Ruben Miessen, the young entrepreneur who received the “Entrepreneurial ICT Graduate 2016” award for his project Zetapulse at a packed Casino in Knokke in September last year, has just returned from the US. Ruben’s entry was rewarded with a unique business trip to Silicon Valley worth 12,000 Euros. He received the guidance of an experienced start-up coach for 10 days and the opportunity to meet top entrepreneurs in order to boost the growth and international ambitions of his business. He told us about his experiences and he will soon be sharing his story with Belgian ICT students at a university and college roadshow.
We spoke to Ruben at San Francisco airport while he was waiting for his return flight. With a backpack full of ideas and experiences, he looked forward to achieving his dream in Belgium: Zetapulse.
Ruben, how were your 10 days in Silicon Valley?
It was an incredible experience. We went to a total of 17 meetings and attended 3 events. We met very interesting people with relevant retail and tech experience at all these meetings. They offered feedback on our project, so we now have very specific knowledge on how to approach the internationalisation of Zetapulse. Also the more unexpected moments, like our meeting with Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley, will stay with me forever.
What did you do when you arrived in San Francisco?
Bernard (Ruben’s coach – Ed.) was waiting for me at the airport. Our many Skype calls in preparation of the trip allowed us to stay very focused. He gave valuable feedback on our presentation and explained briefly how to network in Silicon Valley. The planning of our business trip was fine-tuned further and he outlined the main differences between running a start-up in the US and in Europe. We prepared a meeting with a law firm and in the evening we attended a talk show by a Wall Street Journal reporter on how to raise capital in the States. We also talked to Tim Chang, one of the heads of the Mayfield investment fund, that night.
Everything was well prepared?
Yes, it was. The next few days were even busier (laughs). We had a very interesting meeting with a law firm that coaches European companies entering the US market. They gave us advice on the registration of patents for our project. We were also introduced to a network of freelancers that help companies to implement products and services with US customers.
There was not much time for sightseeing?
Oh, but there was. My girlfriend, who lives in Los Angeles, flew over to San Francisco to join me at the weekend. We visited some typical attractions, such as the San Francisco Dungeon, the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf. When we were travelling to our meetings, we took the opportunity to plan a few stops with Lyft and Uber at the original HP garage, where Hewlett-Packard was founded. Afterwards, we also visited the Facebook headquarters and we went on a shuttle to get from one Facebook campus to the other.
Did the meetings focus sufficiently on your own start-up?
I was pleasantly surprised by the meetings. We also met another location-based marketing start-up company located in the office of an incubator. We will be talking to them again next week in a video call to see if we can join the incubator as well. We also met other complementary businesses that can introduce us to major retailers in the US market. There were talks with Flanders Investment & Trade and various consultants and business angels. Davy Kesten of SparkCentral was also on the agenda. It was all incredibly fascinating.
Did you get the chance to attend a big Silicon Valley networking event?
We attended the annual Crunchies awards for the best start-ups, VCs, business angels, hardware, apps and founders. We actually watched this event from the first row at the War Memorial Opera House. After the ceremony, we went to the networking event. I met the cofounder of Foursquare and I was able to give him an elevator pitch about Zetapulse there. We will stay in touch. Perhaps there is even a partnership in it.
How would you summarise your trip in a single sentence?
An incredible experience of 10 very productive days, which taught me a great deal. I would do it again in a heartbeat and I highly recommend it to any young entrepreneur. I am very grateful to Amon and its partners (Telenet, AE, KPMG, Datanews and Napoleon Games, Ed.) for this amazing opportunity.
Amon organised the first "Entrepreneurial ICT Graduate of the Year" in 2016. Keep following us for more news on the 2017 edition soon.
Partners "Entrepreneurial ICT Graduate 2016"