Secret networking for startups : holidays

Startup Life is a beach

Living the startup life … Life is a beach. A Mac, some wifi at the bar (or any other location of course) and you can end up working with the Pacific ocean as your office desk’s background. 

Assuming you can indeed sit down in some gorgeous place and work. I said work. Not pretend to work as some corporate workers might do.
Life is a beach indeed.
But that is not really the picture of startup life here.
Real life still boasts a Mac, some acceptable wifi and … a twenty-hours day, coding or, at least, working in the shadow.

Fight (not) in the shade. 

As much as coding in the shadows does make sense, doing business in the open does make even more.
Whatever the business and whatever the product sold, startups need to get traction on market, hence visibility.
And when looking back only at the startup ecosystem, skills, knowledge and advice will sure come from peers, from investors and/or advisors too.
But value, in advising and mentoring does not come from experience only. Would it be the case, no country would be experiencing crisis at the moment … .
Quality also comes from growing and fighting.
Fighting our own knowledge and experience.
There is always someone out there who has done the same thing but differently. More or less successfully but, hey, who cares. You are in for the learning part, not the who-has-the-biggest challenge.

Have a chat with aliens and strangers. 

Well, I reckon it is not about going out in the street and ask that mother of three about her own path to success … . Hm, wait, maybe it would make sense in the end.
Thinking out of the box does take roots in this kind of experience. Have a chat with a mum and find out how she created a secret recipe for handling logistics for her I-take-care-of-three-kids-and-my-job life.
Trust me, take up that job for a week and running a dozen people, writing some code due for yesterday and coping with that ever-angry French customer will sound like walk in the sunny startup life park.

Gold class networking : holidays

Back on track with the main point. Wherever your business drives you may not be far – or far enough – from the paths everybody walks.
Startups tend to regroup and the cities feel like villages where everybody knows each other.
Ever felt like coming across the same faces all the time at local startup events ?
Then make use of every option available to get out there in the wild and see how others are doing it.
Startups are everywhere.
Be it travelling to a conference (still very standard), attending some unknown uncle’s wedding in some sunny place, finally taking some holidays in this remote country you have been fancying for years.
Seize the opportunity.
It is not about screwing up some relaxing time. But how troublesome would you reckon having sushi and sake, in a hidden Japanese street restaurant, on a warm spring night, may be ?
Not the worst of holidays’ experience, actually happening when you meet with local tech media writers to have a (very nice) time and a chat about the startups in Tokyo and Japan.

Collaborate. 

Collaborate. The somehow back-to-basics word.
At a time when the sharing and collaborative economy is the thing, when social networks allow anybody to get in touch with any other body, it does seem that meeting people has never been harder.
Love aside, networking in business is still not fully natural and managing to get in touch with people we target still remains linked either to some healthy address book or a lot of old-fashioned harassment.
Yet, instead of asking some random website to match you with any advisor to a startup accelerator, just go human.
Have a talk. Ask. Go discover this incubator and the people running it.
Know what ? You may certainly end up meeting a lot more people in a couple of hours and catching extremely valuable insight than on any random startup dating site.
Obvious of course. But who do you know outside your startup village ?

In the end, go out and play!

Startups sure are no game.
But any startup well run still offers room for playing.
Working will still be a twenty-hours day but remember the words the best founders live :
“Work hard, party harder”.
This is real-life.
Just go the extra mile by adding easy work to the partying and make the most of down time and holidays by meeting the right people.

Cool and social startup events, a dream or reality ?

Be social. Real social. Not on social networks, not through media but in person.

This is the new challenge of social. Too many computer friends, too few real-life contacts.

This little shout out draws its origin in my attending some startup events in France. Once again (see “The kid startup … “)

Where the young, cool, smart and nice entrepreneurs … just do not speak to people.

The repeating scheme is easy. Come with friends, chat with friends and introduce your friends or get introduced to some friend’s contacts.

With one major take, people are looking like going out in the wild and having a chat with whoever they come across sounds like the worst possible idea.

Networking should not have to be (actually poorly) organized. It should be natural.

But for now, meeting people and having cool and worthy chats rather happens abroad.

So this is a call, not only to the France – but also the Europe – of startups.

Openness makes a difference. Be (really) open, chat, share; make a difference and make startup events (really) cool!

Entrepreneurs’ collaboration and networking, USA vs Europe

Startup Collaboration.thisissamstown

Startups are cool. Founders are the new hippies/pirates. Setting sail for an entrepreneurial life, filled with passion, freedom, friends and all sorts of failures and successes.

That is the bottom line.

Now, meeting with entrepreneurs from various countries, in various countries too, proves quite an interesting experience.

One reason to that : entrepreneurs are so different in their character, vision and overall understanding of what it means to found a startup.

In my title I mention the USA vs Europe because these two geographies tend to show two opposite ways of being an entrepreneur.

Sure, Berlin’s hipsters can match San Francisco’s. Sure, (startup) parties are of equal greatness in London, Paris, New York or Boulder. Sure, developers are equally amazing. And ideas and passion smashing as well.

The networking of one.

But differences show when we start looking at networking.

What I knew on the large corporation side in Europe seems to remain even at startup level … in Europe.

I have attended a few conferences where the same scheme applies again and again. At networking time, prior, during and after the event (a little less at the “after” time though) people would gather where the food/drinks sit.

Fair enough. Great time to have a chat and get to know the cool founders around. However that, in France or Germany, for instance, would not happen that easily. The usual set up consisting of some small groups of friends or acquaintances, a few introductions happening and various lonely people either making calls or desperately looking at their smartphone screen.

Now, a lone guy trying to reach a cup of coffee is an opportunity for an introduction and a chat. However, funnily enough, the discussion (should it happen meaning the guy would not have run away without a word … ) would consist of giving names, saying a word about each one’s business and the guy would quickly enough find himself in need to a) answer the phone b) catch up with someone c) whatever.

This is uncomfortable networking experience. And that happens in Europe.

Compared to it, my recent experience at an event packed with people from Silicon Valley started with one guy welcoming me at the door. Then, after walking a few steps, another attendee offering me a cup of coffee, a chat and an introduction. Followed by a friend arriving while we were speaking – meaning further introductions and already half a dozen people on my “you have to speak to” list.

That allows me to explore further.

Collaborate or keep secrets secret ?

There is a culture of secrecy in Europe. Ideas do hold a lot of value in the eyes of people having them. It does make sense.

But, at the same time, I am more and more frustrated when meeting founders (or even founders-to-be) who only start the discussion by “NDA”.

Trust is dead. Fair enough. But could we still not consider everybody out there to be some kind of sneaky copy-cat freak ?

People here tend to hold onto their ideas so much that even a friend, asking for advice, would not disclose more information than the kind of company he would want to build and in which industry … . My advice : get some brains .. and balls (balls to have enough courage to believe in his actual idea/product and in advisors around who would be key to his success and brains to not waste my time – or others’ – asking for my time to speak about a close-to-non-existent idea – that is if he would not disclose anything).

Again, compared to the culture in the U.S. and the Valley in particular, Europe seats miles away from the habit to share and challenge ideas through discussion with anybody who is around.

I must admit I rather like to have people speak out loud(er) about their project as it does basically allows them to get not only advice from peers but also mentoring at the same time.

I am quite often surprised to meet with startups where founders, even if very knowledgeable people, seem to ignore the very basics of business (yes dude, a startup is still a company not some kind of 2.0 surfing journey).

That is where getting a good kick from a peer would certainly help (and help high level mentors – which I am not indeed – not waste their time doing kindergarten mentoring).

Time to grow.

From kindergarten onwards. Time to grow … for both populations though.

Maybe people in the Valley gets too “relaxed” and even if people share ideas it does seem that even the average ones (e.g. the umpteenth image sharing social app … ) do net get beaten up enough in the process.

On the over side, people in Europe need to relax a bit, share more and keep developing this proper community spirit that tends to grow (too slowly in my regard).

A back-to-basics for all : think, share, get things done and get organized. Succeed. Or fail, anyway. Restart.

What else ?

Thanks to Hubspot for the picture!