While researching Silicon Valley’s success as a technology center, I learned its most valuable secret: That it is one giant network. Yes, the Valley has a unique culture of openness, acceptance of failure and tolerance of diversity. Its ecosystem supports entrepreneurial experimentation and collective learning.
But what makes the magic happen in Silicon Valley is that it is a very open network — a giant social networking site working in analog before the concept of such a thing even existed.
The natives of Silicon Valley learned long ago that when you share your knowledge with someone else, one plus one usually equals three. You both learn each other’s ideas, and you come up with new ones. That is why networking is so effective in achieving success. I advise all of the entrepreneurs that I know to attend at least one entrepreneurship event every week. The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is to confine his or herself to a cubby hole.There are networking events every day in The Valley. Sometimes there are several that are a “must attend.” This is where the interactions happen. You meet celebrities like Marc Andreesen,Reid Hoffman and Mitch Kapor and they speak to you as equals. You also meet struggling entrepreneurs who tell you about their challenges and failures. You can literally walk up to anyone and introduce yourself and they will open up to you.
Some conferences can cost hundreds of dollars to attend and these may not be cost-justified for struggling entrepreneurs. But there are many that are free — where you even get free food and drinks. Check out the events at the universities, for example — they’re usually free or inexpensive.
I know some entrepreneurs who are creative enough to hang out in the lobbies or coffee shops of hotels where major conferences — conferences that they cannot afford to attend — are held. It’s a good way to meet people. After all, most of the panel discussions at these conferences are boring and people walk out to take a break and meet others.
Yes, I know this is a Silicon Valley-centric post and that entrepreneurs all over the world will feel left out. Perhaps this will motivate them to create their own networking events. All you have to do is find a common meeting point and get the word out that you are hosting an event.
Invite entrepreneurs who have already achieved success and who live in your town or who are visiting, to be your guest of honor. You will be surprised that some of the most successful people are the most giving — they will readily attend networking events and donate their time to help others. Those that don’t help aren’t worth knowing, so don’t fret if they turn you down.