The unit of conversation with a "tech celeb" need not be a pitch. I'd suggest trying an ordinary conversation instead. I don't know about other people, but it would definitely work better with me.
At last, I decided to skip the pitch, chatted very pleasantly with Joe, got some great advice and his card. In retrospect, that was really about as much as I should expect in a five-minute sit-down. He seems twice as much of a great guy as I thought he was. The pitch can wait until the next time we cross paths or it's been a lot better tested. But I better recognize now how awkward these situations can get.
"I'm a app/web developer who just finished contracting at the fastest growing company in the world making apps for fortune 100s and am now working on a start up doing Travel Guide-Apps."
Their eyes may glaze over half way through your "I'm a web developer..." at which point you notice this and drop it, ask them what they do, or ask them some other question.
Anyway, I guess that is basic 101 conversation techniques.
A fun game I used to play with friends in bars/clubs was introducing someone else. My friend would pretend to be a french student new to the city and I was introducing them around. Got into some very funny conversations with people... especially when they realized what the game was.
If there's one thing I've learned over the years (whether meeting new startup people or trying to get a date) it's been the "don't be a douchebag" rule. Treat people like people. The best "pitch" is actually not a pitch. It's authentic, where you're talking to someone who you honestly believe will be interested in what you're doing, and you're sharing something you're sincerely excited about.
The last person you want to be is one of the "Jersey shore meatheads" trying to dry hump some poor woman out on the dance floor (to harken back to my earlier analogy). :)
I can barely distinguish them from each other.
Sure, I'll give you my card with contact info, but it doesn't mean I will be interested when I get the email.
Yes, you did more than most people and had the balls to approach me. Great. But that won't fix a mediocre product or a product I'm not interested in. I'll just end up ignoring your email.
I look for cues, such as who is funding you, your background and whether you got an introduction from somebody I trust. These things are my filters to finding the stories and startups that matter.
Beyond that, I agree with PG: I prefer ordinary conversations. Again, the people I know and find genuinely interesting are more likely to catch my attention when the time comes to pitch me.
Someone has to go first, no? Why do you trust rival VCs more than your own judgement?
Mystalic is an editor at Mashable, not a VC. Therefore, when asking "who's funding you" he's not looking for rival VCs, but as he said, for cues. That does not, however, really invalidate your point of him making is own judgement instead of filtering by VCs.
This is how the real world works, over and over again.
When walking up to people randomly, I find it is immensely helpful to be genuinely interested in people. They will often pay you back the favour by being genuinely interested in you afterwards.
To be honest, I do what I do because I love people. They are endlessly interesting. I don't do it to build my Twitter follower count.
If you walk up pitching they will just turtle and get rid of you. Have faith they will ask you about you in due course.
(The question is not exactly directed at you since you seem to naturally have such an interest.)
I am just curious. Everyone acts rationally from their point of view. Why do people do what they do? What makes them successful? Failures? What is their take on living? Most people are passionate about something, so tell me about it. I'll learn something new.
I spent a lot of time learning how to actively listen, not just wait for an opportunity to jump into a conversation with my own immature opinions. (I have many.) I am not afraid to ask dumb questions in an effort to learn. I have no fear that people will think I am stupid. Actually, asking questions makes you look like a genius.
Caveat: There are some people who lack the spark of life. I don't spend time with them.
1. Listening, really listening, is really hard. Start by trying to listen to those you seem to have an issue(s) with! Really try to have an open mind and see things from an alternate perspective. Surely, you must have some level of interest in people you see. Why did he decide to get 1000 piercings? Why is s/he homeless? What drives this person to wear a suit every single day? .... Look at the things that you judge, and try to find answers that may not be so obvious as to why they are the way they are.
2. "I learnt I didn't know everything" -- this is pure and simple, but if my own experience has any relevance, it won't click with a number of people. I was smart enough to know that I didn't know everything when I was pretty young. But somehow, I really didn't "get it" -- I thought I was open minded, but I really wasn't. It wasn't until life beat me up pretty good that I finally "think" I get it. At least I hope I get it, and I feel like I do. Which leads to...
3. "Everyone acts rationally from their point of view" -- It took a very, very long time for me to understand this point. It took a lot of humility, pain and suffering to really open up my mind to why people do what they do. I believe MOST people make choices with good intentions. From the outside, it might be hard to understand those intentions. The challenge, or for me, the interest, comes in understanding the perspective that drove a particular decision. This goes back to "two sides to every story" -- and I've seen enough stories to know that both sides have strong convictions that they are correct and right. If you aren't fundamentally interested in people, then try to get interested in figuring out why they do what they do, especially when it is at odds with your own bias.
That's my sticking point: in situations referred to, the person in question all too often isn't prone to discussing what he _want_ to discuss, but what his fans do. How to, as a random face wandering up as so many do, can one elicit some fragment of "say, what do _you_ want to talk about or do?"
The nuance struck me when meeting (as just another face in the room) Steve Reich and Philip Glass. During a talk, Reich lamented that everyone wanted to gush over his early works, which he made clear he viewed as immature - not bad, but something he has moved far beyond. Able to stand nearby someone's hallway chat with Glass, I was struck by how _much_ the two had to talk about, how the other person wasn't anyone the great composer knew, and how I had absolutely nothing to offer/initiate in conversation despite a desire to do so and an ability to work a conversation well _once_it_started_ on some point - but alas I had no point to start on.
To wit: when opportune, I want to say to great/famous person X "so, what might _you_ want to talk about?" but such phrasing is inane.
I'm not trying to pitch people except when I am so I don't feel a lot of pressure to get people to instantly like me. I'd rather have a great conversation. The pitch comes after I know what their current needs are.
It's hard but I'm trying to be genuinely curious about others. There's nothing worse than someone pretending to be interested, asking questions and then not really listening to the answers. I try to avoid being that person. One thing I try to remember is that everyone has something interesting to say if you push the right buttons.
I suppose the tech-industry corollary here is to do some agenda-free networking, and build up an agenda-free network. You may have a hidden agenda, and that's fine, but push it to the way back of your mind for now. You need to spend time building up a circle. Where to start? If you're in the Bay Area and working on a startup or a personal project, I'm sure you know at least 5 or 10 other folks in the same boat. Start getting together. Set up a weekly dinner or drinks. Start finding out about other peoples' dinners and drinks. Socialize and be interesting. Help other people without any expectation that they will help you.
This is a slow game, played over a longer term than many people are comfortable with. But it's a more organic way to meet and "pitch" people. I'd much rather find a way to become friendly with Big Investor X than find a perfect 30-second pitch for a chance encounter with Big Investor X. I can always pitch a friend, after all, if a bit down the line.
"But none of my friends is interesting / knows anybody cool / has any different friends outside our group."
Time to diversify your social circle, then. Reach out and connect people from different stages of your life: childhood friends, college friends, work buddies from former and current jobs, interest-group friends, and so forth. Go to mixers and meet new people, too.
All of this may sound patently obvious to some folks here, and if you're among those folks, awesome. Just know that this stuff didn't occur naturally to me, and I bet a fair number of people are built similarly. I'd always struggled with the apparent phoniness and strain of "networking," until I learned why: I was trying to compress a long-term process into short-term transactions. It felt unnatural because it was unnatural. I was always approaching people out of the blue and asking for something. That's not a winning strategy for becoming liked and getting helped. You've got to be doing things for others before expecting others to do things for you.
Cool and all, but sometimes a pitch is just a pitch, and a fuck is just a fuck.
Also: personally I would never start a business with a friend I really cared about. Never. It's just like having a "friend with benefits": it can go perfectly or it can be hell on earth.
That's not what I'm saying. Rather, I'm talking about cultivating a network of friends in and around the business. If one of those friends happens to be an important person, great. If not, great.
It's possible to have a long-term agenda and not to be mercenarily seeking things from people along the way. In fact, the less you do the latter, the better. Ironically enough, you'll probably have an easier time getting help from people if you're not solely trying to get help from them.
To refer back to the girls-in-bars analogy: you'll have an easier time getting laid when you're not trying hard to get laid. When you're simply trying to have a good time and meet interesting people, getting laid is icing on the cake. It's not the goal, but when it comes along, it's a bonus.
My guess is that some Angels/VCs are way more approachable than others.
The first thing I do when mentoring noob entrepreneurs/founders is ask them about their networks.
"How are you growing it?"
"Who are your mentors?"
"Who are your mentees?"
"Who are the big-wigs in your network?"
I have found, much to my surprise, given that I'm a "black belt ninja networker type" (apparently;per the article) that people haven't really given much thought to these questions.
They know (or get the sense) that having a strong network is important but they've never really worked on building it.
This article provides some good insight on how to build your network. Specifically it makes it clear that in order to build your network you MUST NOT BE SHY.
It also makes it clear that it's work.
As I like to say: "Building your network requires, well, that you build your network."
Just start attending events, smiling, and introducing yourself to people. Make sure you are not shy about asking for what you are looking for. For example "I'm just figuring this startup thing out. I think I've got some great ideas but I don't have any mentors. If you know of any one I could talk to that would be great."
Ten bucks? Whether its a phone number I want or a pitch I'm making, ten bucks is way low. And if I'd pay a hundred for either, clearly I ought to suck it up and get in there ans get what I want.
Put a price on it. Makes you realize when you are just being a little bitch.
This applies to so many different areas of life that it should just be made a rule, if it isn't already.
However, the key to ultimate success in all of these is that the person needs to like you and respect you. Girls don't like guys that approach them and rattle off about how funny they are, how much money they make, and what a great lover they are. Girls respect guys who are confident and layered, not guys who throw all their cards on the table in a 30 second pitch in a desperate attempt to be liked. Bartenders will first serve patient, confident, respectful customers, not eager, aggressive douchebags flashing twenties and snapping fingers.
Not being a super-experienced investor or fundraiser, I'll leave the translation to investment pitches up to others, but I have a mixed reaction to this post. For most people, the hardest part of reaching out to others is shutting down the the internal chatter that talks them out of opening the door. How you conduct yourself afterwards though, is also incredibly important.
I suspect investors as a class try to grit their teeth and discount awkwardness and narcissism in the hopes of finding the next Mark Zuckerberg, however I also think being a genuine and likable person - which for the most part means genuinely liking other people - is a great path to a good relationship in this and any other circumstance.
The key is to understand that neither women, bartenders nor venture capitalists are homogenous hordes that can all be handled with the same neat little set of well-defined procedures that you read in a book or hear at a seminar.
Especially not women, what with them comprising half of the planet's population.