Surrounded by a feeling of high innovation, energy and a startup-atmosphere in the walls, I am meeting Carina Dreifeldt, the founder and CEO of Speedment, Inc. We met up in a cozy restaurant in the middle of Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley. Carina’s distinguishing background and career, makes her a great role model on how to become an outstanding and successful entrepreneur. With a lot of enthusiasm and energy she shared some advice on how to succeed in Silicon Valley.
Over a delicious lunch she is explaining how she got involved in SACC-SF/SV. Carina has been following SACC closely ever since she moved here and after attending some of our events she decided to become a new, individual member of SACC-SF/SV. Having an incredible background, starting off with a M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Chalmers University of technology, followed by outstanding experiences in the tech industry, lately having a high focus on start-ups. Together with her husband, she has founded, three start-ups; Phone Pages, Chilirec and now Speedment – which I was especially interested in hearing more about – because of the success the company has had in Silicon Valley, the Mecca of the startup world.
The idea and development of Speedment came up in year 2010, when working on the music cloud service Chilirec. Carina and her team searched for a technology, that would make their database more efficient and faster. Speedment focuses on Java solutions and database performance. “This is a way to speed up the data access and recycle your existing hardware for agile scaling.”
While we are digging in on our salads Carina starts to explain her exciting story why she and her company chose to move Speedment to Palo Alto. The main reason was because of the valuable position in the worlds heart and soul of computer technology, Silicon Valley. “It is a fantastic environment for IT engineers here. Not only deep knowledge within our field, Java and databases, but also a positive atmosphere overloaded with energy and where you always get a helping hand. People here are willing to try new things and it is alright to fail.” Carina mentions the word FOMA (Fear of Missing Out) which is a typical phenomenon here in Silicon Valley. In Sweden, people tend to be skeptical to invest in something before someone else tried it first and that it is known that the product is working. In Silicon Valley, on the other hand they try new things out and think fast.
Speedment´s move to Palo Alto came step-wise, which Carina considers is the best approach for a start-up, to acclimatize in the Silicon Valley. It is risky to come here too early, it is better to first try the business idea in Sweden and see if it flies, then it will also have a chance to beat the hard competition here.
If you have a globalization strategy, moving to Silicon Valley, Carina’s advice is to prepare as much as possible before moving. Visa, HR, legal, payrolls and tax issues were much more timeconsuming that she could imagine, although the business plan was defined, “It is important to have a clear strategy, knowing why you are here, who you want to cooperate with, business profile etc.”, says Carina. Carina and her company had an office at Nordic Innovation House in Palo Alto long before they moved, which became a starting point until the actual move. This is also something she warmly recommend to other startup companies. You will get to know the Swedish network, which you can use as a springboard to reach the American companies in the area.
The entrepreneurial spirit here is incredible, and something that should be spread to Sweden as well. Carina explains the difference between the symbiosis among big companies and startups and where – in United States technology from startups attracts big companies. Carina is convinced that bigger companie in Sweden would benefit from this structure too. One great initiative is Ericsson Garage, established both in Sweden and Silicon Valley.
On my way through the streets of Palo Alto, to the meeting with Carina I had a thought about the people I met on the street. It was mostly men with computer under their arms. I chose to ask Carina about this, and how it is to be a woman in such a male dominated industry. She answered by saying that she is very used to it – ever since the time at Chalmers where the proportion was very uneven – and until now in Silicon Valley. “Women are always in minority in technology context.” It is a pity and I hope it will change in a near future” Carina says. “It would be a great honor to serve as a role model for next generation female engineers.”