The Seven Best Places to Close a Deal in Silicon Valley

12/13/10

I like studying what works and what doesn’t. I focus more of my time on the former, but often learn more from the latter. I compile tactical, earthy techniques from my mentors’ books and sprinkle in a bit of technology. Think of my maneuvers as real-world Google Analytics, but with a focus on extrapolating future conditions and outlining countermeasure options for when the shitake hits the fan.

With that introduction…Here is my list of the seven best places to close a deal in Silicon Valley. It’s meant to give you a home-field advantage even when you’re on the road. It’s street smart to have an array of spots to close deals; here is a window into mine.

1) Menlo Park Starbucks

Meetings that happen in the office on Sand Hill road are official. Official meetings suck.

They suck because

a) You are in a bullpen office designated solely for meeting with entrepreneurs where the “no” rate is 90+ percent
b) They are scheduled back-to-back-to-back
c) Before you go to an office the size of my dog’s crate, you have to hang in the holding zone of the receptionist’s area
d) It feels corporate.

As my military strategist mentor taught me…where you fight matters. I say meet off-site. Away from the offices.

Taking a meeting at the Menlo Park Starbucks says, “If my venture fund won’t fund your startup, I might cut you a check from my personal account.”

2) The AlwaysOn Venture Summit

VCs love to look like they have lots of meetings lined up. It’s like they think that having more meetings translates into a direct return for their LPs.

It is most important for a VC to look busy when they are at a conference. They want to impress the other VCs with whom they might syndicate their next deal (or slide into the back-half of a tech deal they have no clue on, but appears hot and sought after). The best place to do this is at a venture conference and AlwaysOn is hosting one this week (December 13-15).

3) Fraiche Yogurt vs. Palo Alto Starbucks

Starbucks on University Ave is where VCs go for filler meetings before or after the two-and-a-quarter hour lunch at Evvia (see tip #5). This place is drenched in failure. A quarter of its customers are out of work and trolling LinkedIn, and a quarter of them are entrepreneurs with zero hope of ever reaching revenue dollar number one.

Skip the Starbucks and head to Fraiche. Frozen yogurt is where VCs go to meet friends and future friends. If you fail to close a deal there, at least you will have a fair shot at another meeting.

4) Madera, Table 60

This is the default hangout of VC associates. It’s at the Rosewood Sand Hill. Table 60 is right by the fireplace and is ideal. Make sure you put the VC with his back to the fireplace so that you appear in the best light. This is critical during the day, when the early afternoon sun will put you in the power position to close your deal.

5) Evvia

Monday nights here during the double dip recession of 2008-2010 are as packed as they were during the boom times. Good things have numbers in common: Table 60 is the only booth and it seats two 250-pound bean-counters and two founders comfortably. During lunch, this booth is as close to a D.C. power-broker, “see and be seen” table as you will find.

6) Sugar Cafe

I have this theory: Eight women control all the networking power in Silicon Valley. These eight are ever-changing, but they all seem to gravitate to Sugar Cafe. Me, I suck up to these women and man-charm the men.

7) Four Seasons San Francisco: Not the private dining room, but the hotel bar nook. It feels like youre in Philadelphia. Make sure you avoid eye contact with other customers. Palm three waters from the downstairs valet and you will emote “I-sleep-three-hours-per-night-so-I-hydrate.”

Eight Bonus Spots to Close a Deal:

Palace Hotel breakfast buffet during Web 2.0 Summit
St Regis Hotel, 4th Floor
Rudy’s
410 Townsend
Taco truck parked outside of Stanford CS 147 Demo Night
Stanford Bishop Auditorium patio area (losers’ bracket of a business plan competition)
Via Fax Machine
The Crunchies AfterParty

Conclusion: It’s just good planning to have a selection of meeting spots in your head, for those times when you’re setting up an important face-to-face. In the comments, share some of yours.

Larry Chiang is CEO of Duck9 and teaches Engineering 145 as a Stanford Entrepreneur in Residence. He has a fund called "Larry Chiang Stanford G51 Fund of Stanford Founders." Follow @

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  • http://www.flxpt.com Chris Noble

    I hope this article is satire. Manipulation is not a good start to a relationship. Better to look for a place that is convenient, comfortable, and that will encourage both sides to let their guard down and listen without haste.