SETsquared Blog

Opening doors

So I've just come back from Startup Weekend MEGA in San Francisco. Hosted at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, it was a high energy, intense 3 days of building companies from the ground up.

One team discusses the concept and how they're going to build a functioning business in 54 hrs! 
San Fran through the looking glass.

Anyway, as I dozed on the train from SF to Seattle passing through some of the most beautiful scenery i've seen in the whole world, (I had to take the train because I lost my passport a while ago so I can't fly anywhere - I know, totally stupid, who looses their own passport?!!) I started to recall my week in SF.

A nice little reminder of my stupidity!! Mid way through Oregon.

I managed to get myself invited to a private Verizon hackathon (verizon is one of America's biggest mobile networks), be invited to a private 'startup crawl' hosted by Zaarly (one of the hottest new startups in the US), was invited to dinner at the home of one of the board for MIT/Stanford Venture Lab, have intimate casual drinks and an invitation to Paris from the inventor of the concept of internet security, meet a developer who could transform my own company, be invited to Facebook's most recent launch party and met countless CEO's, VC's etc etc etc

Writing on the Facebook wall

Anyway, my point isn't to trumpet a succssful week of networking. Rather to analyse why I (a humble no-name) managed to end up in situations many would pay good money to be in. I've boiled it down to two things: the 'Kauffman scholar' tagline which appeared to give me instant credibility and secondly the way I approached new encounters.

Hello SF! My view as I crossed the bay bridge into the city.
The same bridge two days later lit up by lightning. Quite a spectacle!!

Rather than think about what I could get out of people, I asked what I could give/do for them. Now, i'm not in a position of authority, I don't have a big network and I would hardly consider myself as having anything of value to give. But as it turns out I did, some of my most beneficial introductions came about by simply acting as a courier between Seattle and San Francisco. I offered to take things to SF for friends of friends. The gratitude I received in return came laden with open invitations to this, that or the other. There were other things I could offer, like introductions to people at Kauffman, a free house in the UK whenever they were passing through or even just buying coffee.

The Startup Weekend Team + PR girls from ' talkTECH' getting the briefing pre event.

The thing I realised was that if I stopped worrying about how I might benefit from them and instead worried about how I could help them, then the returns were much bigger. So thats the lesson I learned this week. If you want doors to be opened for you - start opening doors for other people first.

The view from Facebook's new North West HQ.