Archive for January 25th, 2011

Would you trade your smart tech friends for $1,000?

January 25, 2011

Two experiences this week have made me consider if I would rather have another smart friend rooting for me, or some extra cash. I will explain.

I’ve been talking with a young entrepreneur about acquiring a domain name I’m interested in. It’s of particular value to me (and him), but of almost no value to anyone else. I decided when speaking to him to offer a chance for he and I to build a relationship and for me to be a mentor to him as he gets started. We started by talking about his business for 90 minutes, brainstorm, offering learnings, etc.

At the end of these discussions I was told that contrary to our soft email agreement, significant compensation would be required to complete the transaction. Perhaps I give poor advice? Perhaps I don’t have much value to add? Perhaps he just really needs cash. Either way, money (about $1,000) was worth more than a potentially strong relationship. Ouch! At least I know what I’m worth on the black tech market.

On the flip side let me tell you about three of my friends. Two are ex-Apple engineers, the other is ex-Google. These are some of the smartest guys I know. I asked them to review my latest project and provide ideas and solutions for me and each came back with a page full of ideas, solutions, and invaluable feedback. These aren’t guys I could pay, but because of a shared interest in each others success, when I needed some honest smart feedback, it was easy to ask. They’ve spend hours on the site, poking around, evaluating and looking for ways to improve it. They know that I would and have done the same for them.

There’s no price tag I could put on this. Some of their feedback could easily lead to tipping the scales on angel funding of the project or a higher valuation (measured in tens and hundreds of thousands or more). What price tag can you put on a great mind and a set of eyes putting their 10+ years of experience towards helping you? The answer is…you can’t and you shouldn’t.

Great relationships in life are made when we reach out and help others succeed whether that’s personally, professionally, or spiritually. As we sincerely look to help those around us, they will in turn look back to us.

For the entrepreneur mentioned at the beginning of the post, I hold no hard feelings and wish him well. But in a world where most people say “what’s in it for me”, I find that those who start by saying “what can I do to help YOU?” end up becoming my friend a lot faster (of course they’d better mean it). And in a world dominated by noise and clutter, you find out very quickly that who you know not what you know is often the difference between success and failure.