How Silicon Valley made me think small—Spark.me 2015 startup sales talk

by Ramin Assemi

Here's a talk Steli gave on May 31, 2015 in Montenegro, one of the biggest tech conferences in the Balkan region. He talks about the power of thinking small; firing half his team and dancing to N'Sync's Bye Bye Bye; being more productive in fewer hours; and getting your hands dirty to build your startup, instead of playing with the latest shiny little toy—and more advice that will help you get sh!t done instead of being busy.

Prefer to listen? You can download the MP3 by clicking on the soundcloud link or listen right here on the page.

Transcript

Sanya: So now, it’s time for our next speaker. Nicholo [Phonetic] will be moderating it so please Nicholo come to the stage and announce our next speaker.

Nicholo: Thank, Sanya. Hey, everyone.

[Applause]

Nicholo: I guess I did a good job last year. So we’re continuing with the startup story and our next speaker actually has a nice story behind him. Drazen from Tourvia.me startup called me and said, “I have a great speaker for you for Spark.me.” And I said, “Sorry, speakers list is closed. No more spaces so sorry.” And he said, “You have to listen to this guy. Just take a look at his presentation and then you can tell me what you think.”

So OK, he’s my friend. I can’t say no so I just took a look at one presentation then after that one I said, “OK, maybe it was a fluke.” So I looked at another then I looked at the third one and said, “OK, my mistake. Exactly. Fuck the speakers list. We’re getting this guy.” You have to hear how awesome he is.

His position is Chief Hustler at Close.io. He describes himself as the greatest sales hustler in Silicon Valley. And lately, he has been famous on YouTube for an ‘N Sync video singing Bye Bye Bye. But we’ll talk about that later. Please welcome, Steli Efti.

[Applause]

Steli: Thanks my man. I’m not going to dance for you guys. Forget it. I fired half my people when I danced Bye Bye Bye. So first, I have to hire all of you before I do that.

All right. So usually, let’s see if they have my presentation. They don’t. This is also good but it’s not presentation. Anyways, I think I can do it without slides. We’ll figure it out. If somebody figures out my slides, just let me know.

So typically, I talk about hustling and sales. My entrepreneurial super power is hustle. Today, I’m going to talk about how Silicon Valley made me think small. I can’t think of a smaller place to come to talk about thinking small than Montenegro, beautiful, beautiful place. But I think it’s very fitting.

Also, Giovanni, where are you? Are you doing the Steli-meter? There you go. There you go. So, I’m kind of known for cursing a lot and for screaming. So people thought of having a Steli-meter of taking care and tracking how many swear words I use.

Today, as a Spark.me exclusive, for the very first time, I’ll use two Greek swear words also in the presence of a lot of malaka. One is “malaka”. The other one is “gamoto”. Those are exclusives, never used them on stage before. You’ll hear a lot of fucking and other things going on.

All right. So a little bit about myself. So who doesn’t know who the fuck I am? Just raise your hand and be proud. It must be most of you people. Exactly. That’s the doses of motivation and inspiration I need to get started when I’m on stage. You don’t know who the fuck I am and that’s good.

All right. So I tell you a little bit about myself. So I’m originally Greek, born and raised in Germany. About eight years ago, I sold everything I had. I bought a one-way ticket and I moved to Silicon Valley to become a tech entrepreneur. I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. Dropped out of high school when I was 17, 18. I fucking hated school. I’m totally unemployable. And I have slides! See, see how this works? That’s awesome.

All right. So none of you would ever hire me. So when people ask me, “Why have you been an entrepreneur your whole life?” I’m like, “Lack of options.” All right. It’s not the most inspiration story but it works for me.

But before I start, I truly believe that appreciation is the currency you pay the universe. So with that being said, I want to say thank you to all of you for showing up today, for listening. I want to thank the organizers for inviting me.

[Applause]

I want to thank Ramon for fucking waking me up this morning even without coffee. All right. So I don’t just launch companies. I also launch babies. So this is my oldest one. We launched him three years ago. The most recent startup is the small handsome gentleman a year ago. It’s really was my wife that launched them. I was more of a support and business development role if you want. So thank you.

[Applause]

All right. So why did I want to talk about how Silicon Valley made me think small? So last year, I was speaking at a conference and I visited Switzerland, Zurich. And in Zurich, something horrible happened. Somebody stole my fucking passport. So in that passport are my US visa and a bunch of other things, so I had to go back to Greece because I’m still a Greek citizen to get a new passport. Nothing is more fun than going to Greece to get official paperwork done. Right? Yes, exactly, Paul. Exactly.

So, I spent two weeks in Greece. I’m like, “If I’m in Greece, might as well do something useful. So I met with every single entrepreneur in that city, all the startup people. And the last night, this doesn’t come through that well, but there was a big dinner to say goodbye. And one of – they were asking me all these questions.

At some point, one of these Greek entrepreneurs looked at me and said, “Steli, tell me. How did Silicon Valley made you think bigger?” And I had to think about that question for a moment and I was like, “Silicon Valley actually has made me think smaller.” Much, much smaller because when I first showed up to Silicon Valley, I’ll tell you a little bit about my mindset. So this is eight years ago.

So, I have this idea that I think will change the fucking world. I think it’s going to be my legacy, the reason why I fucking exist. I sell everything I have back in Germany. I buy a one-way ticket. I show up at San Francisco Airport and I ask someone, “How do I get to Silicon Valley?” Yes, one person laughing.

Silicon Valley is not a place. It’s not a city. It’s an area, right? So I was so clueless. I knew nobody. I knew nothing about it. But I have pretty grand visions. I thought I would change the fucking world. And my plan was pretty simple. I had two simple goals.

Number one, I wanted to just change the world. And goal number two, I didn’t publicly ever say this but my second goal, secret goal was to be Time Magazine Man of the Year or Person of the Year like two years after I arrived there. I didn’t want to take the suspense away but these two things haven’t really happened at least in this order yet. But I had like these grand visions.

And I’ll tell you something else. I was an arrogant asshole because although I knew nothing, I was good at judging other people’s ideas.

I remember meeting the AirBnB founders when AirBnB had not blown up yet as big of a success as it was. And those guys were still struggling. And I remember thinking, “Sleeping in fucking air mattresses and making breakfast for strangers, this is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard!” I wanted to change education. I built this online education platform that allowed everybody around the world to teach and study from each other and it would disrupt the educational learning forever. I was like, “Fucking air mattresses! Really? That’s what you’re doing with your life? That’s so stupid!”

There was another startup that I met. It was this one. You might know it. I was like, “Dropbox! File sharing, really? That’s what you’re going to do with your life? It’s like you solve the problem for me to put a file online? What the fuck is that? There’s enough file sharing going on.” As you have noticed, I would make an amazing investor. I just know how to spot the winners. Marvin, you should just always invest in the ideas I think are the stupidest and you’ll crush it with the fund.

So I was like walking around. And basically, what I was doing, I was comparing my startup penis with your startup penis. I would go to events. I’d be so judgmental and I’d be like, “Oh, what are you doing?” Da, da, da, we’re doing blah, blah, blah. “What are you doing?” Well dude, this and this. And then I would look at me and go, “Yeah? Mine is bigger.”

[Laughter]

I’m changing education. You’re doing file sharing. Whatever. Like mine is much bigger and better than yours. I was an arrogant asshole, not to the external world. That’s the fucked up part. If you met me, I was kind of a nice guy. I was like, “Oh yeah, that sounds like a great idea.” But internally I was like, “Duh! Stupid! Nah! Too small. I’m going to be a fucking Person of the Year in Time Magazine. Like what the file sharing and air mattresses, that’s bullshit.”

All right. So you can guess so far like it was going for me. Also, this is something I see with a shit ton of startups that come to Silicon Valley and around the world too. My milestones for my business were so fucked up. Number one, I want to raise millions of dollars. And number two, I want to hire hundreds of people. And then I want to put all those millions and hundreds of people in a massive building so I feel as successful as possible. That’s fucked up.

You know how many entrepreneurs I met and all the questions they asked are horrible questions, “How can I raise money?” As if that’s the most important thing in the world. How can we get – or people, a lot of times people ask me today, “Hey, how big is your company?” I’m like, “In profits or in people?” And they’re like – they wanted to ask in people, they’re like, “In people?” I’m like, “We’re small in people. We’re humongous in profits.” Like those priorities are backwards. I wanted to have lots and lots of people work for me. For what reason? Other than having a big startup penis for no reason whatsoever, right? Bullshit.

I can tell you that by now, so this company didn’t work out. I’ll tell you a little bit about it. I have no sense for time so as long as nobody kicks me off stage, I will keep talking. So I have by now, we’ll make a little jump in time, I have raised millions and I have hired tons of people and I had big building where people worked for me. Today, I have a very small team. I say no to VCs every single day and I fucking love life. I’ll tell you why thinking small is much better than thinking big.

So now, one or the other might have wondered what was the idea? So I’ll tell you a little bit of the context. The first business that I did in Silicon Valley was called Supercool School. The idea was to build an open platform that allowed everybody to teach and study from each other. We did a shit ton of bullshit work. We did like presentations and brainstorms and websites and this and that. And we worked on when Facebook was just announced the platform, we had the first app on Facebook that allowed people, we’re like, “We’re going to turn Facebook into an online university.”

And we did a corporate education platform for Google where engineers could teach engineer skills around the world. And we did a shit ton of bullshit and we were working on this platform. We’re doing all this magical stuff. And we’re going nowhere. Zero traction. Zero money raised, very little users. Just like the things that were fundamentally important, we didn’t accomplish. But we built and over engineered and built more and built more and built more.

In contrast, during the exact same time, there was this guy that was also doing something in education, Salman Kahn, right? And he took the exact opposite approach with me. What he did, he was like, “I need to teach these kids something about Math. Let me make this 2-minute video then I do it once and I don’t have to do it again.” Started a YouTube channel, just a fucking YouTube channel. That’s it!

And started creating little lessons, 2-minute, 3-mintue, 4-minute videos every fucking day though. And he did like multiple videos every day, not one day, not ten days. After a month, he had maybe like three views on YouTube. He didn’t give a shit. He just kept making those videos every day, four videos, five videos, six videos every fucking day consistently for a year, for over a year.

Now, there is like a few hundred views on his videos. These kids are like, “Mister Khan, you changed my life. You really helped me with this test.” And it’s like a little bit of traction going on. He just keeps doing videos like there’s no tomorrow. He doesn’t give a shit.

And at some point, he starts taking off. And at some point, there’s an inflection point. Bill Gates is on stage and he talks about education and he brings up his YouTube channel. And the next thing you know, this fucking media is throwing themselves at him and he’s like in all outlets. I don’t know if he ever made Time Magazine Person of the Year. But who gives a shit, right? But he’s like everywhere, CNN, Forbes, every – all the magazines. All of a sudden, he gets millions and millions of views on his YouTube channel.

By today, Khan Academy is this massive thing. The fucked up thing is that our office was right next to theirs once they blew up. So now, it’s a non-profit but it’s this massive thing that has changed the world and has continued to change the world. It started small.

When I looked at his strategy, I was like, “I don’t want to have a YouTube channel. I want to fucking build the school of the future.” I was an arrogant prick and that’s why I didn’t change the world of education and he did.

All right. So, what am I doing today? Today, I’m known as like the Sales Guy of Silicon Valley. Today, I work for a company or I co-founded a company called Close.io. It sales software. We help startups predominantly that are in B2B sell more and make more revenue. Our software is amazing and I love it. But if I think about it, eight years ago, I would have looked at myself and went, “Sale software, really? That’s what you’re going to do with your life? Help a fucking salesperson sell more. That’s it. Should we put that on your grave stone? Steli’s life’s work, some salesperson sold more. Is that really it?”

So we have a tiny company. We’re just eight people. We have tons of profits and we are fucking loving our life and we say no to every week there’s a VC offer in 10, 15, 20 million dollars and I keep saying no and enjoying myself. And we are staying as small as we possibly can.

Now, the funny thing is this company, I would have looked down at, I’ve never had bigger impact in my life. I’ve never changed more lives in a positive way. I’ve never helped more companies around the world. Every day, I get 10, 20, 30 emails from people just thanking me for the difference I made in their lives. And I don’t say that to brag, maybe a little bit. But what I really want to say is that it doesn’t matter. You should not think in small or big or like, “Is my startup penis bigger than yours? Is it really a big idea or not?” You just start thinking, “Am I creating value for just one person? Am I doing something that’s truly valuable? Am I just fucking around and spending all my time with bullshit?”

This is our team. We go – because we are small, we can do some amazing things like our smallest competitor in our space with Close.io, it’s like a 130 employees and we make more revenue, we are eight. And I fucking love that. I would never want to hire many, many people just to hire people. I love these people. We go travel every three months in a different place. We have an amazing culture in the company and we are hiring. So if you want to be hired and eventually if you’re ever been fired, I’d danced for you exclusively just for you one-on-one then shoot me an email.

All right. So let me share some more lessons that I learned on why I think thinking small is a powerful thing. And eventually, it’s the only way that you can ever get big is you start small.

First, one thing that I learned, when I arrived in Silicon Valley and I was doing startups, I thought as an entrepreneur, I have to work 17, 18 hours a day. And I worked seven days a week. No vacations. No parties. No weekends. No nothing. And the more I suffered, the more in a sick way I was enjoying it because it’s like that’s the suffering of success. This pain is going to make me big one day. This pain is going to be what puts me on Time Magazine.

But the thing is there’s a difference between being busy and being productive. There’s a difference between sitting in front of your fucking laptop for hours and hours and doing something worthwhile, creating value, doing something that matters. It’s a massive difference.

Today, I know during a normal day, I can’t be productive for more than four hours. And productive means I’ve done shit that was truly important. And when I start my day, I always start doing just one thing. Here’s the question that I asked myself every single day and I would invite you to do the same, before I go to the office, I go and have cappuccino by myself and then I ask myself, “If I could do only one thing and then I would have to fuck off back home and would feel still feel good about myself, what’s that one thing?” And I just do that one thing and then I fuck off home. No. Sometimes. Sometimes not, right?

So the next – so don’t think about hours. How many hours do you work? It’s not about how big the hours are. It’s what you do with them. It really is. I think business is a form of lazy thinking and working.

The other thing, I met the founders of Heroku. Heroku, I’m not sure if you guys know them or not. It’s a startup that was pretty famous, sold to Salesforce for hundreds of millions. And these guys blew my mind. So I talked to those three founders of Heroku and they shared some philosophies with me.

One of them was they’re like, “If something is too hard, we don’t do it.” And I was like, “What?!” “Yeah, if it’s so hard, we never do it.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” “Well, if something is really hard for us it means either that we are the wrong people, it’s the wrong time or we have the wrong approach on working on it. So what we do is we say, ‘Oh, this problem is really hard. Let’s put it to the side and let’s revisit in a few months.’ And you know the funny thing Steli, is that a lot of times it was the wrong problem to work on at all so we never have to work on that problem. Sometimes it comes back and at that point, we have somebody on the team that can solve that problem easily or we have now the resources or the wisdom or the approach or the toolset to solve that problem easily. So we only and exclusively solve easy fucking problems.” Blew my mind. It blew my fucking mind.

Everything I thought about entrepreneurship before was you only work on things hard and you work on the hard way and the more you suffer and the more suffering the problem is, the better it is for the world. Bullshit! Bullshit! It’s all just virtual jerking off. There’s some sickness to it. It’s like, “Oh, we enjoyed in pain and suffering.”

[Applause]

Thank you. It seems like there are some people who know the pleasure of suffering in this audience. So today, seriously today, if something is way too hard, I stop working on it. It’s magic. It’s magic. Scary as fuck to somebody like me. Scary to be like, “This is too hard. Leave it alone.” But it’s so empowering and so amazing. The amount of bullshit time you can save by not working on things that are too hard for you to do.

The next thing, this is something I learned from Paul Graham. He was like probably one of the single most influential startups around the world, the founder of Y Combinator. The first day we got accepted to Y Combinator for one of my startups, Paul Graham chats with us about our idea and at some point he turns around and says, “All right, Steli. You have to decide now. What is the number one most important metric you have? What’s the one thing that’s the most important thing?”

We’re thinking. We’re like, “Fully subscribed paying customers, people that are subscribed with the credit card and everything.” He’s like, “Cool, that’s the number. Can you promise me 10% growth every single week from today until demo day, which is in three months? Can you give me your word and promise that that’s going to be a number you deliver?” I’m like, “Dude, we have ten users right now. That’s like one user next week. Fuck yea. I can’t do that.” He’s like, “All right. Shake my hand on.” And while we’re shaking hands, I’m like, “You have your credit card with you.” And he’s like, “See? That’s why you need to promise me that.”

So we signed him up and then I signed everybody with a credit card that was in the building. And all we focused on every single week not 10 metrics, not 100, just one single metric, how can we get 10% growth next week? Every time we had a discussion, should we do this thing or that thing? Should we focus on this on the product or that? We take a step back and we were like, “What of all these things will get us 10% growth?” That’s all we did.

And you know what happened? At the end of the day, we delivered 20% week over week growth for three months. This is not a lot in numbers but it creates a massive chart. It creates like a little curve chart up into the right. We printed that chart on fucking t-shirts on our demo day. And when I was talking to investors, I was like, “I remember talking to you when we were here. Now, we are here. Mother fucker, you can do it now or you can do it when we’re up there like it’s up to you. I don’t care.” I am a little still arrogant shit. But it worked. Nothing was more appealing than that level of confidence.

[Applause]

But more important than that, more important than the t-shirt part is you have to pick. Don’t do lots of numbers. Pick one. What’s the most important one? “But our business is so complex and so amazing that it has 13 numbers that are important.” No! You just don’t know how to make a choice. You don’t know how to make the hard choice of choosing one thing that’s signaling to you if you are on the right track or not.

All right. The next thing is we all love bullshit work. I’ll give you an example, Google Analytics. Google Analytics or metrics like we’re like, “Oh, I have this idea for the product. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to set up this landing page and then I’m going to go to Google and I’m going to buy some traffic and then I’m going to do some SEM and SEO work. And then I’m going to set up Google Analytics and then I’m going to look at my charts in my pajamas and I’m going to decide how am I going to conquer the world based on the data because I’m a data-driven person. Big data is even better than small data.”

If you haven’t noticed, people that say it depends on the data are not saying the truth, right? More data is better.

So this is – we all love that. You know why we love that bullshit shit is because it’s good for the ego and it’s safe. It’s in your fucking living room. You don’t have to interact with reality. And reality hurts. It’s dirty. It’s messy. It’s shitty. And it’s different from what you want it to be. That’s why we like the stuff up on my laptop and then boom! Millions!

Instead of doing that shit, when you have something new, how about you get off your fucking pajamas, you put on some clothes, you go to a coffee shop and you show your shitty little landing page to somebody and you go, “Look at this please, sir. I’ll get you your coffee and then tell me what the fuck I’m doing.”

[Applause]

Thank you. Nothing, nothing, nothing is as strong a medicine to your bullshit ideas than reality. Like look at somebody over their shoulder how they are struggling to click on your app and figure out what to do with it. Nothing is more like cleansing in like the reality check you get. You just look over people’s shoulders. Don’t explain what you do. Don’t tell them where to click. Don’t go, “Yeah, yeah, what we do – oh, that button, we haven’t made it yellow yet so…” No, no, no. Shut the fuck up. Just give them the thing and go, “Please, sir. Here’s your fucking coffee. What I want, two minutes, do something with my app.” And then see what they do.

And that’s going to teach you so much more than looking at like, “I’ve got 27 clicks on Google. I think our idea is validated by now. I think we can go on and raise a hundred million dollars. We got all the validation we needed.” No! Go out in the real world. Talk to real people. Pitch somebody your idea and then don’t just have them go, “Oh, I really like it.” No! Tell them, “Can you now go and tell this to this person?”

And then listen to the shit they are going to say. Listen to it. Listen to their struggle. Look at their face. Look at their pain. Try to remember what the fuck you told them you’re doing. They are doing something in the disruptive – something – I don’t know. Help me out here. What did you say again you do? That’s the medicine we all need to realize the bullshit we are working on.

All right. And the last thing that I want to share and I could go on for hours obviously but I’m going to keep this limited so I can answer some of your questions. The beauty of small is that or the difficulty with small is that it requires you to make hard choices. It requires you to say no to things and decide, “This is what we’re going to do. This is what we’re not going to do.” It’s too easy to say yes.

Let’s start with company culture like look at a company like Facebook. Early on, they decided, “Speed is what we care about.” So we’ll say move faster and break things. We can’t also say quality of code is really important to us. You can’t. You can’t say speed is everything but we want the best quality and never making any mistakes. You can’t. That’s what most companies do. They have a bunch of values and they are all a bunch of bullshit because one is contradicting the other.

Of course, I want to be the fastest, best, safest, greatest, most exciting, most – I want to be everything because everything is great. But you can’t be everything. If you want to be everything, you will be nothing. So you have to learn to say no. And I’ll give you two practical tips on that, on like deciding what to do and not to do.

Instead of deciding what you want to do, start deciding what you would not do. If you have a startup and you have a product roadmap, make it an un-roadmap. Oh, that discussion is going to be so hard. You sit with your team and you decide, “What are we never going to build? What are we never going to make part of our product?”

Now, you can change your mind. Life goes on. A year from now, you want to revisit that un-roadmap. But make some hard choices. For us, for Close.io, we said two years ago when we launched, “We’ll never have a mobile app because we’re an inside sales too, people that sell through phone and email. We’re going to build the best fucking tool for that.” Yes, we want to have a mobile version but that’s not our number one priority. People complain about it every day but we’re still growing like crazy because we’re exceptionally good at what we do but we’re not great at everything else that exists. It’s hard to say no to things.

The same thing with to-do list on a smallest scale. When I start my day, I start my day with my not to-do list. I put all the shit on a list that I’m not going to fucking work on today. And you know what’s cool about that list? Once I start my day, ideas come up. I have these urges, “Well, I should do this or I should do that.” Put that on the not to-do list.

Somebody comes to me, “Steli, could we work on this and this?” Let me put that in my not to fucking do list. Somebody sends me an email, “Hey, could we blah, blah, blah?” There are all these stimulus, all these ideas, all these people that want – and I have ideas and I want to do. And my to-do list always used to be a like a humungous mother fucker and all it did is just made me feel more and more horrible towards the end of the day. And then I had like two things checked off on that thing.

Today, my to-do list is like two or three items. My not to-do list is massive. It’s a powerful thing. I don’t have to think about that shit. “Yes, you have a great idea.” On the not to-do list.

Try that out and you’ll see that it’s hard for us humans to say no. It’s hard for us to just focus on a few small things but then take that small thing and hit the fuck out of that mother fucker. Just a one thing but do it a lot and do it with passion. Do it with hustle. And you’ll see like what we do for marketing for instance at Close.io, all our marketing is just content marketing. It’s just me teaching what I know, us teaching to the world how to do sales successfully. That’s all that we do. That’s how we drive our growth.

People when they meet me, they are like, “Holy shit, Steli! How did you do so much content? Once I started following you, you are fucking everywhere.” I don’t do anything else. That’s all we do. I don’t do SEM. I don’t do SEO. I don’t do this. I just do one thing but I hit that nail until I’m blue in the face.

All right. So I will end with my one of my all-time favorite quotes from Mother Teresa, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with a person nearest you, next to you.” All right? With that being said guys, go get them. Think small and thank you so much.

[Applause]

Do I really have to sit down? This is so weird. Should I do this?

Nicholo: Yeah.

Steli: I need some tea.

Nicholo: So let’s see how you did the Steli meter. Fuck 18 times, shit 13 times, fucking, 28 times, mother fucker 3 times, bullshit 12 times, fuck up 3 times. Well done.

[Applause]

Steli: All for you. It’s all for you.

Nicholo: OK. So in about four hours, we’re going to have – well, we were supposed to have ten startups on this stage after your speech. And now when they hear your story, I don’t think we will have two startups on the stage.

Steli: I’m a nice person when I’m not an asshole.

[Laughter]

Nicholo: Since we’re very, very short on time, I’m going to open it up to questions and I’m sure there are some people. Come on, he’s a nice guy.

Steli: Please ask a question. All right. Let me tell you a quick story about asking questions.

[Laughter]

Steli: The last two conferences ago with Ramon, the same conference, I say you always have to be outside your comfort zone. Do something you’re afraid of. Do it today. I did this whole talk about that. There’s a lady in the audience. First question she asked, “What are you afraid of mother fucker?” So she asked some really good questions. And then after me, she asked the best questions at every single talk. Afterwards, all the speakers go to her. We all become friends with her. Next thing, she is at the VIP party at this thing, at that thing.

And then it turns out, she sends me an email a few days later, Hazal, she’s awesome and she says, “Steli…” she’s a very religious person. She doesn’t look like the person that’s like a rockstar but she was a rockstar at that conference. She is like, “Steli, when you said be outside your comfort zone, I was like, ‘What am I uncomfortable with?’ and the answer was, asking questions. So I was like, ‘Today, I’m going to ask questions.’ And once I started asking questions, everybody was loving me. And then the speakers were all like impressed with me. It’s like at the breaks, people are coming to me, shaking my hands.” She’s like, “I’ve never had anybody talk to me ever. I’m always the person nobody pays any attention to.” She is like, “I fucking love it. I need more of this in my life.”

[Laughter]

All right. Who wants to be the first question?

[Laughter]

Male Speaker: Hello? On this side. Hello?

Nicholo: OK. We have two.

Steli: There you go. Hello, sir!

Male Speaker: Hi there.

Steli: Thank you so much for asking a question.

Male Speaker: No problem. I wanted to ask you, you said going to Silicon Valley made you think small.

Steli: Yeah.

Male Speaker: But you had a lot of success. Do you think it was because you were in Silicon Valley? For startups in Europe like us, a lot of people say, “If you want to make it you have to go Silicon Valley.” What’s your opinion?

Steli: So it’s hard for me to tell. I haven’t done a startup like this anywhere else other than in Silicon Valley, right? For me, the move to the Valley was good because it’s not the physical place that’s great. It’s that around the world, some of the best entrepreneurs all go to this one tiny place. So you have a lot more competition, you have a lot more inspiration and you have a lot more people to teach and learn from. So that concentration is what makes that place special that helped me learn.

But I have to go through five years of failing harder than I’d ever had in my life because I was totally out of my depth. So it depends on what you want. I think you can be an amazing entrepreneur anywhere around the world. There are enough examples of that. That somebody is going to be the fucking ball of Montenegro that everybody around the world is like, “This startup started in Montenegro and he just fucking rules the world now.” So I don’t think you have to anywhere. But I do think surrounding yourself with amazing people is important and the Valley is a good place to do that.

Male Speaker: OK. Thank you.

Nicholo: Before Sanya kills me, one more.

Sanya: OK. I’ll be short and direct. Can we see the dance?

[Laughter]

[Applause]

Steli: All right. All right. Here’s the thing. Somebody watched that video of me dancing to Bye Bye Bye when I had to fire my people and said, “Steli, I remember you being a much better dancer.” And I was like, “Mother fucker, the point was not me dancing well. I had to just let go of people. The point was for me to look like an idiot.” So I can look like an idiot just for you.

Sanya: Thank you.

Steli: If it makes you happy even without the song. Somebody has to sing Bye Bye Bye or something or clap at least. I’m going to make myself a fool for you guys.

Nicholo: Come on, guys.

Sanya: I’m not singing.

Steli: I did something like this. All right. This is it. I didn’t do anything cooler than that. If you want to see me dance, come tonight and we’ll dance together.

Nicholo: OK. Deal.

Sanya: It’s a deal.

Steli: Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thank you so much.

Nicholo: Thank you so much.

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