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Hacking the system: how to land meetings with anyone you want (venturebeat.com)
123 points by jmtame 2228 days ago | hide | past | web | 32 comments | favorite

Good GOD this is a terrible system.

As a person that many people want to get in front of, I can hereby certify that this fellow would have been blocked by a bayesian spam filter by email #2.

The trouble here is his attitude. It's all about demanding and demanding and demanding. Gimme. Gimme some time. Gimme some attention. Then gimme some mentoring, gimme some money, gimme an investment. You know what? Ef you.

The solution to landing meetings with anyone you want is fairly easy and has been understood since Dale Carnegie explained it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Win_Friends_and_Influenc...) in 1936.

You have to stop demanding things from people and start doing things for them.

Comment on their blog posts.

When you find out they have a new puppy, mail them some homemade puppy treats with a nice note.

When they ask a question on Twitter, move mountains to find an answer and send it to them.

Find out what charities they work for and make a donation. Or volunteer.

Write a blog. Give freely of your own knowledge. I did that and went from anonymous to internet-famous in 2 years. When I wanted to raise money, everyone knew who I was, and I got meetings with anyone I wanted with a one sentence email. Not because I was lucky and not because I was blessed and not because I was in the right club, but because I had been making a contribution for years before I started demanding things.

I'm glad to see an actual "famous" person respond to this. Even as a "normal" person I find this approach insane. People don't like aggressive pan-handlers following them asking for money, I don't see why anyone would like aggressive over-emailing.

Either you're doing something I want to know about or you aren't. Don't give up after one try but don't bug the person constantly either. If they're not paying attention maybe you aren't interesting.

Hey Joel, thanks for commenting. Yeah, I don't want to come across as this Wall Street banker type of person saying "you need to get people to meet with you instantly! Demand time from them!" I think this is more of a trick to use if you've already been e-mailing someone (as Evan mentioned he was doing for 6 months) for a while, you think there's a great mutual fit, but the other person isn't responding. People are busy, sometimes they might need nudged, and you need to be respectful, but it's also easy to send a one-line response and say "Sorry, but I can't do this right now. I'll reach out to you in the future if that changes." Sure that'd be annoying to do with lots of people, and you'd think everyone reading this advice will do it, but I would guess that a total sum of 5 or 10 people might use this tactic in the next month. People rarely act on any of the advice I ever write about in my own blogs--nobody has reached out interested in writing the follow-up book I suggested someone write in my first post. Only one person has actually tried the method for "Infiltrating Any Startup." I think it's more of a nudge to the entrepreneur if they were already thinking about it.

To follow up on some of your points: I don't know how easy it would be to get someone's mailing address--in my case, even getting their e-mail address correct was difficult. It's definitely possible to help them with something on Twitter or comment on their blogs, knowing that it takes a bit longer--and you have to wonder, at what point do you make the ask? You can compliment and help someone for a while, but at some point you have to ask them what you want to ask them. I'd be interested in hearing how you transition from being nice and giving to asking.

The problem with my own advice is that it's public in a large blog that is read by lots of people. This is exactly the same advice I'd give to any person who came and asked me "There's this investor, he's perfect for what I'm doing, but he isn't responding to my e-mails for the past 3 months." I could see people skipping that first part, which I would not do--you can't just start off by saying "Hey I'm going to e-mail you every day for the next 30 days." I sent nice, well-thought e-mails (VentureBeat edited out that part because the original post was too long) and got no response. Everyone who agreed to do the interview enjoyed it though. If I'm trying to get your attention, it's not like letting you invest in my company is only going to benefit me, remember I'm going to make you rich(er) some day! At least that's what I think, and that's what you're betting on when you invest.

I doubt I'll ever see a busy person support this advice openly. This is mostly targeted to the few people out there who are trying everything and it's not working. I'd use a combination of what you've suggested to build up some rapport, and eventually do what you could (using this tactic) until you're satisfied knowing you tried everything you possibly could before you quit and give up. I can't sleep at night knowing that I could have been just a little more persistent, but I gave up instead.

No, the problem with your advice is that it is simply spamming. Insisting that you will continue to annoy me unless I do as you demand is not the way to make points with me, and I can't imagine the rich and famous have lower standards.

I have people doing what you suggest to my mobile phone. They call every day with a recorded message offering to solve my "money problems" and telling me that the only way to get them to stop calling is to give up and talk to them. If I could control the policies on my mobile phone the way I can on email, I'd send their calls straight to the trash without passing through me, as I do to anyone who attempts your suggested email spam strategy. I can't recall any case of someone successfully spamming me into submission.

In my opinion, this is not a "neat trick", this is simply not-so-subtle blackmail and brute-forcing and it is far, FAR from "respectful" but go ahead, show us how you get a meeting with Steve Jobs and the president, Barack Obama, using this.

Tread very, very lightly if you plan on going this route.

Be absolutely sure that your e-mails have real content in them (i.e. this is progress we've made, we just closed X deal, etc.) that can be easily digested. The goal shouldn't be to make contact and then explain yourself. The goal is to generate interest, which will lead to the contact.

Also, if this technique catches on and hordes of desperate entrepreneurs everywhere start spamming every VC and investor they can find, it's all over. The HN crowd, of all people, should know just how easy it is to create a filter to immediately trash messages from a specific address. This is why it's important to have excellent content in your very first e-mail.

This reminds me of Randy Pausch's method of getting someone to sit down for lunch. [1]

"And he asked a question. And I was like, I’m sorry did you say you were Tom Furness? And he said yes. I said, then I would love to answer your question, but first, will you have lunch with me tomorrow? And there’s a lot in that little moment. There’s a lot of humility, but also asking a person where he can’t possibly say no."

Although, admittedly, that's after you got them to say a few words to you and you're in front of a large group of people.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo 19:40


For those who don't know, here's the setting of this talk:

This talk is one in a series given at CMU called the "Last Lecture" series with the hypothetical setting of 'what if you had one last talk to give?'. Randy Pausch, a professor at CMU, didn't have to pretend. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and in August of 2007 (when he gave the talk) was told he had three to six months left to live.

If you haven't seen it, watch the whole talk. It's really good.

I just watched the whole video and all I can say is wow. That guy was truly a smart man.

I watched it all the way to the end without losing focus for a second. The head fake at the end really hit hard.

Great video.

"And he asked a question. And I was like, I’m sorry did you say you were Tom Furness? And he said yes. I said, then I would love to answer your question, but first, will you have lunch with me tomorrow? And there’s a lot in that little moment. There’s a lot of humility, but also asking a person where he can’t possibly say no."

Awful advice. Not only does it not come across as humble, it comes across as cheap flattery and obnoxious insistence on something you don't deserve.

The initial moments after meeting someone are the moments when that person has the least interest in doing anything for you (next to the point before that, when you haven't met them at all). They lose almost nothing by making up some excuse not to do what you ask of them.

It's only after they've gotten to know you a bit, and after you've proven that you're interesting and valuable in some way, that they'll have a bit more incentive to do you a favor.

By far the best trick I've found for getting marginal meetings (where you might not otherwise) is "I'm going to be flying through <town>, could we meet up to discuss <thing relevant to them>?" Usually the artificial time/distance limit makes it happen; then you end up flying there just for the meeting.

This is only a partial answer and if you don't fully understand what's happening and why, you'll get your ass handed to you.

You need to know what YOU are bringing to the table and what THEY are bringing to the table. You need to have the full picture in your head. If you fully, passionately, believe that value will be created for both of you through a relationship ... all you have to do is convince the other person. If it's obvious for you, it'll be obvious for them too. They will, of course, meet with you.

On the other hand, if you're just bullshitting and you have nothing and you just desperately want to meet them because you're hoping that they will figure out how value will be created through a relationship ... well, they'll know what you are from the very first hello and you'll end up in the SPAM folder of their mind.

The problem with these systems is that they're okay when only a really few people do it. But imagine if you're a VC and every aspiring entrepreneur keeps spamming you every single day. The novelty wears off quickly.

Actually if you're a VC and entrepreneurs are emailing you with information about their traction, you've just reduced your search costs and increased opportunity. All you have to do is then filter those applications, which can easily be done by human or software.

Its like running Harvard. Yes, under-qualified students will apply and try to get in, and so you'll have to spend time filtering them out. But if you have so much demand and more students have made themselves accessible, then on average, you will have a better selection of applicants to choose from. At least that's one way of seeing it.

Then you would have to drop email because the signal to noise level had gotten too low.

Which reminds me - you can properly get almost anybody to respond to you if you send them a telegram, though you will have to find a company that still delivers them, since Western Union has stopped.

This has to be one of the lamest things I have ever read on hacker news. Hacking the system? Its called persistence. Yes, sometimes it can work, other times it can get you shitlisted. Is this the kind of crap they teach Urbana-Champaign? No wonder I rarely hire a recent college graduate.

coincidentally, this is the same hack that celebrity stalkers use to get free restraining orders.

"There’s always a fine line between persistence and desperation, and you don’t want to cross over into desperation."

I think you cross that line right about when you decide it's a good idea to email someone every day to get their attention.

The article says one of the likealittle people turned $2k into $200k? 10,000% profit?

Is there more of an explanation on this somewhere? That seems incredibly far fetched to me.

It's only 10,000% profit if you assume his time had no value.

There are plenty of startups who began with a meagre cash investment, but bucket loads of time and effort, that turned into multi-million dollar companies, in some cases without additional funding. So it's not as far fetched as it may seem in a one-liner that makes it sound like an overnight result.

Correct. It took numerous years (although did substantially outperform the market).

Why didn't you continue trading?

Anyone else noticed lots of VC's and Angels tweet when they are flying somewhere? How about driving to the airport they are flying into and waiting for them to come through the arrivals gate holding a sign with their name on. A free ride to wherever they are going in return for hearing your pitch. Considered doing this, but my gut tells me this is just too stalker like to work. Think it would freak me out if someone did it to me.

That is an awesome idea. As long as the person wasn't creepy and I didn't already have a ride, anybody trying to get my attention for a business proposition could get it this way. But I agree that it would be better if they emailed..."I see you're hitting LAX tomorrow. I know you've been busy. Can I give you a lift to wherever you're headed from the airport and get that 10 minutes I've been looking for?" Awesome.

I had a friend who did this to a (really) prominent angel investor, but planned it on twitter first. It apparently went great.

The author should write another article after he gets a meeting with Bill Gates.

This reminds me of a story I read about Grant Achatz, the great chef of Alinea. When he started out of cooking school, he sent a resume every week to Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, until Thomas Keller finally called him in and interview him. Persistence does payoff

This strategy is what led to the first date with my wife.

Really? Can you elaborate?

I saw her profile on a popular online dating website. I liked it so much that I started writing her a personalized letter every day. I told her that I would stop if she asked me to.

This went on for almost a month before one of her friends finally convinced her to respond. We got married a year and a half later.

I guess women are just like other super important people: An early lack of response doesn't necessarily mean they're not interested; it just may take a while for them to detect the signal in the noise.

I was curious about who it was that Evan Reas had been emailing, and found this list:


Since Andreessen Horowitz was part of their angel round, perhaps Marc Andreessen or Ben Horowitz were one of their initial targets.

Steve Jobs is going to hate this thread!

One of the best methods in meeting a person of importance was show on the Crime and Investigation Network cable channel by a prolific con artist. Not only did that guy meet with almost anyone, he became friends and was invited to parties, dinners, etc.

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