BIBLE: View from Silicon valley

Advice from where it all started

So you think you've got what it takes to be part of the Internet entrepreneurial elite, do you? Well it takes a heck of a lot more than guts and a good idea actually. Here are a few indispensable words of advice from those who are making it happen, from the place where it all started-Silicon Valley.

Of course you could simply relocate to that golden land of good fortune. An entrepreneur who did just this and has built his business from considerably humble beginnings is Trung Dung, founder of e-business start-up, OnDisplay Dung's company provides a service that links and automatically updates Web site catalogues and pricing lists for e-commerce Web sites.

Dung is very proud of the fact that he came to the US from Vietnam in 1987 with just five dollars in his pocket. Within a few years he had founded a major technology company. This is not such an exceptional rags-to-riches tale and Trung believes that Silicon Valley is an environment where investment still enjoying a healthy existence.

"It is important to have a place where people can come knowing there are opportunities," says Dung. "It is also important that there are so many interesting different companies in one place. This attracts the venture capitalists."

But it's not just about cash. Dung also believes that for the newcomer, a market sense has to be successfully married with technological innovation. He says, "You see a lot of people with really good ideas fail because of a lack of market planning. I came up with the idea for OnDisplay, to provide regularly updated market information for portals at University because it seemed it could make things work better. But nothing would have happened were it not for the businessmen I teamed up with."

Even if you're not willing to entirely reinvent yourself in the Californian mould, there is still hope. James Oliver co-founder of , a Web site that supplies cheap beer and wine in the UK offers some useful words of wisdom for those planning to take the plunge with their own start-up. "You have to remember that investors don't come from the Internet, they come from the bricks and mortar world. We went to investors and said 'this will work regardless of the Internet.' You also don't need all that money, just a good team, but you have to win them over emotionally and get their intellectual capital."

This view is endorsed by the founder of another growing UK Internet company. David Lethbridge, co-founder of suggests it is easier to find funding in the UK now than it was six months ago. Citing many an article portraying the UK as a nightmare for starting up, Lethbridge reckons the situation has often been blown out of all proportion.

"The mainstream media has got hold of this and have made it out to be very easy. The biggest problem is getting hold of the right people. If people think that the answer if just raising money then they don't understand the question. There are very few people with experience of the Internet and everybody wants them."

Increased interest from US venture capitalists in the centres of British technological innovation, particularly Cambridge, has also brought to Britain the phenomenon of "e-commerce incubators." A very American idea, these firms take much of the burden off the whole start-up process in return for a stake in each new company they help. One new UK incubator is Brainspark . Vice president of financial marketing at Brainspark, Richard Davidson says that with his company's help it can be an absolute breeze getting going.

"We help everyone from those literally with just an idea, to those who already have a full business plan and know who their CEO is going to be," says Davidson. "As soon as they enter the building they have access to Web designers, customer and buyer databases, businesses strategies and financial marketing."

One conventional venture capitalist Steven Schlenker chief investment officer at Vest@ Capital says, "Most incubators charge too much for the real value they add to a business. If you're an entrepreneur, to sign away 40-50% of your business just to have a roof over your head is ridiculous."

If your idea is not earth shattering and you're determined to go it alone, although there is still money to be made, things may not come quite so easy. British businessman James Hogbin, who recently launched the UK's first ever Internet cocktail bar, Ebar says that his has been a hard road to success.

"Before you even start out, you'd better think of your costs, treble them and then add 20%, because that's how much it's going to cost," he says. "You have to plan for a worse, worse case scenario, because inevitably that's what its going to turn out like before you start making money."

For all you blinkered optimists out there, however, success can come at a cost to your personal life. Hogbin adds, "You have to have a good set of advisers and you need to be in a stable relationship, because you certainly won't find one while you're doing it."

That said, being a success has its compensations. Lethbridge says that if you've got the bottle to go for it then the reward is much more than just financial.

"Ideally you've either got to have a proven track record in management or you've got to show that you have a team that you can take forward," he notes, "It's not so much about having an idea anymore, it's more about showing that you can execute it. Having said all this, it's enormous fun. Just watching everything grow is great."

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