How to Build a Startup: Week 2 (People & Networks)

Log

Savings: 16'868.15 CHF

Team: 3

Twitter followers: 78 (+7)

Facebook page: 130 likes (+58)

Beta-test signups: 71(+7)

The week has passed extremely quickly. I spent most the time preparing pitches, rehearsing stories, writing one-pagers and applications to various events or schemes, as well as preparing for the Swiss Startup Day, and Dublin Web Summit.

Preparation mainly involves tediously sifting through attendee lists in order to find people who have potentially the relevant expertise, interests and motivations to meet with you.

We have also developed our go to market strategy and honed the financial projections which I will share in greater detail in a later post (the second half of the pitch deck).

Finally, in the spirit of Aristotle’s

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

I have also tried to add another few of habits to my life. Finishing my morning showers with cold water (surprisingly good). Eating more protein that doesn’t come from animals (cheaper, better for the world and the animals etc), and continuing the meditation and running. I have also started trying to incorporate a daily walk after lunch. For all of which Trello is really useful!

My personal Trello board

However by far the main focus has been on replying to all communications as soon as possible and in the spirit of Never Eat Alone making sure I have lunch appointments booked.

Organisations are People

Communication is central. The most effective people I know in my life all reply to messages very predictably and quickly.

Having spent a good few years trying to claim the misanthropic writer title — as somebody once aptly referred to as my ‘tortured artist look’ — I had seriously overlooked the value of community.

Our schools and academic systems often encourage such behaviour. History is taught as a series of great, often portrayed as lone, individuals and rewards are given for individual achievement and bettering others.

But when we look at epoch-defining movements or transformational communities, it is not the talents of an individual that lead to success but their ability to unite others (often more talented than themselves) around a shared vision.

As Robert Kiyosaki puts at a domestic level in Rich Dad Poor Dad:

Intelligent people hire people who are more intelligent than they are

Or as Jim Pulcrano reminded us in this week’s Venturelab Startup Acceleration Workshops:

A talent hires A talent. B talent hires C talent.

So human relationships are not just important to the project. In essence they are the project. A startup is an organisation, which is fundamentally just people working together on a shared vision in accordance with shared principles.

And this is not just employees — but mentors, supporters, friends and family.

So this week I have been applying extra effort to developing the right habits for communicating affectively with everyone in my life as well as making an effort to meet new people.

Stephen R Covey’s classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has remained at the back of my mind here as well:

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

He makes the very good point that when dealing with humans efficiency is not the same as effectiveness and you often have to invest a lot of time in developing strong relationships and setting the right foundations at the beginning.

But the people I’ve met with and talked with have all, in their own way helped refine the idea, the strategy, or offered new leads. When you are building something positive people are happy to help.

Networking is Organisation

Does this sound like cynical networking?

Networking has always had a negative connotation in my mind. But it shouldn’t.

We need one another. To do great things we need to work together. But that said there is networking and then there is networking.

I am continuing to enjoy Tribal Leadership which I would strongly recommend to anybody.

It defines the shift from level 3, “I’m great” mentality to the level 4, “we’re great” mentality in terms of networks. At level 4 people network by connecting others. Karen Wickre gives great advice in her article: I’ve Spent A Lifetime Building a Mighty Network. Here Are My Secrets.

Similarly networking is not just trying to get in contact with people you can name drop in the pub (level 3 thinking). Jeff Goins writes about this in his excellent article: Your Best Network is the One You’re Ignoring.

Building a network is not about exploiting others. It is about finding people to share your vision, and whose vision you can share. It is about finding people that will support you and listen to you and that you can listen to and support in return.

In reflection

It is a bit like planet formation. It starts with some haphazard collisions. This small coalesced island then begins to attract more from the abundant galactic dust floating around it.

Your habits are like the gravity that brings things together. And the more you grow the stronger these forces become. This is the same as the preferential attachment theory that characterises many real-world network typologies such as the internet or protein folding networks.

And it is the same as that highly sought-after network effect that many social networks chase in which the value increases for the user with the number of users. Such effects make the position of market leaders highly defensible — and a life highly fulfilling.


If you have questions about any aspect — from my survival to the project — please let me know at james.murray@headswap.org. I look forward to meeting you all.

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