The Power of Introductions: What I Learned from One of the Best Investors in the World

I only met Ron Conway once. He was an early investor in Datahug and when I met him it was at his home in San Francisco. This was not your normal investor meeting. It was all about introductions and understanding who I wanted to meet. It was sublimely simple yet hugely effective.

Just in case you haven’t heard of Ron Conway, he is probably the most famous and successful angel investor in Silicon Valley. He was an early investor in Google, Facebook, and Twitter and is an institution in Silicon Valley. Therefore, it was no surprise that we were A. delighted to have him as an investor and B. pretty nervous that we were about to meet this living legend.

We arrived at Ron’s apartment and were greeted by his associate. The meeting was probably about 45 minutes and I only really remember three things:

  • Ron was very calm, laid back and friendly. He mentioned his Irish roots and that he had recently met the mayor of my hometown, Cork.
  • I joked that since our vision involved unlocking relationships that someday “Datahug might build an automated version of Ron Conway.” I didn’t get the laugh I was expecting… Oops.
  • Ron had several sheets of paper in front of him. Each of those sheets contained about 50 names. Every one of those names was a top tier VC, Angel or Corporate Dev Lead. This is when I discovered the power of having Ron Conway as your Angel investor.

Ron asked just one very powerful question, “Who do you want to meet?”

I rattled out four or five dream introductions without blinking. He asked his associate to go ahead and make those intros on his behalf. He said that he would make up to ten initial introductions and that if I needed more to get back to him for the next ten. He leafed through his printed Rolodex and suggested four or five more people he thought we should meet with. His final words were that if for any reason we didn’t see the introductions coming through we should just contact those people directly and “tell them Ronnie sent you.”

And that was it. 5 minutes later we were back outside his apartment armed with 10 hugely valuable introductions to key Silicon Valley insiders. We leveraged these introductions to build momentum, secure early customers and gain valuable insights into our markets. They made an impact on our business and I will be forever grateful and a fan of Ron Conway. I’ve not met with Ron since, but every now and then I’ll reach out to his team with an introduction or request for help. They are always responsive and great to engage with.

As an investor, and former founder, I want to add value like Ron Conway and his team did for us. I want to #GiveFirst and help other founders succeed where I can. I’ve been lucky enough to witness how one or two well-placed introductions have helped founders raise capital, win customers, and build their teams.

When mentoring teams here is why I always try to ask “Who do you want to meet?”

You discover how you can add value.

The answer to this question often triggers connections in my head that I would never have considered. You often don’t really know how you can help until somebody asks. The answer gives me a better sense of ‘directionality’ for how I might help.

For example, I recently spent time with a great founder in Bulgaria. We had a great chat and at the end, I asked my usual question. He immediately replied that his dream introduction was to the founders of Hired. I had randomly bumped into that founder twelve hours earlier and was able to take out my phone and connect them straight away. I would never have thought about connecting them until he implicitly asked for it as I had failed to see the connection (which became blindingly obvious when he explained why). They ended up hitting it off and spent several hours together which has led to more follow on introductions and meetings for that founder.

You learn more about the founders.

I have learned so much about founders by how they answer this question. It’s fascinating to hear about the types of people they want to meet. It’s also a really great way to gauge how focused and up to speed a founder is on their sector. Founders who can’t immediately answer this question with conviction immediately raise a red flag for me. You also learn a lot about the founder when they explain why they want to meet X or Y.

You remember the founder and their company.

You will remember really specific asks like ‘I want to meet owners of NFL or NBA Teams.’  It could be four months after you’ve met the founder when you might randomly bump into the person (or type of person) that the founder wanted an introduction to. These specific introduction requests always stand out in my mind and it’s a great way to reconnect with a founder by helping them with an introduction several months later. This proves to founders that you listen to them and genuinely want to help and support them.

You add more value to your network.

The best introductions are where both sides of the introduction benefit. By making highly targeted introductions you help create genuine win-wins. For example, other investors are often very grateful for targeted introductions to Founders who you are working with. The same is true for potential recruits, customers, and partners.

You get to #GiveFirst.

I’ve always been impressed by how Techstars has built their whole culture and reputation around this #GiveFirst mentality. Call it karma but being helpful today is probably the best long-term strategy to being successful as an investor in the future. Helping founders with introductions is not just good business but equally rewarding on a personal level when you can help entrepreneurs succeed.

Ron Conway and networks like Techstars are testaments to this simple, but often neglected, way of giving. It’s so simple to ask, can be hugely impactful, and costs very little in terms of time to execute. I’d encourage you to include it in your next mentoring conversation. 🙂

P.S. If you want to learn more about the #GiveFirst philosophy and it’s proven impact in business then read ‘Give and Take’ by Brian Lewis. I first heard about this from David Cohen and it’s a good read with good examples of how givers outperform takers.








Meet the Mentors of Startup Weekend Zwolle (Part 2)

At Startup Weekend Zwolle, Mentors provide actionable advice and valuable insights, help to design the experiments and guide participants in building a strong business foundation. Sharing their competence, knowledge and aspiration, Mentors will bring out the best of your team!

So we’re very pleased to have these Mentors on board at Startup Weekend Zwolle:

Rene Assies

Rene is a Principal of Blackbird. Prior to joining Blackbird, he was Managing Director of SecurityWorks, a complete security systems integrator that provides security solutions and services for the retail market throughout Europe with a specific focus on the leading EU brands like Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, Media Markt, Samsung, Belgacom, McGregor, McDonald’s, and many more. SecurityWorks is a division of TKH Group (http://www.tkhgroup.com), a large, publicly listed Dutch Security Conglomerate.

Prior to this role, Rene founded as a startup, SecurityWorks which quickly became the retail security solutions provider of choice throughout the BeNeLux by developing, producing and marketing unique, state of the art and patented retail security systems that allowed mobile phones, digital cameras and camcorders, and similar electronic devices to be displayed in a live yet secure way so that retailers could provide their customers with a realistic and actual ownership experience.

Eelco Bakker

Over the last 5 years he has developed several entrepreneurship programs for Universities and local governments (De Noorderlingen, TopProgramma Drenthe). Within these programs they combine aspects of lean start-up, effectuation and a coaching and expert support program. Next to these programs he supports businesses that are in need of (growth) capital, to find an informal investor or start-up a crowdfunding campaign. Over the years he has seen thousands of ideas, hundreds of start-ups and dozens of succesfull businesses. His goal is to support start-up entrepreneurs in the early stage, get them to search for the right businessmodel, but also develop their personal skillset.

Elmer Bulthuis

After leaving his last company in facility management (Measuremen), Elmer is now working on a game server solution with his new company (Gameye). Together with his girlfriend he has a company (Elmer en Denise) that help startups with their technical challenges and Elmer also has his own software company (LuvDaSun) in wich he works as a freelance developer from time to time. Elmer has a lot of experience as a CTO and thinks technology should be an integral part of a company, just like any other discipline. He’s known for his famous saying: “A problem without a solution is not a problem”.

So, What is Startup Weekend?

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events were you can share ideas, learn more about startups, expand your network, learn new skills and build great products.

Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through brainstorming, business plan development, and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations.

Participants create working startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks. All teams receive valuable feedback from mentors and experts. The weekend is centered around action, innovation, and education.

Whether you are looking for a feedback, a co-founder, specific skill sets, or a team to help you execute, Startup Weekend is the perfect environment in which to test your idea and take the first steps towards launching your own startup.

Why should you join?

Expand your professional network, take your own idea from concept to creation, join / build the team, meet experienced, talented and passionate entrepreneurs, follow the latest startups, learn and practice new skills to take back to your job, find business partners or even clients. And of course have fun!

What do you get?

  • Foods & drinks for the whole weekend
  • Inspiring work places at Hanz & Launchlab
  • Support from mentors and experts
  • Workshops from sponsors/partners
  • Branded Startup Weekend Zwolle t-shirt
  • Good’old Goodie bag
  • Great after party

How to get your ticket?

Please click here to visit our Eventbrite page and get your ticket.

Do you have a question?

Please email us at zwolle@startupweekend.org
Or get in touch via Whatsapp: +31 6 83 86 96 22








Meet the Mentors of Startup Weekend Zwolle (Part 1)

At Startup Weekend Zwolle, Mentors provide actionable advice and valuable insights, help to design the experiments and guide participants in building a strong business foundation. Sharing their competence, knowledge and aspiration, Mentors will bring out the best of your team!

So we’re very pleased to have these mentors on board at Startup Weekend Zwolle:

Sebastiaan Heijne

Signkick Co-founder Sebastiaan Heijne is a London-based Dutch entrepreneur with 15 years of e-commerce experience and a lifetime of passion for technology.

His specialties: Entrepreneurship, Sales strategy, Growth Hacking, Coding, e-commerce, Outdoor advertising

In his spare time, he currently advises & supports the Dutch government, he provides mentoring at numerous accelerators, guides some cool startups, teaches at the HULT university and is quite often a speaker to warn – sorry… inspire budding new entrepreneurs!


Arjan Yspeert

Arjan Yspeert is an Internet marketeer with a broad experience in the use of offline marketing tools as well. Travels up and down between strategy, tactical and operational activities.

Tactics and operations meaning traffic and conversion improvement for websites and apps: seo, sea, linkbuilding, affiliate, e-mailshots, social media campaigning and the likes.

Deeply interested in mentoring internet start-ups (webapps) as they ‘blow his mind’. He loves to see young, bright developers, designers and marketeers come together in an effort to improve software and take the world by storm.


Elmar Weber

Elmar is the CTO and Co-Founder of Cupenya, a company that enables companies to provide better customer support through immediate answers. He works since over 10 years with everything, tech and a focus on big data and machine learning.

Elmar attended multiple Startup Weekends and won the 2014 Startup Weekend Utrecht with the Greenbricks team and is looking forward to share his experience as a mentor this year.

In his spare time he plays golf and works on open source project to sharpen his handicap and coding skills.








[VIDEO] Founders are Crazy

Meet Vijay Bangaru. Vijay is one of the amazing mentors in the Techstars network. He started mentoring in 2013 with GoodApril and was part of the team at MapQuest who acquired Everlater (Boulder ’09).

Vijay is the former CEO of Splick.it, a mobile commerce startup. He’s currently involved in advising early stage companies and investors, and is a technology and product executive with a solid record of entrepreneurship building innovative new products at Google, Microsoft, and MapQuest. He’s currently running an engineering group building multi-tenant cloud infrastructure and new Infrastructure-as-a-Service products as a Senior Director of Engineering for Oracle Public Cloud.

“Ultimately at the end of the day it’s your decision. Your decision is probably the right one because you’re in it 90 hours a week.” – Vijay Bangaru

Watch a 60 second Mentor Spotlight video on Vijay below!

Thank you, Vijay, for your dedication and passion for helping entrepreneurs!








Les mentors se présentent

Nous commençons cette 2 eme journée de StartupWeekend Orléans avec l’arrivée et la présentation des mentors :

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1) Frédéric Ros, Directeur d’Orléans Val de Loire Technopole, Conseil, encouragement à l’innovation

2) Alexis Ménard, Business Developer, Transformation Digitale, Conseil & Formation, Entrepreneur, Numérique

3) Stephan Landre, participant de 1st Edition de StartupWeekend Orléans, Consultant

4) Emilie Milecent, gagnante 1st édition StartupWeekend Orléans, designer

5) Hasni Khabeb, Vice Président SEOCAMP, Membre fondateur du R.E.D Réseau des experts du Digital

6) Paul Ayoun, FabLab Manager

7) Felipe Franco, FabLab Manager Orléans

8) Didier Thalmann, est le dirigeant fondateur de VALUANS, un accélérateur de projets et une agence de conseil opérationnel au service des dirigeants et entrepreneurs

9) Alexandre Vallin, CEO fondateur Soluti, agence web tech de Lyon

10) Aymeric Libeau, membre fondateur et commercial Pentalog, consultant digitalisation, cloud computing

11) Ludovic Lavigne, COURTIER en assurance et gérant de ZECOA Courtage

12) Oliver Heguin de Guerle, avocat d’affaires

13) Rémi Greau, consultant Aktan, design de services

14) Maxime Coeuret, gagnant Startupweekend Orleans 1st édition, designer

15) Valérie-Anne Delaidde, fondatrice KingDagobert startup Ecommerce, Presidente Ecommercentre

16) Valerie LEPERLIER-ROY , avocate du numérique

17) Ségolène ROUILLE-MIRZA, avocate du numérique

18) Mélodie Fourez, Innovation and project engineering Aritt Centre

Les mentors sont là pour vous, allez les voir !!!

 

Suivez-nous sur Facebook et Twitter et n’oubliez pas : le #H tag à utiliser est #sworleans !!! 

 








Gymy, 11th Hour, Edutrade and other ideas at #SWDub

It’s lift off at the April edition of Startup Weekend Dublin and the ideas to go through the weekend are finally decided on.

Day 1 saw participants get into the #SWDub spirit with Half Baked. The winner Prison Post, a paper based social network to help inmates get ready for the world outside won.

The game is however over and it’s time to get down to business. 32 ideas were pitched and after voting these 11 have emerged as those to be worked on during the weekend:

 

1. Gymy – Airbnb for Gyms

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2. Health Assist – Health professional directory with online booking

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3. Car Safari – Keeping kids engaged while on a long journey

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4. Sober Sean – Uber-type service to get you and your car home after a night out

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5. Be My Hermes – Last mile postal service via commuters

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6. 11th Hour –  Connecting local businesses with last minute temporary/shift workers

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7. Skills Bank – Peer to peer skills swap

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8. Startup Compost – Liquidation platform and knowledge repository for failed startups

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9. Twirle – Social network connecting shoppers from the fitting room to fashion enthusiast

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10. Xiron – Virtual coaching platform for gaming

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11. Local Mi – Connecting customers to local businesses

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The teams have been formed and it’s time to get into the trenches to validate ideas, build products, get customers, and priceless feedback from our on-the-ground and virtual mentors.

Many thanks to our sponsor Domino Pizza, Google for Entrepreneurs, DCU Ryan Academy, Bank of Ireland, and The T-Shirt Company for the support so far.

Keep up with the action on twitter via hashtag – #SWDub.








5 Reasons Why Mentors Are Hooked On Startup Weekend

This post was written by Guga Gorenstein, SW Brazil mentor and co-founder of poup.com.

I’ve been a Startup Weekend mentor for over two years and it’s something I always look forward to. Every time I commit to being a mentor, I try explaining to my lovely wife why I will be gone for the whole weekend, but never succeed in expressing how addicting Startup Weekend actually is. Well, here you go darling…the five reasons I love being a Startup Weekend mentor.

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1. The chance to give back

In the startup world, where uncertainties are high, help from others makes a big difference. I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with mentors throughout my career and, I believe, the best way to thank my role models is to pass their knowledge on to other entrepreneurs, creating a beautiful, virtuous circle.

2. The amazing networking opportunity

For anyone who is interested in joining your local startup community, Startup Weekend provides an incredible opportunity to meet interesting and talented people. I met everyone from Brazil’s startup community, created lasting friendships and secured mentors for life! I was looking for a contact in one of the top 3 online retailers in Brazil for a long time and I received an intro from a guy I mentored in the Startup weekend Brasilia. Awesome!

3. A weekend with friends

Imagine spending the entire weekend with your entrepreneur friends from other cities that you don’t get to see very often. You get to talk about entrepreneurship, eat amazing food and build something innovative. Sounds to good to be true, right? But becoming a mentor and traveling around the country or the world to help other event organizers, gives you this amazing possibility.

4. Learn what is trending

Startup Weekend is a good place to discover what the market needs or what is trending around the globe. We always see pitches for problems that are not solved or for copy-cats of a new trending startup that people want to benchmark. I have to say, it was the first time I heard about Lulu and a week later it became a fever in Brazil.

5. A place to find co-founders

Startup Weekend is an incredible place for recruitment. You will find loads of people with different skills, that want to create or be a part of successful startups. If you have a startup or an idea, go to the next Startup Weekend and connect with people. It was the connection I made during one of my first Startup Weekends that lead me to partner with the great co-founder I have at my startup.

Any other cool reasons to become a mentor? I would love to hear them!