This summer, I made the switch from working in the startup ecosystem of Silicon Valley to working with TheVentury as a student intern here in Vienna. As weeks go by, see what similar trends I’ve been able to find here:
Silicon Valley to Vienna
My name is Sean Moakley, I am a 20-year-old student at Santa Clara University, and I come from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Like many university students, I don’t really know as much as I pretend to, but I can tell you one thing is certain: I want to work with entrepreneurs. Despite working with two (and onto my third) startups and living in Silicon Valley, I still can’t begin to understand what that really means.
One thing has become crystal in my eyes, however: Founders are far more than enthusiastic programmers. They are some of the most amazing people you will ever meet.
Endless hours of stress, ideas, breakthroughs, mistakes, and pitches. Mostly fueled by Philz coffee. You’d do anything for your startup, and you treat it like your child because it is. According to Forbes, nine out of ten startups fail, and in a place like Silicon Valley, it’s as cutthroat as it gets. Founders dedicate their nights, their weekends, their very lives, and souls to their work to even have a chance to be in that 10%. Why? Why push yourself to such limits when there’s virtually no chance you are starting “the next Uber of” your idea?
Because everyone, like me, wants to be involved. From angels and VCs to naive students such as myself, we all want a piece, and we are all involved in the ecosystem. Working in Redwood City, CA last summer exposed me to more than a hundred startups all working out of one fully furnished ecosystem. Don’t imagine an Erlich Bachman-esque “I own 10% of that but you can stay here” situation; rather, we gave the space, the connections, the coaching, and sometimes the money that our companies needed to succeed. It was one nice big happy family.
Once you left the building though, we had serious competitors. Every co-working space, incubator, and accelerator was constantly hunting for the brightest and best ideas and founders out there. And just like a team giving its tenth pitch to its tenth VC board, we all wanted an edge. Just being able to say that a Paypal or a Lyft or a Flexport worked out of your desk space, that you helped them reach where they are now, that you saw potential and invested before everyone else… it all creates an immense amount of pride and hype.This past summer, even as a lowly intern, I got to help these innovators I had come to admire. The time I spent among these entrepreneurs who spoke about their ideas like they would about a newborn child or their significant other, helped me realize the nearly unfathomable amount of passion and drive they have. Some of the most incredible people in Silicon Valley have names you’ve never heard before. And I was able to help connect startups with the mentors, investors, and corporate partners that they need to mold their idea into something great. It’s the ecosystem that developed stars of yesterday and today and is developing the stars of tomorrow–the picture of Silicon Valley.
Yet it’s not just Silicon Valley, hallowed as it may be. People like this are all over the world.
The end of the Summer came quickly, and soon enough I was on my way to Vienna, Austria for five months. World travel is another passion of mine; I’ve spent time volunteering in Central America, exploring in Italy, and studying in Australia, to name a few of my favorite experiences. While I’ll spend plenty of time traveling and exposing myself to new cultures, I want to be immersed in the startup culture here more than anything.
And so I find myself interning here with TheVentury, eager to find that passion, desire, and drive in a new environment. A host of questions immediately come to my mind: What innovation is there to find in this cultural melting pot of a city, the densest and diverse in an unbelievably stunning and mountainous country? What is all the rage in Vienna? Does Fintech, VR/AR, Sustainability, Chatbot, or AI receive the majority of funding? How profitable is a “successful” startup here? Exactly how much venture funding is there to be found in Vienna? I’ve got homework to do.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll gather every bit of information I can about the startup ecosystem here in Austria. As Vienna is truly in the center of Europe, it’ll be interesting to learn how it functions as a melting pot of ideas. While the entrepreneurial environment here is certainly far smaller than in Berlin or London, I can also guarantee that this charming “town” of almost 2 million people has more than just a rich history: It has the right aspirations to help create the next big thing.