Networking is a key part of our growth strategy. It allows us to get third party validation for our concept, get free professional services, refine our elevator pitch, find talent and build a reputation within the technology startup scene.
We’ve taken a two step approach to achieve our goals. The first step I call the “brute force” method: we met with everyone and anyone that would meet with us and then singled out the stars to keep close relationships with. We found these individuals at networking meetups and through existing relationships. On average we probably met with about five individuals per week for a one-on-one. These meetings launched us quickly into the startup scene and got us familiar with the Boulder coffee shop landscape (where a ton of startup networking goes down in this city).
This week our tactic shifted to what we call the “selective service” method. It was clear we had to change course; some meetings offer us value way beyond the brief time we spend with them, and the others waste our time and drain our energy. We’ve largely accomplished the goal of introducing ourselves to the community and now it’s time to focus on only those people who give us great advice and push our product to the next level.
The need for this shift was brought into stark reality this week after I met with two world class entrepreneurs. One is an existing mentor and another is one we hope to continue meeting with. The most important thing they do for us is call us out on issues and help us to intelligently think through how to solve them. At this point with our product, it’s important that we surround ourselves with people who can give actionable feedback and have been through the product refinement process. Here are some observations we have on the top three characteristics of a world class advisor:
1. They are straightforward. A critical comment doesn’t hurt us, it helps us. We want to know what is wrong so we don’t get burned. Great advisors know this and won’t avoid their core thoughts just to prop up your ego.
2. They’ve been there and done that. While I have the utmost respect for the GE executives I’ve worked for and with, a good mentor for us needs to be an entrepreneur. They need to have experience launching a startup from scratch and doing the minutia work themselves. The problems of startups and big companies are not the same.
3. They are smarter than you. This doesn’t just mean they have more experience, it literally means you feel humbled in their presence and amazed at the depth of their critical thinking skills. If you go home at night and lay awake thinking about how they came to some conclusion, this is a good indicator that you have the right person on board.
At the end of the day, we’ll continue to meet with people whether we’re looking for advice or they are looking for ours, but our tactic is definitely changing. We’ll let you know how it turns out. Hopefully you’ll see it in a much improved product.