There are a lot of things people can say about that aren’t nice that are also probably true. I’m cheap, I’m inpatient, I’m bald, the list goes on for days. One thing I hope no one ever says about me is that I’m dismissive or unapproachable. I’ve met so many people like that in Silicon Valley it’s sad. I won’t go into great detail, but the guys that are humble and totally helpful are few and far between. I will tell you about three of the five most humble guys I’ve met/spoken/emailed with including Naval Ravikant (AngelList), Jeff Smith (Smule), and Sassan Golafshan (Form Fitness Founder in Palo Alto).
I’ve had limited interaction with Naval, but the little time I have spent emailing him I’ve been hugely impressed. First off I don’t expect someone of his caliber to even return my email or Tweet (this is the norm apparently), but when they do with thought and meaning, it really means a lot – because it’s rare. My brief experience with Naval was that I could have been running a $100MM or $1MM company and I would have received the same email. He didn’t treat me differently based on who I am, or the lack of who I am.
Jeff Smith, CEO at Smule is another guy that exemplifies this. He sits with you and thinks hard about what you’re saying, asks tough questions, but looks for great answers. Jeff has been an instrumental supporter to our startup since the very early days of Vaporware Labs. Once I asked Jeff what I could do to repay him for all that he’s helped me with; his response was “Nothing. That’s not the point. I don’t want anything.” I would literally do anything to help him.
I had lunch with Sassan Golafshan a few weeks ago. Sassan is the founder of Form Fitness off University in Palo Alto. He came from humble begins as his family was forced to flee Iran in the early 1980′s due to the uprising. He’s part of an unorganized group I like to call Silicon Valley’s “Iranian Mafia” (I will blog about them soon). For no reason except love of entrepreneurship, he has opened up his Rolodex to me, offering introductions and invitations to some of the smartest entrepreneurs in the valley. Funny thing is that this open and happy spirit is present and obvious where you go to his gym or talk to his employees. Just read some of their online reviews.
And this brings me to my reason for the post. I got an email today from a guy whose startup has had modest success to date. Last year I wrote a glowing article about how cool I thought their company was and how people should watch it. I recently met a mutual friend who offered to make an introduction to the founder. Below is the exchange between us. I have removed he and his company’s name.
If this email had come from Kevin Rose then I could understand it. Remember that 99% of SV big timers respond this way. But when you’re not it’s much harder to understand. Plus if you’re a genuinely cool person you don’t respond this way regardless (ie – Naval, Jeff, or Sassan).
There are lots of other lessons to learn here like poor community management, terrible company PR (if I published the names), sales/Business Development (I was going to intro him to a potential Fortune 500 client), and bad Karma overall.
But ultimately this just reaffirms in my mind the need to never become like this no matter how big or small (more likely) I become, and writing a blog post about it keeps me honest.
[...] See the rest here: People In Silicon Valley We Should Emulate « Derek Andersen [...]
I see the glass as half full. You got a reply! Wow, you can’t believe how many of my emails to other startup CEOs and founders go unanswered. You know what I would do? Wait a couple weeks and email back asking how things are doing and if he/she is now ready to chat. The worst thing that could happen is your email never gets a reply. Trust me, is worse than this reply you got.
Don’t get me wrong, I get very frustrated with the way some people answer their emails and a lot of people forget they were one day just like us… scrappy startup founders trying to make a difference.
And then, I get a meeting or a nice email from another startup founder/CEO and it makes my day. There are jerks everywhere, I just try to pay attention to the nice guys.
Don’t give up
That’s a great response. I originally led with the email, but decided that it was better to callout people doing it right, versus the guys doing it all wrong. The thing is I’m now totally over the startup. A response like that doesn’t send me on a crusade against them, I just have no more desire to meet, interact, or help their team.
But you’re right that you shouldn’t take it personally. Ultimately you have to be easy to forgive and forget because it’s hard enough to survive, let alone if you’ve got a bunch of people you’re mad at distracting your work.
[...] would make you a $100MM or tell you how amazing I am. I like people in Silicon Valley that are more humble and let their success speak for themselves. Sorry I didn’t beat my drums until your eardrum burst. I should have known better. The [...]