Interview with Vincent Turner – Aussie founder in Silicon Valley

November 2010 and another fellow Aussie touched down in the high tech land known as Silicon Valley. Last week I had the pleasure meeting this Aussie who arrived from Sydney, Australia. His name is Vincent Turner and he is the founder of Pisces Communication. To find out what his experience has been like so far in Silicon Valley and what his plans are, I decided to pick his brains. Here’s what happened.

Founder info

Name
Vincent Turner

Age
32

Company
Pisces Communication: http://www.piscescommunication.com.au/

What service / product does your company provide?
Qualification & Pricing Software to banks and brokers.

What role do you play?
CEO

How long have you been running / working on your product / service?
I originally founded the company in 2000 in Perth as a messaging company however evolved to software for banks in the last 5 years. We changed strategy from a platform to a services model 2 years ago and redeveloped our capability to underpin that model which has allowed us to look at new markets, hence why I am in the US now setting up our operations here (since Nov 2010).

Technology

What personal hardware are you using?
I use Apple personally, I’m sick of Windows and seeing as my work is email, word, excel and Powerpoint and Mac Office 2011 is out (and good) I have no need for Windows. Macbook 11-inch is my current laptop.

What Solution Stack is your business built on?
We have a very strong philosophy of choosing the technology that is right, not simply what we know. Our current market positioning (enterprise end users) means we have both Java & .Net in the stack. We also use GWT for our user front end. We have very little reliance on the database as we dont’ store customer data within our services. We run everything on the cloud, Amazon is our current provider. As part of our business we also work with CRM packages including Dynamics and Salesforce but do little to no development on these components. As we move more into the consumer facing aspects of the business we expect to take on Ruby on Rails, but early days on that for the moment.

What decision(s) lead you to go with that Solution Stack?
We want to have an each way bet with Java and .Net and like to provide our developers with the opportunity to know and work with both. We have customers who are running both and although our architecture is all services based, certain aspects of integration are simplified when you’re running the same stack so this was part of the thinking.

In terms of front end, GWT was the obvious choice for RIA for us when we started our redevelopment 2 years ago as the libraries were extensive and well road tested and as it is basically Java meant our guys could easily get hands on within eclipse etc. I don’t see us using GWT for our next breed of consumer facing interfaces however.

Top 3 Favourite online services you couldn’t live without?

  1. Xero.com – online accounting, with real-time bank data feeds.
    URL: http://www.xero.com/
  2. Google maps – how did we get by before this??
    URL: http://maps.google.com/
  3. Skype – I’d go sans phone if I could, but Skype need to sort their chat out something chronic.
    URL: http://www.skype.com/

Silicon Valley

What made you come to Silicon Valley?
If you’re an actor, you go to Hollywood. If you’re in IT you come to Silicon Valley.

What are 3 Top Challenges you faced upon arrival in Silicon Valley?
Probably too early for me on this but to date:

  1. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff in terms of who can help you in this city and who is just going to waste your time.
  2. Domain expertise and industry terminology for our market (lending) – hard to have meaningful conversations when you’re not sure of the right word to describe your approach.
  3. Roles & Titles – seems like everyone here is the VP of something. Makes it hard to know if you’re talking to the right person.

How about Visa or finding a place to live?
I don’t think I’m having too many issues with the visa process or finding places to live. I found a good immigration lawyer early on.. and Craigslist for accommodation before I left.

What resources did you turn to overcome these challenges?

  • google.com
  • theroadtosiliconvalley.com
  • networking events
  • australian expats

Bay Area or San Francisco to settle?
I’d love to say this decision is made but far from it. I almost think that the Bay Area & SF need to sort it out!

Eventually I will end up back in or near the city. Probably Duboce triangle area as this is so central to the Muni and I think any regular car user in this day and age needs to seriously re-evaluate.

In terms of office, this will always be a decision to be made with the team as I think it is part of the culture of the business and something that is reached by the early team members. I’d ideally live nearish work.

Which part of San Francisco?
Duboce triangle and surrounds.

Why did you make this decision?
Central to everything (in SF).

1 word of advice for our Aussie entrepreneurs wanting to come to Silicon Valley and start their own business?

The best advice I got was ‘just come here’ .. get on the ground and work it out. I had the good fortune/planning/luck to be able to continue to work for my AU business while getting out here for 3 months on a travel visa, while setting up and I think this has allowed me the time to do things properly, meet people, walk around and consider my options in a measured & balanced way.

If you’re in IT, then to date in my travels I can safely say there is not place like the bay area. The level of activity here every week is amazing and it will motivate you and empower you. Also, get on meetup and find some networking groups that suit you.

Vincent & Ernest
Vincent & Ernest

Thank you for doing this interview Vincent. And for sharing these golden nuggets of experience with the readers of The Road to Silicon Valley.

Links mentioned in this post

~ Ernest