July 5, 2011
In an age of information overload, we like our coffee, oatmeal and media all instant. We scan RSS articles, have a quick glance at the Twitter feed, or catch up with friends on Facebook. It’s instant social interaction.
However, entrepreneurs still quietly cultivate a culture rich in human connection. Startup founders engage with one another. They jump at the chance to hear one another’s stories: how they plan, manage, develop, unite, lead, network, and overcome. Each company is as unique as a fingerprint. There is no right way to raise funds or acquire customers. Entrepreneurs crave one-on-one meetings, because they are looking for conflicting information – the counterpoint. They want to know why someone else succeeded in a different way, and why it worked under a different set of circumstances.
Entrepreneurs discover the idiosyncrasies that constitute good business judgment by making human connections through genuine interest. They can focus more on the insight of another manager and filter out what may not be good advice for them from a single validated source – as opposed to sorting through an overload of digital information.
The technology for delivering this digital information is smart, and we are getting what we want to consume exactly when it’s available. We get it from our work computers, from laptops in our home offices, from our tablets while we’re lounging on the couch or at an airport, or on our phones when we’re on the go. Noise is becoming easier to drown out, and, as a result, we spend more hours with technology because of its relevance. The Internet is becoming a personalized tool.
What happens if we don’t know we’re looking in the wrong places? Or asking the wrong questions? What if what we need isn’t what we want? These riddles are best solved through meeting for the sake of meeting. In the corporate world, professionals network. You work for a business that has its secret sauce figured out, you network to spread the sauce, to further the mission, to make a contact, to achieve a goal. After all, nobody likes sauce clumped in one spot on the plate.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, meet because of commonality, kinship, and a desire to learn from one another. The art of this conversation is like an exciting day at an amusement park – so much territory to cover.
Founders craft brainchild startups and management cultures through conversation. Tech hot spots have their own communities where a stranger isn’t a stranger, where VCs and entrepreneurs meet, and founders sketch out companies on the back of a receipt.
Take the University South neighborhood near Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, which is a mecca for meetings. Or swing around South Lake Union (SLU) in Seattle, WA, where you’ll find warehouse-size coffee shops full of founders, investors, and Amazon employees mingling when they’re not in the office – or before they even have an office.
So meet just to meet. Buy someone a cup of coffee or a pint of beer. Catch up or pick a brain. You’re likely to get at least a genuine friend out of the deal, but most likely you’ll learn a lot from someone who has been there, done that.
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