At my not-so-recent-anymore trip to Silicon Valley I’ve noticed something that is discussed a lot in different places but never really got to me until I saw it with my own eyes. There is a certain culture and a set of skills and customs that seems to be existing in this kind of density only in the Bay Area.
The first couple of people I’ve met appeared to me to be very skilled networkers - immediately after we’ve met they came up with names of people I should meet and shortly afterwards actually followed up with a warm email or linkedin introduction. Only after a while I realized they were not exceptionally good at this game - it’s just a way to talk to people and provide value during the casual conversations around there. I was just not prepared for this initially.
My experience from Europe (Poland and Ireland in particular) is that the usual topic of conference / casual conversation focuses around current projects and problems - there are usually only two ways of getting value out of those interactions - either you have common problems and can share thoughts about solutions or one of the parties manages to sell something to the other. Very rarely can you hear that someone knows someone else who should be a valuable contact for the other person. A bit more so in Ireland which seems to be influenced by SV culture - rightly called sometimes “a gateway to US” for Europe. In Poland I can point to a handful of people who seem to understand the power of proper introductions and who do not play the “zero-sum game” of “I know a guy so how about I introduce you and you give me 5% commision of anything that comes out of it”.
I don’t think I need to explain why strong social network ties are important for the whole ecosystem. We all know the “The value of the network grows exponentially with the size” cliche. The most underestimated part in my opinion is the value of (good not random) introduction for the introducer:
- by being an introducer you gain a special status in the community
- don’t be afraid to introduce a vaguely potential client to a vaguely potential customer - if they are smart they will figure out that you are not the only one on the market anyway
- by making a successful introduction you can expect the favor to be paid back at some stage in the future - the power of reciprocity is very big
- there is no way you can lose by making a good introduction - again - it’s not a zero-sum game - if somebody else gains a contact you are NOT losing it - you are making your network stronger
I think the only way to build “the Silicon Valley in X” is to build those networks and start thinking how we can help each other before we start thinking about how others can help us.
Here is a challenge for you now. Open your Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter friend list and think about connecting people that don’t know each other but in your opinion will benefit from it - and make an intro. Aim at making at least five new connections among your friends. Seriously. Do it now. And then let me know how it turned out.
Thanks to @anbanaszek, @juliaszopa, @kolinko, @kkowalcz and @kubafilipowski for reading drafts of this and feedback.