Five weeks ago, Jenny left Germany to join the team of blackbox in Silicon Valley and work with entrepreneurs from all over the world. What she found was another person inside of her – an entrepreneur. By Jenny Jung (Global Partnership Director, blackbox.vc)
People tell me I am very German. I like having everything in place. I like structure, sticking to clearly defined, reliable processes. I am extremely driven and focused.
But most importantly: I like planning ahead... way ahead.
The path I have chosen to go in Germany during the past years reflect this. I have two degrees in Media Science, graduating among the top percentage of my semesters in both. After university, I got a traineeship in online communication and PR right away. I kept working with this employer for another year, started to freelance a little on the side, but always made sure I had at least 50% standard employment.
The next two jobs I took were logical next steps in building on what I had done before, making sure I extended my network and skillset. I became a consultant with a market development agency focused on digital media businesses. You could say I did pretty well. Although, this is not how startups work, it is not how the Valley works and it is definitely not how my new team works.
I came to the Valley on a business trip for my former employer last December and had the chance to meet some of the Valley’s most renowned thought leaders. I met outstanding entrepreneurs with huge visions. And I met blackbox. When I returned to Germany ten days later, it was clear to me that things would not be the same. I began writing on what it is about this place that makes it so distinct from my home country and from Europe as a whole.
Five weeks ago, I made a decision that runs counter to my "German" mindset in every possible way. I quit my well-paying consultant job in Germany, left behind my boyfriend, friends and family and started working as Global Partnership Director with blackbox. They are a very unique seed accelerator, based in a mansion in Palo Alto, focusing on promising startups from outside the United States.
It turns out that this is a perfect environment for me as all of the people living at blackbox mansion are in a very similar situation: far from their homes and loved ones facing huge opportunity and the corresponding risk. Big decisions need to be made every day. And every decision has the potential to turn your life around.
This scares the shit out of me, but at the same time I have never felt this empowered in any other "normal" job I had before. I am starting to discover the entrepreneur inside of me and this I owe to my co-workers at blackbox and the incredibly inspiring people living at blackbox mansion with me.
During the past two weeks, we hosted 13 founders from 10 different countries who had been accepted to participate in blackbox connect – an intense educational program that helps founders from abroad to understand the "Valley code", refine their product with lean UX methodology, find suitable investors, mentors and advisors, set up US offices and launch their product globally.
I witnessed how all of the participants, regardless of their cultural or professional background, shared the experience of two weeks that can change the way you think fundamentally. I call it the blackbox magic.
Part of this magic lies in meeting and learning from Silicon Valley thought leaders like Tim Draper, Dave McClure or Robert Scoble. Part of it lies in the intense training sessions with Valley veterans like Bill Joos, Janice Fraser and Fadi Bishara (the founder of blackbox). And certainly the hands-on advice the founders got from our mentors helped a lot.
But a core part of the success of blackbox connect is contributed by the participants – to whom I feel a kinship even though I am officially part of the blackbox team.
We accelerate each other in overcoming mental barriers, we encourage each other in going for the biggest possible goal and we feel enabled and reassured by the back up we experience with the group. Already during week two of blackbox connect, some of the companies were in talks with potential investors, some had signed strategic partnerships with successful local startups and others started the process of setting up US entities.
And me? I started losing some of my old habits. I feel much more comfortable with uncertainty. I even find it thrilling to some extent.
The feedback for the program was incredible, both from participants and speakers. I am personally convinced that we are building something great here, and I want to share this experience with as many foreign entrepreneurs as possible.
I feel humbled by this community. I feel like anything is possible and I can’t wait for the future to arrive. In my heart I remain the German that came here in December. I still like structure and planning, but I am finding ways to integrate my "Germanness" in the new surrounding for the better. The most significant change I have gone through is that I feel capable of pursuing bigger goals. I know I can make things work. And I need to thank you, fellow entrepreneurs within blackbox, for contributing to this discovery.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Jenny E. Jung is Global Partnership Director at blackbox.vc. She is a German startup enthusiast, natural networker and opportunity creator. Before coming to Silicon Valley, Jenny was responsible for (NRW) region development and hosting of European startup events like ADVANCE Conference focusing on digital media and technology. She quit her job to join the team of Silicon Valley -based startup accelerator blackbox.vc. Follow her on Twitter at @jung.