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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.