Cultural Differences between Indian & Silicon Valley Startups

[Guest article by Vishal Gondal, founder of Indiagames. If you are a startup or part of the ecosystem, this article is for you.]

Having spent a lot of my time with startups, entrepreneur teams, investors both in India and Silicon Valley. I thought to put together a comprehensive list of the key differences I noticed between the culture of these startups. For clarity sake by Startups I am referring to pre VC funded early stage companies..
Startup ecosystem in the Silicon Valley has evolved over the last 25 years and today the ecosystem is very evolved with colleges, angels, VC investors, entrepreneurs, employees etc all working in harmony no wonder startups like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo etc have born and nurtured from there.

The Indian Startup Ecosystem is still in its nascent stage. At this stage I am not commenting on business models, ideas and execution but more the Cultural aspects.

Here are 4 key points of cultural differentiation.

Open v/s Closed

Silicon valley Entrepreneurs are generally very open in most cases – a lot of information about the Entrepreneurs and their products is available on their websites, blogs. Having been involved in a much more matured startup ecosystem they understand that while Ideas may be many they key is the team and execution. The only way they can recruit great talent, get top investors, create buzz around their company is to be OPEN. Everyone in the key management team is clear about the product, strategy and what they are trying to do.

Indian Startup Entrepreneurs are generally very Closed very little information is available about the startup and in most cases the ‘About Us’ section of the company has no or little information. Except for the CEO most other team members have little idea about the company and its vision. Generally very secretive about what they are trying to do.. and are very protective about their ‘Ideas’

Outgoing v/s Timid

Silicon Valley Startups are very aggressive. Regular press releases, company and founders blog, update emails, Invitation to Close Beta and many other activities to actively engage customers, investors and employees are very common. Most of their entrepreneurs are active in all major industry events not just startup and investor events. Their are a lot more articulate in their presentation and overall packaging of the company and themselves. Their plans are deep,detailed and well researched. At the same time you experience a very ‘Cowboy’ like attitude entrepreneurs

Indian entrepreneurs are generally very shy not very good with media and public interactions. They are all present at investor and startup show but rare to attend relevant industry events. During your talks with them unless you are a VC or investor information from them is hard to come by. Very few of them involve external group of people to interact with their product in form of private beta. Quality of presentation and overall packaging is much toned down with a lot more emphasis on numbers and excel sheets. Most plans are superficial and lack attentional to detail. You normally get a conservative and guarded feeling once you meet these entrepreneurs.

Logical v/s Emotional

Silicon Valley Startup entrepreneurs are more logical than Emotional about the company, the idea and the overall approach. When confronted with alternate ideas, theories, suggestions they reaction is more positive as they don’t tend to take suggestions or advice ‘personally’. While negotiating with clients, VC’s, investors they tend to take more rational decisions.

Indian Startup Entrepreneurs are very Emotional about everything. In most cases you have to given them any advice or suggestions at your own risk as they tent to take these things personally. Its very difficult for them to accept criticism about their company/idea as they get emotionally attached to their ideas. Also they are a nightmare to negotiate with investors as their emotional side always tends to be in conflict with the realities of the market.

Social/Lonely

Silicon Valley Startup entrepreneurs are generally ’social’ its not uncommon to see competitors CEO hanging out together. A lot these Entrepreneurs bat for each other, share booth space in events, keeping their homes open to other startups, share office space, lobby together for common causes, have co-sponsored parties and events. They are active in openly supporting other startup companies and entrepreneurs

Indian Startup Entrepreneurs are a lonely bunch living in their own little worlds. In most cases Each one is to its own 🙂 very little co-operation among non-competing startups.

A lot of the above differences are also partly due to the early stage of the evolution of the startup ecosystem in India. I am sure 20 years back Silicon Valley would have been similar. But with every year and with organizations like TiE, Angels, incubators and startups events like startup proto.in headstart etc. I see our young entrepreneurs learning very fast. And I think eventually the ecosystem in India will be a hybrid system a mix of western and Indian values! The success of Indian Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley is probably a good indication of this trend.

What’s your take?

–Note from Ashish—

Bangalore startups – keep yourself free this saturday. We are announcing something, something that is focused on the last point mentioned by VIshal, i.e. social vs. lonely, and beyond.

img credit: lucky8prods.com

[Reproduced from Visha’s blog]

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