Craig Elliott: The power of showmanship

Steve Jobs gave Craig Elliott a Porsche when he worked at Apple.
Steve Jobs gave Craig Elliott a Porsche when he worked at Apple.

In part two of our story about the US winternship scheme, Craig Elliott, named a friend of New Zealand at the World Class New Zealand Awards,  taught three Kiwi tech students that being a showman is part of life as an entrepreneur.  

Craig Elliott is a man who knows about razzle dazzle.

"Phenomenal" is one of his favourite words and he knows how to spin a great yarn - especially his Steve Jobs encounter.

 "I grew up in the middle part of the US on a farm but I've been very successful. The first time I came to California I had dinner with Steve Jobs and got a Porsche, so I've been very, very lucky," says the CEO of US tech firm Pertino.

But to make it as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley you also need to be a bit theatrical, Elliott says.

"You need to be a self promoter here."The venture capital guys might get 500 business plans a week, so you've got to make a little noise to get yours on the top of the stack".

Big stories are part of the innovative buzz of the Valley, he says.

"I think there is a mysticism to it.

"When you can look around and see the success of companies like Intel, Apple, Cisco, Facebook and LinkedIn around you, it makes all things possible. There is certainly an attitude of, 'if they can do it, so can I'."

So how does all this big talk sit with three modest Kiwi students?

Micah Cinco says although she found Americans louder than her, she was never afraid to speak up.

"At university we are encouraged to try to work things out ourselves, but if it gets to a point of no return ask for help."

Michael Shafer was impressed by the risk-taking culture, and how startup failures are celebrated.

"It's accepted that you will have a couple of failures in your career, and then you will hit big with your big idea.

"I feel like if you failed in New Zealand it might be frowned upon more, and people might think you are a failure."

Gen Li found this the most prominent difference between California and New Zealand.

"Innovation and reform can't occur without risk, and in Silicon Valley risks are much more easily mitigated," he says.