Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace is originally Scottish and moved to San Francisco some time ago. His first venture didn’t work but 20 months ago, he then decided to found Rocketspace. Rocketspace could be described as “offices as a service” Logan said. He confided to our team of bloggers that he had read the Lean Start-up and he tested the principles he’d found in the book by creating a fake company and posting an ad on Craigs’ list. He got something like 10 requests by companies in 12 hours. Then he tried again by adding that only tech companies are wanted and he got 15 responses in 12 hours. That’s how Rocketspace, start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco, was born. Today, Duncan Logan delivered his vision of why the Valley is the world’s most exciting place for high tech entrepreneurship.
[note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Live Blog which I manage and created]
Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace delivered his 360° view of entrepreneurship
a start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco
15 companies are hosted by Rocketspace, and there is space for 150 people. According to Logan, this is the largest “tech accelerator” in San Francisco. “30% of companies hosted here are from overseas who want to mix with the ecosystem in the Valley. 30 other co-working spaces exist but this one is dedicated to tech companies” Logan added. Spotify was hosted here for instance, but there are also companies at seed money stage.
“Overseas companies have too broad offerings” Logan said, “US companies have narrower offerings and they therefore, they are much more focused; because it’s such a huge country” he said.
co-working spaces have nothing to do with real-estate
Within about 6 weeks from creation, it dawned on Duncan and his teams that “real estate has nothing to do with co-working, and that it was all about the eco-system. It’s all about speed here, most start-uppers don’t care about privacy” Logan added. As a matter of fact, most of them don’t worry about building a sales team either. ‘The real trend behind Rocketspace Duncan said is that before, you would have to raise a lot more money and spend more time on getting yourselves organised, now you don’t”. So how much would you need to get started? “Under half a million dollars” he responded “and after 15-16 weeks, they can have large numbers of customers without spending too much money” … that is in case it takes off, but the system is such that investors know what to expect.
young people don’t want to commute … nor get into an office
“Over here, young people don’t want to commute, they don’t want to own cars, so there has been a real emphasis for young companies to be based in San Francisco [rather than Silicon Valley which is an hour away from the City] and this is why real estate prices doubled in 18 months!” Duncan Logan added. Besides, “the valley is more about infrastructure start-ups (i.e. cloud computing, storage and servers etc.) whereas “the City is about young companies” he said.
“Tech founders aren’t very social”
Most of the companies here are at “A” stage he said. For most of them, the risk is on the entrepreneurs, VCs are always pushing for more evidence of future success, and when you are a first time founder you have to think about what business can be financed vs. trying to build the most amazing business” Logan said.
the 3 pillars of Rocketspaces’s business
Now we hit what was the most interesting part of the meeting. Logan delivered his vision for Rocketspace and described what makes it special. “We see ourselves as a kind of platform” he said and he described the 3 pillars of Rocketspace’s business:
- access to capital: close relationship with business angels, venture capitalists and Rocketspace have a very good view of deal flow, Logan said. Specially for outside companies, this is essential
- access to talent: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc. “talent is one of the overriding factors” Logan said. “We nurture those relationships in order to bring talent to new start-ups and we can do this for nothing” he said
- access to customers: this is an “enormous growth item for Rocketspace” Logan said. Large companies like IBM or Microsoft are connected to the Office Space and this is what makes it possible for start-ups to connect to that ecosystem. “Smart companies are engaging with start-ups early in the process. They will come in here and they will say ‘we have a real interest in mobile payments’ for instance and we’ll start to shortlist maybe 4-5 start-ups and this is a very symbiotic way of doing business he said. IBM is working with dozens of start-ups for instance, and Rocketspace is constantly organising demo days and start-ups networking events. “Kodak, Blockbusters etc. took a different approach and refused to change the way they worked and they aren’t here anymore” Logan said.
“There are probably 250 very exciting companies around the world” Logan said, and we’d like to have them at least for Rocketspace for a year. This is our goal for the next 10 years.
How do you do networking?
We have four floors and 2 next door. We do a lot of dinners. “Tech founders aren’t very social” Logan said. We have up to 20 people at dinner and we have all the VCs that count at these dinners he said. There are 10 events going on every night on average in San Francisco and there are a lot of opportunities the entrepreneur said.
“We are not coaching hands-on like an incubator. Obviously it’s all our interest that they succeed. We never publicise who is here. We are fiercely independent. We give 3 contacts for bankers, VCs, partners etc. Rocketspace refuses to take sides.
A lot of this has a lot to do about how companies are getting funding. “VCs are aggressive. They probably see 250 companies before they invest in one. Yet, once they do they are pretty nervous. By the time a start-up is raising money, there will be up to 3-4 VCs competing with one another. So once they are committed they are pretty aggressive. It’s so hard to get in for them… Yet, for start-ups it can take them months before they can find an investor” Duncan Logan added.
I don’t think there is too much money, but the amount of money required to start a new company has dropped the founder of Rocketspace said.
why is Silicon Valley different?
There are great start-ups in UK, France and other places. But when you are in football you have to be in a environment in which you can rub shoulders with top class teams otherwise you don’t know whether you are good at the game or not. That was Logan’s way of explaining that the premier league is taking place in Silicon Valley, this is where you compare yourself to the best companies. People like Reid Hoffmann (founder of LinkedIn), you understand that they have a different understanding of the world Logan said.
but there are other reasons why …
Scale is the issue, mostly in Europe (where there are many languages spoken and smaller numbers of users who are culturally very fragmented). Indian and Chinese companies can scale Logan said. We see copycat ideas happening in certain places like China and India and “they can crack America!” he said. You have to be in the sort of size like dropbox, airBnB etc. and India and China can achieve that kind of scale and found multibillion dollar companies”.
“Even Russian companies” he added “when they want to conquer the world, come to America!”.
plans to expand to other countries?
“US immigration laws are ridiculous” Logan said. “We are tripling our size here in San Francisco but it would make sense to have a Rocketspace in Europe (it could be London or Berlin) and one in Asia” Logan added. Plug and play tech centre (where we are headed to now) were the pioneers he said, but their mentality is very commercial, and there is an obligation to fill the spaces. Roketspace sees themselves as very different from that.