Before your first ROI Micro Grant

If you’re new to ROI, you were probably chosen for an outstanding achievement you recently attained. If you’re anything like me, you may be feeling that you‘ve hit a local peak, and now you’re looking for inspiration for the next step in your career. Luckily, you recently got access to your first ROI Micro Grants. If you’re wondering what would be the best way to use them, this post is for you.

In December 2015 I used my first ROI Micro Grant, and it changed my life. I’m writing this post in hope that sharing my experience will help you think of one way to make your first Micro Grant a transformative experience.

What Can Help You Become The Best At What You Do?

ROI Microgrants exist for self development, and this is the first question that came to my mind when I first found out about them.

Learn from the best

As a community manager and ecosystem builder for the tech industry in Jerusalem, I felt like the first thing I needed to do was explore some of the world’s top startup ecosystems, so that I can get inspired and bring ideas home.

Connect with the best

Because they say you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with — my second goal was to start getting to know and build real friendships with some of the top community managers in the industry.

I felt like I had a good idea for how to hit 2 birds with one stone.

What is the top conference in your field?

Ever since I started building communities, I’ve been following a blog called by Richard Millington. It’s the best content for community managers, by far.

Feverbee has a yearly conference called SPRINT that showcases top community leaders from leading tech companies and changemaking organizations. In 2014 I felt like I had to be there, but couldn’t afford it.

The first thing I did when I got a microgrant was to sign up to the next Feverbee SPRINT 2015 in San Francisco.

Find Your Anchor

Conferences you trust are “quick wins” in terms of trip planning and an “anchor” for bigger trip goals. I knew that for me, just by attending this event, the trip will be a success. And in this case, I was right.

What can you achieve by going to one conference? Here’s what I got from Feverbee SPRINT

  • Personally met and befriended 2 of the most connected and influential thought leaders in the community building industry: Feverbee’s Richard Millington and CMX’s David Spinks.
  • Joined CMX Hub, a global network of top community managers that I now use almost every day.
  • Gained professional tools and mindsets that helped me improve engagement in my community right away. See some of the best tweets & slides.
  • Met and connected with representatives from Salesforce, Udacity, GitHub, Stack Exchange, CMX, Mozilla, Google, Twitter and more — some of the top community-based companies in the world.
  • Learned that compared to other communities in the world, our community is very small, but incredibly influential.
  • Meeting and chatting with people who have lead communities of millions gave me a look at something I want to do some day in my career, that I wasn’t thinking about.

A top conference is one type of “anchor reason” to go to a certain area, and make sure you get results. There are other anchors. Conferences are great for knowledge and connections, and a good jumpstart for a bigger networking trip. Once you have your anchor reason, it’s time to figure out what to do next.

Who Are The Top Brands In Your Industry, And Who Are The People Behind Them?

Once you have an anchor event as your foundation, you can build a “second story” on top of it. Now that you’re there, how can you make the most of your trip?

For me, the answer was to meet as many of the top people in the area who are relevant to me — leaders and brands from as many top tech companies as possible, people in my field that I can learn something from, or people who would be interested in what I have to offer — a connection to Jerusalem’s tech community.

Make a wishlist.

Back home I made a wishlist of companies and people to meet, which included around 20 top brands in 3 cities, and a few tech stars.

I also had one big personal dream goal — to give a talk at Google, Apple or Facebook.

Nail your pitch.

I had a really strong pitch coming out, which made me almost irresistible to meet. Jerusalem had recently made it to a list of the top 30 tech cities, and #1 in TIME Magazine’s stop 5 emerging tech hubs.

I presented myself as the person who runs the community organization for the 2nd “world-class” tech city in “Startup Nation” (the “emerging” city), and said I would either love to learn something from them, share what our city has to offer, or be their connection in Jerusalem and Israel for anything in the future.

I always mentioned something specific I thought they may be interested in, from common sense or news. It worked, and 9/10 times I got a “yes”.

Seek people like you.

I never asked to meet with Mark Zuckerberg. I always asked for the people like me — those who head community / developer relations / office event organizers or company connectors.

People like you are much easier to get a hold of, and they will always enjoyed meeting you, to have someone ask questions about what they do, and find another person who shares a language no one else gets.

Don’t worry about shooting for the stars — you will reach the “Zuckerbergs” eventually. Always start by seeking out people like you. In the case of community managers, these people also happen to be one of the most connected and influential people in their companies. There are parallels to this in every other role.

Don’t plan too hard in advance.

For 3 months I tried to find contacts at Facebook or Google, especially in the Facebook Groups team, but couldn’t find a connection. I wrote out to a few celebrities and companies. Friends weren’t very helpful with intros, and mostly I didn’t hear back.

I made two or three appointments before the SPRINT conference with local connectors, and dedicated a day to go through all the local statup hubs — coworking spaces, accelerators etc. That’s it.

At first, I was scared that this wasn’t enough. In hindsight, it was the smartest thing I could do.

Plan 20% and leave 80% to be decided as you go.

After your first wave of meetings you find out so many new things you didn’t know before, that if you’re fully booked and can’t change your plans, you’ll regret it.

The only thing you need is enough reason to go. 3 days with no “anchor” event are enough to start mapping. A conference and 3 weeks are enough to take over a city.

Mapping out San Francisco & Silicon Valley

Go Around & Map It Out

In the weeks to follow I just walked around every tech area in the city, trying to get as many meetings as I could. Whenever I saw a brand on the door, I would mark them on my Google Maps, walk in and try to get a contact, try their twitter accounts, try to find shared contacts on Linkedin, or Google for their community contact.

Everyone I chatted with, I asked who the most connected people are in the city and what the best places to be. I would follow up with each. Every night I would sit on my laptop with a wishlist, see what people would write on Twitter and try to reach out.

Here are some of the things I achieved using this method.

  • Gave Talk to Facebook Groups team
  • Had breakfast with superstar game designer and “women in tech” advocate Amy Jo Kim.
Dream come true: with superstar Amy Jo Kim (left) and Facebook Groups team (right)
  • Attended a meetup at Adobe where I met the top designers at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Airbnb, and more.
  • Caught an elevator with the CEO of Udacity, who made the Google Car.
  • Visited offices of Twitter, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Asana, Slack, Uber, Udacity, WeWork, 500Startups, and the list goes on…

Sometimes you fail, but who cares.

There were offices I failed to visit — I was physically in the lobby or inside, but couldn’t find a contact to meet with. These include — GitHub, Quora, YCombinator, Nextdoor, Pinterest, 500Startups, IGN Entertainment, Apple. This is all part of the fun, and leaves something for next time.

Keep a “To Meet” List

I keep trello lists of companies I missed on my visit, everyone who asks me to visit them in a different city, and every cool company I hear about that I want to visit in a different city. This way, next time I’m in town, I open my list and remember to reach out or find a connection.

By making connections with top brands in my industry, I was able to raise my network to a global playing field, making new things possible.

There was only one last piece of the puzzle left to make this trip perfect.

What would help you Re-energize?

Since this was my first trip out of the country in 5 years, it was important for me to balance the hard work with some hard fun.

Stay Somewhere Social

Airbnb’s are great. But the best nights I had on my trip were always at a hostel. Staying in a hostel means you meet more people — in the commons area or even a dorm. In San Francisco, I would go out every night with a new friend — artists, dancers, actors, musicians and more.

Visit old friends & ROIers

I found the time to visit people I worked with, people from high-school, and people from different trips around the world. There’s nothing like having a local friend show you around their favorite places and people in town.

Do something you’ve never done before

On weekends, I would tour the city. On one of these tours in San Francisco I found the Mission Delores Park, where a group of acrobats taught me how to juggle Poy.

Every Day I’m Juggling

Do something your friends haven’t done before.

Sometimes people will have something crazy to show you. Always say yes. This is me and my friend Elad in one of the world’s first self-driving cars, by Tesla. Powered by tech from Mobileye (#MadeinJLM)

This spontaneous whale watching cruise was never in the plans.

I’m on a boat.

Buy something no one else can.

I skipped buying an overpriced iPhone in Israel, and instead got a Nexus 6P, the best phone of the year, the day it came out. With Amazon Prime, you can order it online and get it the same day. Other gadgets, food, coffee, blazers and pajamas for the whole family quickly followed.

Live out a childhood fantasy.

Ever since I was a kid I had this dream to rent a car and take a road trip down the California One. I made a point to go visit a friend in LA, so I could do just that. Here are some of the pictures from my 3-day road trip from SF to LA.

Switch it up.

Having spent time in SF, LA and NY; cities, nature and beach towns, gave me a variety of experiences over a short period of time — which made it a trip to remember.

After the trip — what changed?

Flying across the United States at night for the first time, especially over Texas, what surprised me most was the street lights. They stretch out forever. The city doesn’t end. Everything is organized and beautiful. Here’s a country that figured out scale. You can’t not be inspired. You have to think bigger.

Ever since I got back, I think and act more globally. Almost all of my projects have roots in the connections I made in the US. We’ve hosted companies like Twitter, Airbnb, Salesforce, Alibaba, Udacity, Meetup and Microsoft in Jerusalem for cooperation, in hopes to have them set up and create jobs here. We’re changing the city’s strategy to focus around attracting international brand companies to Jerusalem. And it’s all thanks to these connections.

When I got back, I felt like my colleagues appreciate and value my work more. I also got job offers, from a leading venture capital fund, and a leading startup company in Jerusalem, where I work today. My salary has since more than doubled.

This trip is one I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but always felt out of reach. ROI Micro Grants made it possible.

So, what will you do with your next ROI Micro Grant?

I hope this post will help you make it count.