Every year, Blackbox Connect — a global founder accelerator — holds a two-week programme in Silicon Valley for entrepreneurs that want to scale their businesses. In partnership with Google for Startups, Found8 nominated Zelia Leong — co-founder of Anywhr — to attend this year's (and sadly the last) Blackbox Connect.
We asked Zelia to share with us more about her experience during the two weeks she spent shoulder to shoulder with fellow entrepreneurs.
What was your reaction when you realised that you were going to be sent on an all-expense-paid trip to Silicon Valley for Blackbox, a program partnered with Google For Startups?
Definitely excited! We've been meaning to apply for the longest time after hearing great things about it, and I felt so lucky to be selected for the program.
What is the best memory you have of the program?
It was of all the sessions we had with other founders, gathering in the cosy room and being vulnerable with our challenges and sharing our stories.
The entire group!
Name the 2 most memorable people you met and why they made such an impact on you.
There's actually 13 of them — the other 13 founders who were in the program with me! With 14 people coming from 11 different countries, all living and working together for two weeks under one roof, every one of them served as an inspiration to me.
For example, Livingstone from Uganda shared about how he grew up in poverty and rose above it, and now he has sacrificed everything he has to help more people from his country acquire financial literacy skills.
It showed me how many great people around the world are working hard at solving different problems, how they lead, and find meaning in what they do. From advocating gender and racial equality, working to end poverty and cancer, to fighting that voice inside us that constantly tells us we're not good enough - I've learned so much from each of them.
What was your biggest takeaway from the event? If there are more than one, please feel free to share about them too!
It further reinforces my belief that regardless of background, geographic region, gender, race, or age, we are ultimately all the same inside - individuals trying to create something meaningful and bring value to the world around us, and at the same time each having our own personal challenges to overcome.
Pitch event to conclude the program, after two weeks of practice with pitch coach Bill Joos
How do you think this program has helped you in your startup journey?
By connecting with other founders globally, and learning from the melting pot that is Silicon Valley and living in San Francisco, it gave me a broader perspective of the ecosystem and to help us find our place in it. It also made me further realise the importance of mindfulness in this journey, for example the quick 'gut checks' and breathing exercises we practiced before each session has helped us set the tone of the meeting and be more present.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing - well, except to bring warmer clothes for the always-changing San Francisco weather.
If you could sum up your entire experience with the Blackbox program, what would you say?
I joined the program thinking I’ll learn some hard skills Being part of the last cohort of the program, it's even more of an honour and I can't wait to see what's in store ahead for all of us!