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“Hacking” the Valley with Microsoft

Microsoft Accelerator Alumni help each other find footing in the Valley

The number one reason our startups relocate to the Valley is to either win or bring in new business. Many are also looking to stay close to what is considered the “Main Street of Venture Capital,” Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, while they build and scale their team. But once they get here it’s important that they understand the landscape. The Valley can be intimidating, hard to penetrate, and tough to do business in without access to the right resources. In an ecosystem equally fraught with challenges and rewards, the Microsoft Alumni Network in Silicon Valley has proven a formidable asset for our growing companies to leverage for their success.

I’m the liaison of the Microsoft for Startups Silicon Valley Alumni Steering Committee, because as a fan of the “Go-Giver” mentality I’ve always sought to give more in value than I take in payment, placing other’s interests first. This has led me to success in networking, building, and leveraging an ecosystem to flourish, personally and professionally. Ultimately, our Steering Committee is of similar mind, and passionate about helping startups connect and grow here and it’s extremely satisfying to see their success. One example is when companies make the move to the Valley – relocation can be tough, so we aim to provide a soft landing and share our experiences so that companies can easily “hack” the Valley and become part of things as soon as they arrive. We believe that together we can move forward to workshop our problems and create ever better outcomes and success.

I took part in the Microsoft Accelerator as Senior Director at Rallyteam, and we were eager to extend our engagement. There’s so much going on in the ecosystem after the Accelerator ends, but it’s important to continue to be a part of things and take advantage of the many resources Microsoft has to offer. Right now, we are very focused on growth and Microsoft has been extremely supportive with this by connecting Rallyteam to enterprise companies looking for a talent mobility solution to reduce turnover and increase employee engagement. Being able to seamlessly connect talent to opportunities through machine learning and social intelligence, organizations can then align their resource needs with the interests, skills, and expertise of their workforce and create a win-win for both the employee and company.

The Founder’s Dilemma sessions are a big part of extending engagement with Microsoft in the Valley. They are intensive sessions where we bring together startup founders and foster open communication about problems faced. Together, we workshop real problems and solutions, share learnings/resources, and strengthen relationships. But, it’s not just about a one-off session; instead this is an ongoing process from a first dilemma, to working on the problem together, and then to sharing success, which is both powerful and motivating.

We held an event earlier this month to welcome our newly relocated companies to the valley – Servicefriend from Tel Aviv and Braineet from Paris. Surrounded by great food, wine, and people, it was a wonderful community event where we brought together about 20 founders from around the world. We went around the table and had everyone share a tip or “hack” for making it in the Valley. Some were funny, others useful, and some were completely off the wall – but they were all fun and engaging. We had some great “hacks” from established Valley startups. Prateek Panda, Co-Founder of Appknox, suggested hanging out at the Red Rock Café in the Castro area in San Francisco since it’s a great spot to find investors, business partners, and more. Rajesh Setty, Co-Founder of WittyParrot, encouraged volunteering at events to build prospects and get investors.

We focused on our newly welcomed company needs and practical ways to help them. Braineet was interested in sales growth and Servicefriend’s first order of business was finding new office space. They left the event with numerous suggestions to aid them in their endeavors and a newfound community to leverage. They also shared their “hacks” with us; for example, Braineet explained how they leveraged their relocation as a topic to secure 25+ meetings (10 in one day) using an outbound email strategy.

But it wasn’t all business. Life in the Valley is just as much about your lifestyle as it is about work. We all know that transportation can be a total nightmare. So, one of our founders has a very innovative “hack” – an electric skateboard, or “skeeboard”. Greg Tanaka, Co-Founder of Percolata, swears by his and can reach speeds of 25mph. This was probably one of the greatest “hacks” we’ve ever shared!

Sharing and celebrating success is fundamental to what we do and it’s amazing to see companies begin to progress and flourish through our network. Overall, I believe that community building is the crucial tool to “hack” any area – especially the Valley. We’ve seen proof of this already and I’m excited for the future of our community and creating a strong Microsoft footprint in the Bay Area.

Get to know Travis McCormick, Senior Director of Rallyteam

Hobbies I love being outdoors and hiking. In fact, I just recently got back from a hiking trip in Canada (the trip was a “baby stag” to celebrate one of our Co-Founders who is expecting!) It’s really important to be able to disconnect sometimes.

-Favorite restaurant Va de Vi Restaurant and Wine Bar.

-Most productive work spot I’ve been known to do my best work in an airport.

-Favorite relaxation method Reading, watching a favorite television series or going to the movies – I’m a big fan of GoT and Westworld.