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Future Worlds 23: Navigating Silicon Valley as a UK founder

Future Worlds Silicon Valley
The Future Worlds 2023 cohort outside Werqwise San Francisco.

UKTN has flown to Silicon Valley to accompany the 2023 cohort of Future Worlds’ accelerator from the University of Southampton on its journey through the world’s largest tech hub.

UKTN will provide exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage of the group, which contains founders across sectors including EVs, blockchain, medtech and more, as it meets with some of the Bay Area’s key stakeholders.

Day one: Silicon Valley spirit

After flying in on Friday and taking the weekend to settle, the Future Worlds 2023 cohort’s first port of call on Monday was the Silicon Valley base of co-working office space company Werqwise.

The eight founders from the south coast were immediately taken with the scale and style of the Werqwise office, which perfectly represented the glitz and glamour associated with tech firms in Silicon Valley.

The group heard from several local tech figures, including Werqwise’s co-founder Alan Mackay, Southampton alum and Mevolution founder Sarah Deane, Ash Rust, managing partner at VC firm Sterling Road, and Julian Gay of the GBX network.

The startup cohort shared a 15-second pitch with Mackay, who excitedly responded by saying each and every market being served by the group’s companies had a place in Silicon Valley.

Mackay, who came to California from Scotland, told the group just what made the Valley the place to be in tech. As many UK founders know, the business landscape in the Bay can be a big change from home, and Mackay laid out the differences the Southampton-based founders could expect.

Mackay admitted that Silicon Valley and the US as a whole have just as many problems as some of the toughest places to do business.

As the Werqwise CEO said, America has a sometimes-brutal legal system, an often difficult-to-navigate regulatory landscape, endless political drama, and a completely different attitude and mindset than the UK.

And yet, according to Mackay, the so-called wild west comes with an inspiring entrepreneurial spirit, an unparalleled community of tech firms and investors and a level of global recognition that simply isn’t available anywhere else.

This was an attitude echoed by Jaclyn Mason, regional director, Silicon Valley and Northwest US at the Department for International Trade (DIT), who spoke alongside Julian Gay from the GBX network of British tech entrepreneurs in the Bay area.

The two spoke on the importance of networking in the Bay, saying simply being present can be one of the most powerful tools for establishing yourself as a notable entrepreneur in the region.

As Brits who made a name for themselves in the Valley, the two pointed out that it can be difficult to adjust to the mindset, but the sheer scope of opportunity out there made it worth it.

Beating burnout and VC tips

Also on the day’s agenda, was a talk from Sarah Deane, founder of Mevolution, a platform to boost the mentality and performance of employees.

Deane’s workshop with the group was all about personal improvement, requiring the founders to face their expectations of themselves, whether their actions aligned with their core values, and whether they could effectively communicate their platform to the world.

Deane described the grim reality of the burnout crisis that was running rampant in the US and beyond, and stressed just how important it is to combat it.

Later in the day, the cohort heard from Sterling Road’s Rust, a founder turned investor who gave the group insight from every angle of the startup journey.

Rust put the focus of his time with the cohort towards building a company and navigating the jungle of fundraising.

Rust was quick to mention that in the startup journey, founders should always be ready to fail but insisted that as long as there was serious commitment to a genuine idea, there was a chance to succeed.

The Future Worlds accelerator, part of the University of Southampton, arranged for a UKTN reporter to follow its 2023 cohort on its trip through Silicon Valley.

The trip included founders from Amara Automotive, Asterium, evtonomy, Journally, LZero and microVita.