This post has been inspired by a conversation on VentureHack’s StartupTalk.
So, how do you become part of the Silicon Valley in-crowd?
First, there really is no such clique and if there is, it is incredibly transient.
Second, Silicon Valley is not an oligarchy, but rather a meritocracy!
And third, if you are smart, capable, intelligent, driven and socially not totally awkward, you can be part of the SV “in-crowd”.
Now, if you think you can email John Doerr, Paul Graham or Larry and get a meeting, think again. It is the equivalent of going to DC and trying to meet with Barack – it ain’t going to happen!
This post is about introductions to important people, but not the “Dignitaries of SV” .
Let’s get to it, how are you going to get quality introductions in silicon valley and become part of the in-crowd? Let’s assume you are planning to visit SV to meet with people for ideas/partnerships/funding/etc.
1. FIND 10 people you want to meet
- why do you want to meet this person?
- what do you want to convey/get/accomplish?
- why would this person want to meet with you?
Most people do not put enough work in this list. e.g. if you think you want to meet @ev or @biz from twitter b/c you have a location based twitter/[random api] mashup, you did not do your homework. Twitter recently bought GeoAPI, so guess what, those guys are a much better fit for you. I can not stress this enough: DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST!
2. FOLLOW them on twitter, FF, Plancast, Buzz or anywhere else you can (avoid facebook & linkedin for now, most people do not accept random followers there and it looks a bit desperate IMHO).
3. ENGAGE them on their favorite platform. RT their post, comment on buzz conversations, @reply on twitter, comment on blog posts. You know, the general “nice-stuff” one can do online. Paul Graham once told me that he checks comments on HackerNews for people applying to YCombinator.
4. ADDRESS them directly. This is a subtle addition to “3. Engage”. Now you actually are starting to have some kind of conversation. e.g. I recently had someone email me about broken links on my site – that was helpful – we started to talk. Nothing big just a “snippet-conversation” that can be built on later. Obviously better if you have something meaningful to say.
5. CONTACT them for a specific purpose. Write a good introduction email.
- everybody is busy! give them at least a few weeks advanced notice
- once they agree to meet you: offer a few dates/time/locations
- check their public calendars (e.g. plancast.com) to see where they are
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A few more random thoughts:
- try to meet important people early in the morning (a lot less likely to get canceled)
- try not to have lunch meeting – if you do, don’t eat (even if you are starving, smart to actually eat beforehand) who can eat, talk and listen at the same time?
- ask if they can think of anyone you should be meeting with
- confirm every meeting a day prior
- be on time. And by the way SF to Mountain View is not a 45 minute ride, it can be well over an hour
- leave room in your schedule. People will likely introduce you to others if they like you/your product or idea
- go to a few tech meetups while you are here
- check the startup digest for mixers
- consider contacting the venturehacks powerbrokers (they love to intro good people)
If you plan your trip well, you will feel like you are part of the in-crowd, I promise. If not, you did not do your homework and find the right people to meet. So start with your “dream list” of people to meet. And keep in mind: you are not asking for favors: Everyone is always looking for great people!
- soon-to-be founders look for co-founders
- founders look for good people to hire (and co-founders)
- journalists look for good stories
- angel investors look for the next big thing and potential advisory board seats
- VCs look for fast growing companies and merger/acquisition/partnership opportunities
- anyone is looking for good tech-geek conversation