ABCD some more: Craigslist, stolen parking spots, and other ways of meeting great people
Turns out that picking up Craigslist items and using the wrong parking spots can be a hell of a way to network. Recently bought an air mattress and a futon from two different startup CEOs. Then, when Josh and I got back to the apartment, we parked in a spot that turned out to belong to the head of the science department of a local high school who loves the idea of Tutorspree and wants to talk more.
I won’t even get into the Trader Joe’s checkout guy who grilled us on our business plan. Turns out you really do have to be ready to talk about your company at the drop of a hat whenever, wherever, and no matter how tired you are.
you don’t have to be an ass to network
There seems to be a strange virus propagating through networking events. Main manifestation: being a jerk and throwing the word “network” around. Not really sure why or where that came from, though I have some theories.
I think that there is a perception among certain people that the best way to get respect, connections, and deals is to drop names and list accomplishments. By doing that, the thinking goes, you are telling people about the great company you keep, and hope to force the conclusion that you/your company are great by association.
The thing is, that’s not how it really works. One of the most important lessons I’ve ever had hammered into my head is: show, don’t tell (which, to be honest, was hard to learn due to some very heavy indoctrination in kindergarten). When you start a conversation with explicit references to how great you are, the first thing smart people realize is that you can’t back it up on your own. You’re relying on implied connections when you should be engaging people with your idea, and with you. Genuine enthusiasm + killer idea = a way better method of impressing people.
The best part about doing things that way? You end up having conversations, not monologues. Speaking from my own, admittedly limited, experience - the best conversations I’ve had are the ones where I’ve talked the least. It may sound strange, but I genuinely enjoy meeting new people who do interesting things and have interesting things to say. And at the end of the day, maybe I didn’t press as many palms as some of the other guys. I certainly didn’t drop as many names (though there are plenty of situations where using a real reference to a relevant conversation or name is actually a very good idea), but I probably formed the beginning of a solid connection. And that’s what’s important to me.
boy meets cool and interesting person, and then it gets complicated
Old paradigm: boy meets new cool and interesting person (CAP). Boy and CAP exchange cards. Card put in rolodex with a note. Boy and CAP grab beer or coffee as appropriate, play a round of golf, etc.
New paradigm: boy meets CAP. Boy and CAP exchange cards. Boy goes home and researches CAP on twitter, fb, blogosphere, linkedin, angel list, etc, etc. Boy follows CAP, friends CAP, adds CAP’s blog to reader, networks on linkedin, makes a note and FLUP in highrise. Then boy @CAP on a wide array of topics, building relationship. Eventually, boy and CAP grab a coffee and talk tech. CAP has a better understanding of who boy is by virtue of blog, linkedin, facebook, twitter, etc. CAP and boy have a better discussion around ideas rather than plaid pants used at current round of golf.
Or is that the new paradigm? Is it better or simply more complex? There are elements that are significantly more organized, but the fracturing of necessary identity elements also introduces considerable problems. I could see a product like hashable streamlining some of these problems by creating a fully integrated meet to manage system (though I don’t know if that’s in the cards). Intros should feed straight into synthesized baseball cards on new people including key info drawn in from various social services (think rapportive, only more so), you could dig into shared relationships and see associated public conversations (my twitter followers have discussed x and y), and that info could then plug right into a CRM with follow ups which get added directly to the aforementioned baseball card. You could track who ends up introducing you to who, and how useful those intros were, and so on.