Modern Networking, The Minesweeper Effect and the New England Patriots
I recently gave a talk at a TechTO meetup on how “Your First Hire Should Be Your Network”. The primary message was that as an entrepreneur with limited resources, you should lean on your network to help you build and grow your business.
Trying to explain the short term value of networking is hard. Most people value their network, but hate networking, and are too focused on the day-to-day startup grind to see the longer term payoff.
So I gave an analogy that I call “The Minesweeper Effect” (as coined by friend and marketing superstar Joe Chernov). We all remember Minesweeper, that addictive game where you clicked on grey squares in an attempt to uncover all without hitting a hidden mine. And every once in a while you clicked on a square, it was completely circled by blank squares, so they opened up automatically, which opened more squares and so on, and low and behold a cavern of blank squares opened up. The feeling was euphoric!
Well spending time with people in your network can create the same effect but with people – let me explain.
Helping Someone Helps You Reconnect with Others
One of the things I have learned at Nudge, is that finding out someone’s needs and trying to help them, is a great way to reconnect with others. Many people are too busy to help others, and even if they do, they don’t realize the benefit you receive right away. Let’s walk through a real-life example of the Mindsweeper in-full-effect I experienced not too long ago.
The story starts because we had to hire a front-end developer, but after weeks of trying to find one on Linkedin, and wading through resumes from our job postings, I decided to look to my network.
I haven’t seen Chris in a while, so thought not only would it be great to get caught up, but also discuss with him the mobile developer talent scene in Toronto. At lunch Chris gave me a recommendation to look at HackerYou, a front-end developer program that he had hired some great talent from in the past. So off I went and started reaching out to various students and graduates of HackerYou, which lead me to Anna Mackenzie.
But the story doesn’t end there…
One HackerYou grad, Robyn Larsen, responded to my inquiry, and told me that she was happy at her current job (was at Normative at the time), but was wondering if we could meet anyway as she wanted to talk about startups. It was a great conversation, lively and she had a lot of interesting ideas. She wanted to know more about startup landscape, so I thought it would be great to connect her to James Smith – our lawyer and confident from La Barge Weinstein, who knows as much about the startup scene as anybody.
James is more than just a lawyer for us at Nudge, he is a board observer, and has been incredibly helpful well beyond just legal counsel. So when I reached out I knew he would help in whatever way he could. But James didn’t stop there, because after helping Robyn out, he circled back to me (I must have been top-of-mind) and introduced me to Mark MacLeod.
Mark was just announcing he was leaving Freshbooks, to startup SurePath Capital Partners, a strategic financial advisory firm who’s mission is to help startups with financing and exit strategies. We ended up having a great call about all things fundraising, and I realized we had a shared investor Jeff Fagnan, who also was on the board at Freshbooks.
Jeff is a fantastic VC out of Boston, and because he is an early personal investor in Nudge, meeting with Mark reminded me it was time we gave him an update. As he gave us some great advice on growing user engagement and where to prioritize, another common connection came up, Joe Chernov who at the time was at Hubspot.
Joe is one of the best (period), a good friend, and I love reading his blogs and content. After socially engaging with him on a post he wrote about “Deconstructing True Collaboration“, I reached out as I thought it would be great if my co-founder Steve Woods could talk at Hubspot’s annual conference INBOUND. After a few emails back and forth, Joe helped us get a spot – which was going to be great exposure for Nudge. (BTW Steve’s talk on “Trust, the new metric in selling” can be seen here).
It’s now Sept 10th, Steve and I arrived at the Toronto gate to take our flight to Boston, for INBOUND conference. And serendipitously sitting there was Byron Deeter, ex-board member of our last company Eloqua, good friend, and one of the top venture guys around. We were wondering why he was flying to Boston, and it turns out he was heading there to see the Pats. vs. Steelers home opener in Gillette stadium with a board of a startup he belongs to. And on top of it, he had 4 additional tickets he was looking to sell (at a discount to us – thank you Byron!). Now I won’t bother explaining how big a Pats fan I am, let’s just say I would fit right in with the Boston uber-fans at that game. So after a “can you believe it” glance at Steve, we bought the tickets.
You may not believe that all really happened because of one meeting with Chris Eben, but it did. And that is how Modern Networking creates the Minesweeper Effect, and of course 2nd row at the Patriots home opener :).