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Sherpas Silicon Valley Road Show: What I learnt and what other startups need to know.

As Sherpa nears the end of its first year in business we have completed near 50k in deliveries expanded to six cities, learnt what we are good at delivering and what we are not good at delivering. We understand the market better and what opportunities exist so we have a much clearer vision on our future. It was now time for me to see what was happening outside of our little part of the world.

My trip to San Francisco had multiple purposes; market research, a conference, advisor meetings, networking and of course VC meetings. The one thing that became clear to me when I first visited the Valley a few years back was the sheer intensity & speed at which people operated. This time around, the central focus for my visit was to tap into this mindset and try to understand what drives that.

I was fortunate enough to meet some great tech businesses and spend time with their CEO’s as well as work from their offices and what I saw blew me away. The cultural attitude towards performance was exceptional if not terrifying. Every member of the teams I got to spend time with had one clear focus; grow and be metric focused. I saw break-offs everywhere consisting of people from different departments discussing things such as: net return on a customer, customer drop off rates per page, engagement metrics etc.

I spoke to one CEO about the obvious differences I was observing between them and what I see in Australia and his response was telling;


“…here [the Valley] for every one of us there is five if not ten others out there selling the same dream and their version of the story…they are all taking up mindshare of the venture capitalists so if we don’t win, if we don’t get there first, we lose…it’s that simple. The team needs to know that and the people you hire, that has to be the reason why they want to get on board…”


I realised we simply don’t have that environmental pressure here in Australia and thus you don’t see the same kind of culture among most startups and that was the case I had to admit at Sherpa. Though that would be changing soon.

The other major influence I had that shaped the way businesses and founders operate in the Valley vs Australia is the type of questions I was being asked from VC’s. They were powerful, direct and showed strong market awareness. This means the founders have to be sharper, they have to really know what problem they are solving and how to explain that in 10 seconds.  You get past this gate and you get the time to really have some exciting conversations that really tap into a founders psyche – the blue sky vision.

These two major learning experiences are obviously inherently linked and they couldn’t have been better timed for me as we enter exciting territory with Sherpa.  There are larger rounds of funding to come in 2016, new products and international expansion. To achieve all of these I know that Sherpa and our team need to be switched on. We need to demonstrate we can execute and we know our market; I feel much more prepared now for having this experience.

The one thing I continue to pass onto other founders that I meet is how metric focused they need to be and how they need to ensure the entire team are on the same page.


 To hear more on this come see me at Fishburners in Sydney Thursday 31st:


Fishburners Speaker Series with Ben Nowlan, Co-Founder of Sherpa

Thursday, Mar 31, 2016, 6:00 PM

608 Harris St Ultimo, AU

135 Entrepreneurs Went

Join us for an evening with Ben Nowlan, co-founder and CSMO of Sherpa, on the 31st March. Ben will be speaking on ‘Measuring What Matters & Creating a Growth Culture’ for startups.Sherpa solves last mile and on-demand delivery through technology and a crowdsourced network of drivers. Sherpa has been around for over two years but officially launche…

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