So we spent two weeks in Silicon Valley doing a program called BlackBox Connect. Blackbox is a two weeks program for top 16 international startups from around the world. Google for Entrepreneurs supported the program and basically Google covered all of our expenses during this program (flight tickets, stay, breakfast, lunch, dinner and transportation). So allow me to say thank you Google for taking good care of us.
So again what’s the Blackbox program and how we get there? Blackbox connect is a 2 weeks program for non-US startups to learn from the best entrepreneurs, investors and startups how to build a scalable successful startup. They also bring high quality speakers to teach you how to make the move to the US and what does it takes to succeed over there. They also help you connect with the right people such as Lawyers, VC’s, Angel investors..etc. Whatever you need they have your back.
The program was in a Bed & Breakfast place called Cowper Inn in Palo Alto, CA.
It was an amazing place. Each entrepreneur had his own room, except for us. I was in the biggest room in the B&B with two other guys Andrew (South African and Co-founder of Weaver) and Jordan (French and co-founder of Sponseasy). I had the biggest bed in the whole place, they always accuse me that I paid Balckbox money to get this bed, but I swear I didn’t!
There was a problem in the room, the problem is….. me. I snore so loud that Andrew couldn’t sleep. Jordan didn’t mind, he is a heavy sleeper. Anyway I spent the first two nights sleeping in a couch in the reception until I bought earplugs for Andrew to sleep in peace.
Wait what I was talking about!! Yeah Blackbox, so basically the program helps startups to think bigger and assist them to move or to expand to the US market. The program was for 2 weeks. Everyday we start at 11am until 7pm. They gave us the morning for ourselves so that we can work a bit and follow up on our startups before the program starts. Breakfast is served at 8am till 10am, then lunch at 1pm to 2pm and dinner at 7pm. We had 3-4 speakers everyday covering different topics (Investment, legal, success stories, how they moved to the US, how to pitch your idea…etc).
The first week was very closely organized with Google, we had 3 speakers from Google (Kevin Rose, David Drummond and Mary Grove) during the week, in addition to visiting Google campus for a design session. The second week was exciting as well, we got to meet many startups from previous Blackbox programs that succeeded to make the move and raise money from Silicon Valley. (unfortunately we couldn’t take many photos inside Google building, they asked us to leave very quickly)
The team behind the program was just marvelous, the kindest, smartest and most organized people I ever worked with. Fadi Bishara (yes he is Arabic, originally from Syria, and he started all of this) was an amazing guy that I really admire. Mackenzie, Sanita, Eugenia and Xavier were all amazing. They took care of us the whole time like their own family. I’m just amazed how Fadi could put such an amazing team, but you should know that this is his skill, putting great teams together.
The startups and the people in the program were just astonishing. I swear if I had money, I would personally invest on at least half of them. I’ll do a separate post just to further talk about some of the startup and founders we met there.
I forgot to mention how we got accepted. So each selected startup should be part of an incubator or accelerator (that it should be a partner with Google for Entrepreneurs) to be selected in the program. These accelerators should select 2-4 startups that they think they are the best in their own program. Then Blackbox will interview these startups and select one startup from each accelerator.
We (Fishfishme.com) get selected because we have been nominated by AstroLabs, the three days accelerator program that is built specifically for startups in the scaling phase. This is part of the Blackbox story, next post will be some videos while I was there.