What you can learn from these 7 startups from Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley has been the worldwide hub for the tech industry for quite some time, attracting aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world with hopes of making their business dreams become a reality. But with so many people flocking to the Bay Area to start anew, it can be a difficult place to cut through the noise and find success. Although difficulties exist, it’s not impossible to build a great company in Silicon Valley and turn it into a massive, international business. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top eight startups in the Bay Area, both young and old, that any aspiring entrepreneur can look to for inspiration and guidance on how to build a successful startup.

Pandora: Personalization is Key

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By now we all know about Pandora. It’s a huge, international online radio station with millions of active users. However, just because the company is huge now doesn’t mean it started out that way. In fact, Pandora’s earliest venture Savage Beast Technologies nearly failed before finally receiving funding and changing its name to Pandora shortly thereafter. What made the company a success was its ability to provide personalized playlists and cater content to specific users, giving each and every listener a unique and customized experience.

The takeaway

Mass marketing is no longer a viable tactic in 2014 and in order to be successful, you have to create individualized user experiences. What is interesting and relevant to one person may be boring to the next. You should always be looking for ways to create and maintain one on one relationships with your users if you want to be successful.

SharePractice: Share Valuable Information & Create A Community

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SharePractice is a social medical reference app that connects doctors and other medical professionals, enabling them to collaborate and share their preferred treatments for patients to get the best possible results. The app’s ability to bring medical professionals together and share highly specific and valuable information is unlike any other app in its space. This is why it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular apps in the medical field. Doctors from around the world can share their personal experiences, ask questions, and create prescriptions making viable treatment options more readily available and helping to create a community of users.

The takeaway

Depending on your startup, SharePractice’s model might not totally suit your needs, however, creating a sense of community among your users is a great way to keep them engaged and help your business grow. Moreover, sharing relevant and valuable information with your followers is the best way to ensure that they continue coming back to your company and using your products or services. Try to find a way to instill a sense of community within your company and your user base and the benefits to your startup are endless.

Lyft: Offer Convenience

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San Francisco is not the best place to catch a cab, and often times Uber is no better. That’s where Lyft comes in and steals the spotlight. Lyft is a ride sharing company that allows users to request a driver from an app and get a ride anywhere in the city quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Lyft has become one of the most popular ride sharing apps because it offers convenience to users who need to get around and don’t want to use the always frustrating San Francisco cabs.

The takeaway

Offer your users something that makes their lives easier. It’s really difficult to find a cab in downtown San Francisco some times, and with Lyft, you can get a friendly local driver to come pick you up anywhere in the city just by using an app. Another plus that Lyft has going for it is that it’s cheaper than most cabs, and doesn’t require you to have cash on you; everything from requesting a ride to paying your driver is done within the app.

SparkCentral: Provide Great Customer Service

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With so many options and alternatives in today’s digital age, customer service is an area that can set your business apart from the rest of the pack. Just look at SparkCentral and their continued success. SparkCentral (formerly TwitSpark) is an easy-to-use platform that allows large enterprises to efficiently follow up on customer service and engagement over Twitter and Facebook. Bringing social CRM to the next level, SparkCentral offers the fastest way for companies to respond to their customers. Basically, they’re the customer service experts, not only helping their clients provide outstanding customer care, but also by practicing what they preach.

The takeaway

Good customer service can make all the difference for your business, and should be a huge focal point in your early days. Your business depends on rock solid relationships and the quickest, easiest way to build those relationships is through great customer service.

DropBox: Think Outside of the Box

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For a lot of us, DropBox has become an absolute necessity of our everyday lives, but it too started out as a small startup in the Bay Area back in 2007. Initially released in 2008, DropBox quickly found success because it offered users a new way to easily store and access their digital files across multiple devices. No longer were you required to carry around your computer or an external hard drive if you wanted access to your files; with just a login you could gain access and share files via the cloud quickly and easily, making the sharing of information much easier and more accessible than ever before. DropBox truly thought outside of the box and provided a great solution that made digital workflows much more efficient.

The takeaway

DropBox saw the need for innovation and they seized it. By creating an alternative means for storing, accessing, and sharing files, DropBox gave people the ability and convenience to work from virutally anywhere. They took the concept of external hard drive storage, thought outside the box, and created a brand new way to store and access digital files.

Instagram: Be Creative & Share with Friends

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Instagram created a brand new way to share your daily experiences with your friends via a fun photo sharing app. Prior to Instagram there was no alternative that offered a standalone network and allowed users to quickly and easily take photos, effect them, and share them with their followers all from their smartphone. Instagram’s appeal was twofold—it gave people the opportunity to be creative and provided a vehicle for connecting them with friends and followers.

The takeaway

Social sharing plays a vital role in the success of modern businesses, regardless of whether or not it’s in the tech industry. Thus, it’s important that you try to build some sort of social aspect into your company. If you’re an app-based company, provide a community or forum section where users can collaborate. If you’re a traditional brick and mortar store, give customers a discount or coupon for “liking” or following your page or sharing it with their network. These are great ways to keep your customers engaged while also helping you grow your fan base.

Coin: Simplify Things

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When people first heard about Coin it quickly became one of the most hotly anticipated tech products of the year. The credit-card sized device allows users to store numerous credit card and accounts on one device, eliminating the need to carry around a wallet full of cash and plastic. Coin promised to make life simpler when it came to making everyday purchases, giving users access to all of their accounts in just one card.

The takeaway

New technology enables us to simplify our daily lives and live more comfortably and conveniently. If your customers have to endure a difficult or convoluted process, they’re likely to search out alternatives that are easier to use. Thus, focusing on simplicity and making it easy for people to use your company or buy your product is important for the success of a budding business. Find ways to streamline things and make the end user experience efficient, easy, and enjoyable.

With so many startups in the Bay Area, it’s hard to pick just a few. However, all of these companies have managed to separate themselves from the crowd and can provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a great example of how to build a business and become successful. By analyzing the successes of other companies, you can build the roadmap and foundation of your own; so, what are you waiting for?


Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands is YourStory’s US Correspondent and Deputy Editor of Search Engine Journal. Murray founded The Mail in 2013, an angel-funded startup publication covering performance marketing and mobile marketing. Murray is an advisor to a number of bay area startups and has authored several books.