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Email Introduction Etiquette (42floors.com)
402 points by jaf12duke 1379 days ago | hide | past | web | 116 comments | favorite



If you're like me, and sometimes jump to the discussion before reading the article, please go ahead and read the article. It's one of those rare ones that is truly a summary of itself: super short, information dense, with every part having meaning and nothing else.

This protocol is super simple, and allows for very efficient transfer of information without putting people in uncomfortable situations.


Here's another take on the subject: double opt-in introduction by Fred Wilson: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/11/the-double-optin-introductio...


As with anything, it always depends on the context. If I'm introducing someone to an investor I barely know, I'll make sure they opt in. If I'm introducing them to an investor I see every day and know they trust me, I'll just go for it w/o the opt-in. This article and Fred Wilson's are great examples of how to maximize etiquette.


so if one person opts in, and the other does not, do you just tell the first: "sorry he wasn't interested in meeting you"?


This has always been my issue with these e-mails.

Either way, it will be awkward, and checking in with someone to see if they can be introduced just adds another e-mail to the chain.

Maybe I'm just overly choosy with who I introduce, but I have never had someone not respond, or say "No, I don't want to be introduced to that person." It just always seems to add an unnecessary step.


I guess it just shifts the dilemma to the person setting up the interview - which is what makes it more polite.


thats what I do! I explicitly ask both parties before I make an intro.


You can't put me in an uncomfortable situation. Reading these things only confirms to me that I will never be able to understand all the other people.


You already understand there are different kinds. Some people shut down under fairly minimal pressure/stress, especially if their lives are already busy. I'm with you, but I've come to realize the importance of following such rules in order to keep things smooth ultimately for myself.


I have a paper from my shrink that says that essentially, I have had a blind spot for these things since my childhood. Only in recent years have I started to understand what it means. My "if you have something to tell me, why do you dance around it?" brain simply does not compute these things.


It's like meeting someone at the bar. A lot of people wouldn't ask them back to their place right away. But that doesn't necessarily mean being upfront and to the point wouldn't work, it certainly does, all the time. Someone like yourself considers it a positive trait, as do I.

It all comes down to chemistry and expectations. Engineering types generally appreciate candor, a somewhat unique trait, but it's definitely gaining some traction with other groups. I don't think many investors appreciate it, but that doesn't mean a cold email won't work -- but it better be extraordinary.


A lot of people wouldn't ask them back to their place right away. But that doesn't necessarily mean being upfront and to the point wouldn't work, it certainly does, all the time. Someone like yourself considers it a positive trait, as do I.

Actually, I don't consider "asking someone back to their place right away" as either positive or negative thing because I don't understand the motives. Sorry, this kind of interpersonal stuff simply goes beyond me. ;/ But I assume that if that is important to someone, I don't see a reason for that person not to be candid about it.

I don't think many investors appreciate it, but that doesn't mean a cold email won't work -- but it better be extraordinary.

It's more that I see no reason for why this should matter when many business people don't even consider the effects that their actions or decisions have on human communities, changing the lives of countless other people. So many of them don't give a shit about what difference it makes when they decide to do something, but when someone else deals with them, many of them dwell on superficial veneer rather than on substantial matters proposed? Sounds very much like hypocrisy to me.


> But I assume that if that is important to someone, I don't see a reason for that person not to be candid about it.

Being candid about something usually isn't the best way to accomplish your goal. If your goal is to make a sale, and you communicate with them in a way that is too different than what they're used to, you simply won't hear back. Forget ever getting a sale if they won't even talk to you. Understanding how people perceive your communications, and using that to your advantage is an important life skill.


I semi-understand that (intellectually), I just don't have the brain circuits for internalizing any of that. This is illogical and I simply have problems with illogical things. (That is probably probably why the medical committee deemed it a severe disability in my case.)


> makes a specific ask

You mean ask a specific question? Or is this silicon valley jargon?

edit:

Through the power of The Googles I now realize he could have been using the stock market form of 'ask'. It makes some sense since you're asking for an investment. Not that I like it any better...

   The price a seller is willing to accept for a security, 
   also known as the offer price. Along with the price, the 
   ask quote will generally also stipulate the amount of the 
   security willing to be sold at that price.
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/ask.asp


It's an "almost anywhere business is done in America" jargon.


lol "Dawn, who do we use for Chinese?" (heard approx 1997 in u.s.)


I actually just had to look this up in a different context and came across this explanation

http://english.stackexchange.com/a/4247


It is jargon. It's the thing one is going to ask for.

The meaning is slightly more specific than a generic word like "request" or "desire". It implies something specific, focused, and prepared.


If that's the case, the word 'specific' in the sentence is what makes it specific, not the phrasing. You already know they want you to provide a request for something, but you don't know it's something specific until they specify specifically.

'give a specific ask' and 'ask a specific question' are therefore equivalent, with the exception that the former looks like it was written by a 5th grader.


They're not the same thing. An "ask" is the item being requested, it is not the question.

"Can I have a cookie?" is a question, the cookie is the ask. An ask is implicitly tangible or substantial.

"What's the weather today?" is a question, it doesn't really have an ask, since the item being demanded is trivial. It exists in business jargon specifically to separate minor requests "can you send me that file?" from substantial exchanges "can we update this report to include the last two quarters?"

An "ask" is more "demand" than "question", without the negative connotations of demanding things from people.


Alright, so 'ask' here is just synonym for 'request', then.

Looked it up... most dictionaries don't have a noun form of 'ask', though macmillan has a separate page just for it. (It's also a Scandinavian myth about the first man made from an ash tree, but that's probably not the intended use from the OP)


As I said before, the word is more specific than "request". Yes, it's an ugly term, but no, you can't make it go away by pretending it means something different.


I can believe you, but, having read your previous comments in this thread, I'm still not seeing the distinction between ask and request.


An ask is the subject/object of a request.

If you were to request a cookie, you would say "Can I have a cookie?". The entire question is the request, where "cookie" is the ask.


If that were the case, to 'make an ask' would in this case mean to make the cookie, which it doesn't.

It seems like 'ask' is a verb, not a noun - in which case it is synonymous with 'request'.

People seem to be arguing that it's a 'more specific' form of 'request', but I can't really see how you could make a nonspecific request.

Edit: Ha! I even confused myself... 'Ask' here is indeed a noun - like 'request' when used as a noun - but it still seems to refer to be entire request, not just the object (which is the point I was trying to make).


Yeah, it does seem a bit weird to "make an ask" if the ask is the object.

As to the "more specific" bit, I think people mean it has a slightly different meaning than a request.


"Request" is a pretty broad term. An ask is focused, specific, planned. It's something more like "negotiating point" or "initial position" or "requirement" or "demand".


Google "define:request" yields this for a noun: "an act of asking politely or formally for something."

An ask isn't "an act of asking", it's the object/subject of a request. So it's not really a synonym, IMO.


I think this is the simplest definition. Swap in "request" anywhere you see "ask" (the noun) and you'll keep the exact same meaning.


This is incoherent. Is the ask the item being requested, or is it a demand? Neither of these are how it's used in the article, either.

Which mostly goes to show that it's not a word with a definition as we think of it -- it's a word that displays familiarity with the tech scene and is used as a social signal.


It's not incoherent, it's an idiom.


My project is a paradigm too.

http://dilbert.com/fast/1991-11-03/


I'm not claiming it isn't horrific; I wouldn't say it myself. But "ask" is a pretty clear term of art.

Also, I'm not sure Hacker News denizens can really complain too much about other people's jargon. Among many others, we inflicted "blog" and "tweet" on the world.


`Blog' and `tweet' are at least neologisms. `Ask' on the other hand has been a verb for a very long time, and has so far resisted being made a noun. That suggests to me, and probably to most people, that it's a verb, solidly so, and not to be used as a noun.

Fighting this kind of tradition will be an uphill struggle. A losing battle. A tall order. (For those still in primary school, those are all different ways of saying "a big ask", by the way.)

It's a real shame that the article's author had to drop this particular clanger, because the article provides sound advice in a succinct fashion.


This usage of "ask" is at least 10 years old because I heard and used it in my last job, which was over 10 years ago. From my perspective you're the one looking to fight an uphill battle trying to put this genie back in a bottle.

Just because it is new to you does not make it useless or wrong. English grammar evolves; that's part of what makes it such an expressive and useful language. Another recent example:

http://m.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/english-...



You have never hear some one say "thats a big ask"?

Eg Vince cable saying "the royal mail was not under priced" leads to the response "thats a big ask"

Its more a political slang/jargon term that formally correct English.


As a Hacker News denizen I exercise my prerogative to complain about anything and everything possible, as long as there's some technical merit to it.


with the exception that the former looks like it was written by a 5th grader

Jesus I laughed hard at this. Thank you.


It's nasty language change which has spread, kind of like "I spoke to she about that problem" is spreading. Not specific to SV, but extremely common here.


Why would you say "she"? Is "her" somehow offensive now? Or have they forgotten objects of prepositions are, well, objects?


Seriously, "spoke to she"? I've never heard that. And I dread to think of the blood-boiling it would cause in me if I were to hear it... As gcv says below, "Mary and I" as the object of the verb is annoyingly common, even among well-educated people. No, it's not language evolution; it's wrong!

edit: ah, you're gcv :)


"ask" as a noun is fine (even outside of finance). I've never seen or heard "spoke to she" and Google doesn't seem to turn up anything.


I hear it occasionally. I hear its equally-appalling equivalent all the time: "Please join Mary and I in welcoming John to our team."

Of course, prescriptive grammar is for the birds, anyway.


That's surely just an over-reaction to people being told "and I" in response to a sentence like "Mary and me would like to welcome John to the team". You can't win.


As a kid, you get 'Me and Mary' as the subject corrected to 'Mary and I' for reasons of both grammar and politeness. Some people don't understand or remember the compound reason and just use 'and I' everywhere.


I've also heard it used in sports and such

Team A are X points down and given the injury to STAR_PLAYER for them to come back now is a big ask


Yes. Saying "I'd like to catch up with you to discuss what we've been doing at X" isn't very specific, and can be a waste of time. "I'd like to see if you'd like to get in on our seed round, we're looking for $200,000" is very specific, and waaaaay better.


Doesn't necessarily have to be jargon, it's a fairly common phrasing "would you ask that of him?" / "the client had an ask which we fulfilled". I suppose it can sound a bit biz-buzz but nothing specific to SV.


"Would you ask that of him?" fits the normal usage of ask as a verb, though. In "the client had an ask which we fulfilled" (where ask means "request", I presume) "ask" was nounified.


The whole phrase means "asks for something specific". However, using words like 'something' make you sound vague even if you aren't, and using jargon like this signals "I'm in the crowd that gets you". Most people do these things without thinking.

There is no 'ask' on its own and no one would refer to the ask on it's own. The entire phrase is an idiom. An ugly sounding one, but one that's here to stay, like 'day of' and 'going forward'.


Can anyone clarify—why BCC?

More precisely, what purpose does moving Mark to BCC, and then acknowledging that and addressing him in the letter, serve? Why not just exclude him from the conversation completely, or leave in CC if you're still addressing him?


It confirms to Mark that you received his email and are responding to Suzanne but leaves him out of the rest of the conversation when Suzanne replies.


You say thanks to Mark, but save him countless minutes of pressing Delete on the future CC's back and forth. Busy people get already too much e-mails and it is often a pain to get out from those discussions.


Most people don't make a good use of BCC.

Another instance where it is useful is when asking a question at a mail list but asking that anyone who answers only addresses the you not the whole email list.

Just send the email with the list in BCC, and that's gonna be automatic.


And then face the rage of a thousand suns when you break email filtering rules ;)

(personally I have rules that catch this sort of behavior so it doesn't bother me, but I've seen it happen).


That's a pretty rude and selfish way to approach a mailing list.

I wouldn't be surprised if such a question goes on to be ignored.


There are uses:

    From: me
    To: me
    Bcc: foo-enthusiasts
    Subject: [survey] what's your favorite version?

    What's your favorite version of foo?  Write me off-list
    and I'll post back to summarize.


From RFC 1855, Netiquette Guidelines, Section 3.1.2, Mailing List Guidelines:

> If you ask a question, be sure to post a summary. When doing so, truly summarize rather than send a cumulation of the messages you receive.

http://www.apps.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1855.html#page-10


Imagine the maillist of all your coworkers and you want to let them know you are selling a few items. It's not rude to force responses to be only to you. This reduces the amount of email everyone gets.


No, that's what Reply-To is for.


Except gmail doesn't support reply-to in a per message basis.


This is spot on, but this is still a PITA for everyone involved. There should still be a better way.


I don't have a ton of love for LinkedIn, but this is a problem they've taken on and solved to some degree. If I have a second-degree LinkedIn connection, I can request an intro through an intermediary, who has the chance to reject it, pass it along, and so on.

I'm not sure how much the investment community uses LinkedIn, but it seems like the closest thing to a solution right now.


I'm reluctant to use LinkedIn for two reasons.

1) Comes across as impersonal to the person I'm contacting. 2) LinkedIn is often checked infrequently at best.

I'm sure any solution would have same obstacles to overcome, but this is why I don't use it.


Yes, I fully expected this to be an article about how to "fix" this problem situation. I have to say that I have been in a few of the positions in this sort of chain, and now if I'm the inviter, I always just CC both. Not forwarding on the entire chain feels dishonest. (Obviously the invitee doesn't need to read the whole thread, but it's there for posterity, and to give context.) If the "busy person" is so rude that they wouldn't want the introduction in the first place, then they can be that rude themselves, and not leave it to the middle person, IMO. If they're not rude but not interested, then they can take the 2 minutes it takes to compose a "bowing out" email. Sheesh.


> If the "busy person" is so rude that they wouldn't want the introduction in the first place, then they can be that rude themselves

I disagree. The "busy person" didn't ask to be put on the spot to decide whether the inviter's social capital is insufficient to overcome their busy-ness or lack of interest in the intro or whatever reason they have for declining, so you shouldn't put them in that spot.

Assuming it's laziness totally misses the social dynamics.


Not forwarding on the entire chain feels dishonest.

Knowing what information (is appropriate) to share with whom is not only not dishonest, it respects other people's privacy, and is a key life skill for effectiveness.


As a frequent introducer, I would never forward the whole chain.

Consider the case of a friend looking for a job. If they come to me asking for an introduction, they may be open with me about things they wouldn't tell a stranger in the first minute of contact. E.g., concerns about the target company, fears they might not measure up, things going on in their life. It's hard for me to know what they don't want shared, I want to minimize the risk a violation of trust, and I don't want to guess at what the recipient might have an issue with. So I'll always write my own intro or ask for something I can forward.

Also, if someone dumps some unwelcome request from a pal in my lap, I'd be irritated that I had to do the work of bowing out. It's their friend, not mine, so it shouldn't be my problem. For that reason, I always ask permission to do an intro unless I have strong reason to believe the intro would be welcome. (E.g., if somebody told me they're looking for developers, I'll do intros without confirming an interest in each specific person.)


I once worked at a place where the board members were having a discussion about the CEO, and then of the board members decided to just cc: said CEO into the conversation at random, because "well we are talking about him and he deserves to know."

That board was not well-functioning.


I tend to agree with you here. In the scenario proposed by the article, the busy person is still essentially doing the same amount of work. Having to consider the intro, reading up on the subject and the requester, etc, etc. If the answer is a flat no, then so be it, but let them hear it directly from the person. I find it hard to believe that somebody could be so busy that taking a few minutes to respond to such a request would actually be a problem. If it is so onerous, perhaps setting aside a few hours out of one day per week to handle these requests would be prudent? That way, you can minimize the impact it would have on your day-to-day life.


The problem isn't that the "busy person" is too busy to respond, it's that the "busy person" did not request to be involved and should be forced to be the bearer of the bad news.


Hearing bad news is a part of being an entrepreneur. Speaking only for myself, I would prefer to hear no directly from the horse's mouth.


That, again, is not the point. It's not what you want, it's what the "busy person" wants, the one who's being asked to do a favor (or more).


oops...should not be forced.


I am the recipient of a lot of these, as an angel investor. I insist on the double-opt-in. It saves me time, and it saves the introducee time.

Here's a simplified view of my email life: I have a couple hundred people (the intermediaries) I have worked with before or am friends with who each work with or talk to many entreprenuers. Each of these people knows dozens of investors. When they like an entrepreneur, they try to decide which investors would be interested in that entrepreneur. This isn't easy because angel investors change what types of things they are looking for and whether they are looking for anything at all all the time (based on what they have already invested in, on how much time and money they currently have to invest, etc.) They then send out intros to many investors. I get about a thousand of these a year.

Now, there are two types of intros. The most common is "[Founder] is looking for an investor for his company, which looks like [company]." The second is "[Founder] asked to be specifically introduced to you." If the latter, I always take the introduction. If the former I filter for only the stuff I might actually invest in. This saves me time because--since I have a pre-existing relationship with the intermediary--I can say something like "I don't invest in companies like [company], I am looking for [thesis] right now." This takes 30 seconds. If I was to reply to the founder, it would take a lot longer not to be rude. Rudeness is discouraging (I know, I raised money for my own company, lots of investors were rude), and it burns bridges. If an entrepreneur told an intermediary she thought I was rude in my reply, that intermediary may no longer send me anything. I know I, when I've been the intermediary, have stopped sending people stuff because the feedback from the entrepreneur was that they were rude.

Also, the whole point of the intermediary is to save the entrepreneur time. The intermediary sends out a score of emails asking who is interested, and some smaller number reply. The intermediary then makes the connection. Now the entrepreneur only has to deal with the people who have self-qualified as potentially interested. This saves them time (and also puts them in a slightly better negotiating position.)

The only negative to this process is the time it takes for the intermediary. I am an intermediary as much as, or more than, I am a recipient of these intros. It takes time. I've often thought about how to automate much of this introducing work: deciding which people would be most likely to want the intro, sending the emails, tracking replies, making the intros, and tracking which intros worked to feed back into the process. I suppose this is what software like Salesforce does for salespeople, but I've never found a personal CRM that can do this for me. Would love to have one.


As someone who does a lot of introducing, if someone already owes me a favor, sometimes I try to cut the middle step of, "Would you talk to X?" and just cc: them both, but I realize it's a bit presumptuous.

As the OP rightfully suggests, it's the little things in etiquette that are important.


I do this as well, though it seems in my field this is fine and acceptable behavoir (Unless you're from a competing research group...)


I find the social dynamics of To/CC/BCC really interesting. You only see it in Emails and it doesn't exist in any other communication medium. Most social communication platforms I can think of the top of my head only really support the "To" part of email.


Actually, the To/Cc thing predates email by quite a bit. CC stands for "carbon copy" [1], which referred to typing a letter with a sandwich of regular paper and carbon paper, so that you got one or more copies in addition to your original. The To/Cc headings were a common thing on paper memos.

I'm sure the Bcc behavior was common as well with paper memos, but I suspect the name only appeared with the invention of email. [2]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_copy

[2] https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=carbon+copy%2C...


The origins of bcc from back in the days of carbon paper (and after that the xerox, dot matrix printer and laser printer) was strictly as a way to give a copy of a particular correspondence to someone without the actual recipient knowing that you were doing so.

The current use of bcc more or less contradicts that and has taken on a whole new meaning.


I presume the "it doesn't exist in any other communication medium" refers to "the social dynamics" not the concept of CC and BCC.


Yes - things like Twitter, IM group chats (FB/Hangouts/even IRC), all have a single "ring" of attention. A message is either to you, or to a group. There is no way for the sender to dial up/down the level of "attention" or send other signals when sending a message.

Some examples (admittedly, these are how they are used in my workplace and life, other people may perceive these differently, which is also interesting):

- BCC has an interesting side-effect of being able to drop somebody from the conversation, but notify them of that fact at the same time.

- CC is sometimes used as a "heads up". It means "I'm interested in you reading this, but I'm not asking you to do anything right now."

- To is explicit "I would like you to read this, and there's probably some action you need to do."

That said, these are used in my workplace so these rules don't really apply when sending more informal mails between family members and the like. I have tended to use CC at home when sending emails to teachers, keeping my spouse in the loop.

You can't really deliver the same messages within a Facebook conversation or a Google Chat. I think Twitter has some potential since the "to" line is fluid, but I treat the platform as read-only and find it extremely chaotic and unorganized.


> CC is sometimes used as a "heads up". It means "I'm interested in you reading this, but I'm not asking you to do anything right now."

It bothers me that Gmail combines the To and CC recipients into a single line. You have to do some investigating to figure out who's on To and who's on CC.


I think most of that dynamic was pretty common in paper memos. The only thing I see as plausibly novel is the "moving to Bcc" thing, where you politely drop participants from a Cc list.


CC and BCC originate from secretaries taking notes on desks in large firms. There was a note for the person who the message was intended for and a carbon copy (literally a sheet of carbon under the top note) that would be archived. Blind Carbon Copies were simply copies that the original intended recipient was not aware of; ergo, one might say that Carbon copies are significantly older than email.

CC and BCC are practical parts of communication but only formalized in a technical manner (beyond their physical carbon counterparts) in email, but we certainly engage in conversations which are of an "FYI" nature all the time.

Source: I am a communications nerd both from a technical and historic perspective.


BCC is pretty close to the social dynamics of in-person conversations that sound like: "Don't tell <person> I told you but FYI ...".


It's not typically used that way -- bcc is used to prevent disclosing all recipient emails, and it also prevents spamming all recipients on replies:

    to:  sender_address@domain.com
    bcc: recipient1@, recipient2@, . . . 
Ever been part of a giant cc list that everyone replies to and hammers your inbox? bcc would have avoided that.


Definitely sometimes the case that it's secretive. I'd say I more usually use BCC like "You don't need to get involved in this conversation, but your name was mentioned and/or it's something you would want to know about." Kinda like covering your own ass so that somebody doesn't think you were talking behind their back or going over their head.


Not exactly. At least with the original meaning.

It's more like making a tape recording of a conversation you are having with someone and playing it to someone else who wasn't part of the conversation. And without the person being recorded knowing that you did that.


fwiw it exists in MMS too, though I'm not claiming that's a good thing.


I've often been tripped up by the semantics of the word "meet" in email introductions, as in "Nice to meet you". Everyone seems to want to reserve the word "meet" for actual in-person meeting, and I've seen such constructs as: "Pleased to 'meet' you" "Pleased to e-meet you" "Pleased to virtually meet you", etc

I'd love to hear how the language-sensitive hacker news crowd deals with this issue, and also what tortured constructions you've seen recently. Currently I'm using "pleased to make your acquaintance" or "thanks Jim for the intro", but neither of those is completely satisfactory.


I say "nice to meet you" or "nice to be introduced to you." If I'm feeling particularly edgy then I say "nice to be intro'd to you."


It's nice to have a reference like this, but as the comments on this thread display, everyone has their own preferred variant(s).

It's silly to think that there is a "one size fits all" email intro framework. Different contexts require different amounts of background information and introducer participation.

Really, the greater theme at play is the need for people to think more about how their actions (here, nearly effortless electronic ones) effect others. Sending email intros without understanding the benefits and detriments to both sides is impolite at best and downright rude at worst.

The Golden Rule applies, even to email.


Great, actionable advice! I've been using Gagan Biyani's "forwardable email" as a guideline, which is very similar. https://www.udemy.com/raising-capital-for-startups/

It seems that the likelihood of the email being read increases the shorter email is. At the same time, I have found the shorter the email, the harder it is to write.


Related: One of my favorite articles on how to send an email introduction: http://jfleeg.tumblr.com/post/21231029406/the-art-of-making-...


This is generally the protocol I use. I like to use BCC during the handoff if the referral is coming to me. I'm surprised at how often I get pulled into conversations that I don't need to be a part of, because someone doesn't BCC me in return.


Anytime I have worked for a larger organization, I wished they would have a quick session on best practices / etiquette with communication.


The "fresh email" from Mark fails to satisfy the author's own prescription: it does not "make a specific ask".


This proposed workflow reads like a product spec for a great web app... hopefully someone builds a website which does this exactly!


Do you think we really need a web app that does something this simple that can be accomplished via any existing email app/product? And I'm not trying to be a dick by saying that, I'm actually curious. I feel like I see sites that would do something like this (do something general, something that could easily be done with an existing app/product) a bunch of times each week that seem neat for a min, but then I completely forget about them. It always ends up being that the existing app/product you use a 100x a day is just easier to use/remember.


Wow, this is anal.

You can learn a lot about people by observing their etiquette.

(I am pretty sure what the first comment to this comment will be)


Nice. Also learned how and when to really use BCC.


Thanks, the BCC bit was interesting.


A fine article, but - maybe this makes me a jerk - a bit obvious.


You'd think that, but the things that are obvious to you are not obvious to everyone <--- which itself is a thing I used to think would be obvious to everyone.


This is why it's unreasonable to have any faith in the contemporary Silicon Valley. Cold-calling used to work out there, because it was full of people who just wanted to do a good job and help each other succeed. Now, you need an introduction because it's full of emasculated social climbers who need some way of determining whether a person is of sufficient social status to merit 30 seconds of consideration. Because of that, the positive-feedback loops that occur when hard-working people want each other to succeed have completely stopped in the Valley.


Oh, please. This intro etiquette isn't about status; it's about respect for people's time.

People still generally want to help people succeed. But people are also busy. I do intros like this pretty much any time I talk to two people who are likely to benefit by talking. I'd guess I average 2 a week.

I've been in San Francisco 14 years, and I think this place is even easier to navigate now than when I got here. Few cold call anymore, but that's more because we've got better things than phones. Meetups, conferences, mailing lists, on-line groups, and Twitter all allow people to connect in ways much better than strangers using a loud mechanical bell to interrupt somebody in the middle of whatever they were actually trying to do.


People still generally want to help people succeed.

Doubt it. Rents and house prices are at a record high due to horrible NIMBY regulations and no one's doing a damn thing about it. Startup equity slices are tiny, and the old Silicon Valley guarantee (that working for a startup meant the founders would take a personal interest in setting you up to be a founder in your next gig) is long gone. VCs are funding lots of well-connected rich idiots, but if you don't come from the "right" social milieu, it's nearly impossible to get.

What used to be a quirky and different society is now a shitty knock-off of Manhattan that copies its worst parts but none of its good ones.

Few cold call anymore, but that's more because we've got better things than phones.

s/call/email/g. You know what I mean. Obviously calling someone you don't know is considered pretty rude these days.


Evidence? I don't see any of that as worse than 15 years ago except the rents. And that I'd blame on demand spikes more than nimbyism.


Full of emasculated social climbers who need some way of determining whether a person is of sufficient social status to merit 30 seconds of consideration.

There's some truth to what you're saying, but it has always been the case in complicated industries. It's the cost of doing business. It reminds of this brilliant quote by Robert Henri:

In new movements the pendulum takes a great swing, charlatans crowd in, innocent apes follow, the masters make their successes and they make their mistakes as all pioneers must do. It is necessary to pierce to the core to get at the value of a movement and not be confused by its sensational exterior.

That being said, in my four years in SV I've asked hundreds of people for advice and help, and I honestly can't remember anyone ever saying no. The collaborative spirit is very much alive, people are just busy and it helps immensely to have some basic respect for their time.


I upvoted this because you make an interesting point that goes against popular opinion. I think the ensuing discussion would be interesting, and I'd hate it if opinions were buried only because they were unpopular.


"Now, you need an introduction "

While it is harder to cold call for sure (the fact that you are referred to someone means they will at least read and/or listen to what you have to say) not being referred is not a show stopper at all.

You just have to be more creative in your approach in order to stand out.

If you don't have that skill simply practice at it with less valuable targets to start. Make your mistakes there and learn from them what works and what doesn't.

I've been cold calling from back before the internet. But one of the first things I learned from when I used to get free press by writing to reporters was to start out the email by telling them what a great article they wrote as opposed to telling them something that they could add to the story that they might have missed.

The emails where I contacted them that way almost always got a reply. So I continued with that formula and got a pretty good amount of major press writeups (NYT, WSJ etc.)


I think people are just busy dude.


Agreed. Most people are just too busy doing what they do best: building something or helping others build something. All of those "coffees" that build a bridge to nowhere add up.




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