearly report Startup Genome analyses the different aspects of successful startup ecosystems and uses the findings to rank the biggest startup ecosystems on a global scale. The startup region Frankfurt Rhine-Main is being analysed for the first time this year and the TechQuartier is the official partner representing the region.
Over the course of 9 weeks we got the chance to use the survey data and take a closer look at two aspects of the Frankfurt ecosystem: Global connectedness and corporate involvement and their influence on the overall performance of the region. These findings for the Frankfurt region were summarised and presented in our bachelor thesis. After having met us at the FinTech Summit at TechQuartier last year, Startup Genome invited us to San Francisco to further expand our analysis on a global scale.
We flew out to San Francisco on the 8th of January and started working in the office on Monday of that week. The office is located in Downtown San Francisco only a few blocks away from major players such as Slack, Uber and Eventbrite. We were greeted with a very open and welcoming atmosphere and felt as a real part of the team right away. Startup Genome shares the office with a few other startups and the office space can be described as very open, promoting dialogue and collaboration (see pictures). The focus of our work over the next 3 weeks was the analysis of the raw survey data. The performance model used by Startup Genome to rank the startup ecosystem is highly complex and consists of multiple metrics. By supporting the main data analysts and expanding on our models used in the thesis we could help the team and accelerate the analysation process. Our key findings will be presented together with all the other findings in the GSE Report in March 2017.
So, while we can’t really talk about the results of the analysis we can talk about our personal takeaways from this unique experience: The working environment found in startups like this is quite different from the environment found in corporates. Everything happens at a much faster pace and you can directly see the impact of your work. Whilst the skills and knowledge developed in the University are useful, it is much more important to be a quick and flexible learner as the tasks can be extremely diverse and you never know where you are needed next. This means that it is necessary to continuously improve one’s skillset to give the most value to the team. This needed flexibility and willingness to learn can be seen when looking at our main tasks during the three weeks: We started off thinking we would be mostly focussing on essays for the report, but we were soon needed in the analysis team where we mostly worked with big data in excel. Our analysis skills improved dramatically and we would have started to learn Python, would we have stayed longer to further support the team. This diverse scope of duties can be challenging but we found it very rewarding and extremely exciting.
As one would expect with a hard deadline only weeks away there was a lot of work to be done. We had colleagues working in India and Germany, so the almost daily status meetings were challenging to setup. This was in a way useful at times, since there was always someone working on the tasks 24 hours a day (the Indian team was working during the San Francisco night).
The office hours were quite which meant that we arrived at the office quite late at times (because we had to bring the car to the repair shop for example) and stayed until the very late evening (the office even had a mattress). There was a big emphasis put on the team spirit and the general well-being of the team members. We had regular team lunches and the founders dedicated a part of every day to individually work together with every team member to better understand what everyone was working on.
This is only a small excerpt of our personal learnings from this unique experience working for a startup in Silicon Valley. All of which was made possible by TechQuartier in particular by Dr. Sebastian Schäfer and Dr. Thomas Funke who we would both like to personally thank for this amazing opportunity. We wish TechQuartier and Startup Genome all the best for the future and hope to stay in close contact.
Marc Eschen and Christopher Raic