Silicon Valley Etiquette

“During the 17th century, in France, manners became a political issue. King Louis XIV and his predecessors, in collecting together the nobility of France to live with the sovereign at Versailles, instituted a sort of school of manners.

At the palace, the courtiers lived under the despotic surveillance of the King. If you displeased a Louis, he would simply “not see you” the following day. And not being “seen” by the King was tantamount to ceasing to count, at Versailles.

The new manners — both the formal rules of protocol and precedence and the unspoken, more profoundly enculturated rules like table manners — were seen increasingly as ways in which one did not offend other people. You were controlling yourself, so as to prevent other people from being disgusted or shocked.”

— Margaret Visser

Rule #1: Be On Time

  • You are not organized. Would you do business with messy people? And don’t pretend the trafic was awful on the 101. Of course it was. Use Waze.
  • You don’t respect me. “Sorry, my previous meeting was longer than expected”. Which actually means: “you probably have a meeting right after me, but I don’t care about your schedule”. Not. Appreciated.
  • I can’t trust you. When we scheduled the appointment, we had a deal. You just broke it.
  • If 1–10 mn late: “I will be X mn late, hope it’s fine. All my apologies”;
  • If > 10 mn late: “All my apologies, I really can’t make it on time. I will be at least 10 mn late. Should we reschedule our meeting?”.

Rule #2: Same Day Email

  • You are on top of things;
  • You are fast. And that’s good;
  • What the senders had to say matters to you. You gave them a feeling of importance. Powerful.

Rule #3: The Double Opt-In Intro

  • An introduction should be a win-win for all parties, the “introducer” (the nodes of a social network have value) as well as the “introduced parties” (successful people can only afford to exchange some of their limited time for value).
  • You cannot compel someone to make an introduction, or to be introduced to someone else. It is counter-productive (you may bring pain instead of value).
  • John wants to introduce Paul to Helena. First, John asks Paul if he agrees to being introduced to Helena. Then, John asks Helena if she is OK to be introduced to Paul. If both agree, John makes the introduction.
  • Paul wants to be introduced to Helena. Paul asks John if he is OK to make the introduction. He briefly explains the context, the purpose and why Helena could be interested in the connection. Even better: he provides him with a draft email to be used for the introduction (see Rule #4 below). If he is OK, John asks Helena if she agrees to be introduced to Paul.

Rule #4: The 3-Bullet Email

  • What do you do? (2 lines)
  • Why is it exciting? (2 lines)
  • What do you want? (1 line)

Rule #5: Good Karma

Rule #6: The 15-mn Call or the 30 | 60 mn-Meeting

  • The 15 mn call. This is the perfect option to introduce yourself for the first time, to give some context for a future meeting, or to discuss one minor issue.
  • The 30 mn or 60 mn in-person meetings.

Rule #7: Accent Is OK

Rule #8: Data Or Die

Rule #9: Storytelling

“Thank you”



Director of Bpifrance USA

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