Our friends sustain us in our personal lives. Some friends give you encouragement, others energy, and some help you open doors you wouldn’t be able to yourself. You help them and they help you. And so is it in business. I think of all my business contacts as friends, and I approach all relationships in that way. When starting a new business, I like to think of my contacts – the names in my Outlook, Gmail or LinkedIn databases – in ways that help us get to where we need to be.
First, a quick digression on contact management software. There are startups out there building software to help you manage your contacts in the cloud. Most business people use Gmail or Outlook, and one of the reasons we are doing a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office 365 in addition to Google Apps is because the contact management in Outlook is better than Gmail. In Outlook, you can sync your contacts with LinkedIn, and then edit the contacts to add more information, such as a cell phone number. Then there’s Plaxo, the company that rocketed to fame a few years ago – see their latest post Plaxo Tips: Syncing Multiple Google Accounts. I am using LinkedIn contacts to sync my Outlook contacts, and then organize them into categories. Here’s how I think about my business friends:
These are the friends who are your and your team’s cheerleaders. They like or share your blog posts, comment on your incessant posting of business stuff on Facebook, and generally cheer you on. They make the hard part of the startup life worth living, because they either like you personally, or they like something you wrote or presented to 2500 attendees at the O’Reilly Velocity conference. These are the people who influence others to join you, or introduce you to people who become your customers. It helps to acknowledge them, and thank them for their acts of generosity, such as @johnbpeterson and @rontele did when they favorited and retweeted my post - thank you guys!
These are friends who have significant influence, and can make things happen for your business. Most startups usually think of these people as being angel or VC investors, but there are people with other skills who can help. We are broadening our outreach to also include strategic partners at companies that have an interest in our business. Let me explain by illustrating how we obtain partners. We are building a software product that helps enterprises make their employee social network really productive, by helping them help each other solve business problems in real-time. Cloud/SaaS vendors care about onboarding their trial users, because they are adding thousands of users a day using B2B marketing techniques, and converting tire-kickers to buyers is a revenue imperative. Social CRM vendors that build tools to connect employees with social networks care about this because we integrate with them, including Yammer Platform, Salesforce Chatter, and VMware Socialcast. I spend time every day identifying people among my business friends who are in leadership positions at these companies, because they can help. Their sponsorship of us as a partner makes all the difference that is needed to go from startup to being a company with substantial credibility. Speaking of people who have significant influence, Prashant Shah, previously of Hummer Winblad ventures, and now Managing Director at TIE, has launched a brilliant startup accelerator called TIE Launchpad - the deadline to apply is coming up on Nov 15, 2013, so apply now! Another person I admire is Debbie Landa, CEO of Dealmaker Media, who runs the Under the Radar conference – apply here to present at the next one.
These are the friends who know how to scale the software you are building. They’ve done it before, and know how to help you scale up your business. Since we have spent 10+ years at big data companies like Keynote (Shawn White, VP Service Delivery, runs an infrastructure that collects 800 million rows in a relational Oracle database every day, as well as Hadoop), we’re going to be managing data at peak scale. Ken Rudin is the Head of Analytics at Facebook, and the kind of friend who would know whether our plan to use MongoDB and Hadoop will scale to handle the number of users we need to. Jon Fox at Walmart Labs built a highly-scalable real user monitoring service using Hadoop, for his company Torbit, which was acquired by Walmart. Jon Adams is a performance guru at Twitter operations, and head of their security operations. I look to these friends for advice as we accelerate.
Cultivate your friends list using LinkedIn Contacts – this application looks promising, because I can tag the people with labels such as “Hires”. Our second week at our startup was spent cultivating friends and business partners, to help us with technical architecture and investor introductions. Please get in touch with me, Vik Chaudhary at LinkedIn, if you think I should talk to someone in your network – I’d really appreciate it!
Day in a Startup series
The chronicle of our Silicon Valley startup:
Day #1 in a Startup – Always Be Hiring
Day #7 in a Startup – Share Your Idea To Acquire Customers Faster
Day #14 in a Startup – Making Friends
Day #21 in a Startup – Separation of Church (Web Site) and State (Email)