Taken from the bowels of my Formspring page, where you really can ask me anything. [tweetmeme source=”jolieodell” only_single=false]
If you were new in town, weren’t a writer for an important blog or magazine, and wanted to get to really understand the Startup Scene, What places/events would you go?
Oh, that was the case with me in 2008 and 2009, definitely!
Those are good places to get your foot in the door, meet some great people, and hear some really good ideas. And you’ll be playing with friendly people who might be more at your own level, in all likelihood; you won’t necessarily be in over your head.
From there, it all depends on your skill set. If you don’t have one, well, enjoy handing out your business card and never forming any deeper relationships with people. But if you’re an investor, a hacker, or an entrepreneur, make sure you let people know *right away* how you can benefit them, how they can help you, and what you’re trying to get out of Silicon Valley.
People around here don’t have a lot of time to waste on casual conversation or small talk with strangers, but they love making truly valuable connections, both for themselves and for others. Networking and favor-trading are a high art, from what I’ve seen so far.
So, once you go to a couple events and you can establish that you 1) have something of value to contribute to the community and/or 2) have a definite, clear reason for being in Silicon Valley, you’ll likely be invited to more events that are specifically designed for your type of work. You might be invited to a startup founders-only dinner or a hackers-only drinkup. You might get wind of another small mixer or conference coming up, or you might get asked to stop by a coworking space.
Accept all invitations until you have so much work that you don’t have time to. You can meet an incredibly wide variety of people in this way and hopefully become a good connector, yourself.
And finally, use your best judgement socially. Don’t drink too much (or at all) at events. Don’t be too awkward or shy, and don’t be too loud or talk too much about yourself. Don’t flirt or give the appearance of flirting. Don’t make assumptions about who someone is or what he does. And as tempting as it is and as much as others might do it, don’t shit-talk anyone. It’ll always get back around to the subject of your gossip. These last bits have all been learned through my own painful experiences; you can have them gratis.