Day 12: How to get smart quickly

When entering a new industry one of the most important things to do early on is get up to speed on the industry as quickly as possible. I made a pact with myself when I was at SeatGeek that if anyone ever reached out to me and wanted to learn about the ticketing space or startups I would take the meeting. In my six years at SeatGeek, I had countless coffees and phone calls with students interested in sports and startups, people looking to transition to the startup world, and others who were just looking to get smarter on the ticketing landscape or learn how we built SeatGeek. It was both rewarding to me and (I hope) helpful to those I met with. It’s one of my favorite things about the startup community — I’ve found that people are always open to talking and sharing their experiences.

As I transition to starting my own company in the fashion industry, I now have to rely on others to help me get smarter. I’ve been able to lean on the vast network I’ve built over the years and have already had over two dozen phone calls and meetings in just the first couple of weeks. Talking to people and learning from their experiences helps me in two key areas: learning best practices and avoiding costly mistakes. In each meeting, depending on the persons background, I’ll focus on their expertise and try to take away a few keys learnings. Conversations can focus on broad topics such as fundraising, manufacturing, or fashion PR, to specific things like optimizing site design for conversions or whether we should form a C-Corp or LLC. It’s been humbling to have people who’ve heard that I was starting a company in fashion reach out to me and offer to make introductions to someone they know in the industry. I’ve taken every intro I can get and eventually those I’ve been introduced to offer up more introductions. This is how I was able to build such a vast network in the sports industry and how I’m now slowly starting to build a network in the fashion industry.

LinkedIn has been by far my most effective networking tool. After I meet or talk to someone I’ll immediately connect with them on LinkedIn. Once I’m connected to them it’s easy to see the folks they are connected to and when appropriate ask for an introduction to a couple of their contacts. This is particularly helpful when trying to connect with people in an industry where I have very few contacts. I never bombard someone with multiple intro requests out of respect for their time, instead I’m very thoughtful about the intros I do ask for.

All these connections and introductions enable me to get smarter on the industry quickly. Without them I would be screwed. Whether you’re looking to get smarter on a new industry, entering a new market with your product, or need to understand how to do something new in your current role, getting smarter is one the first things you need to do. Talking to as many of those that have gone before you is one of the best ways to accomplish that.

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