Be Accessible (Plus 4 other lessons learned from successful VCs and Entrepreneurs)

Over the past year of interviewing CEOs and venture capitalists, I noticed an interesting, potentially counter intuitive trend: some of the most successful people are also the most accessible.

It’s counter intuitive because one would think that as someone becomes more famous/important/successful, the importance and number of people calling on that person would rise, leaving no space for the “average” person in their busy lives.

My experience completely contradicts this.  Brad Feld sits on half a dozen boards, writes three blog posts a day and is always training for a marathon and yet he took the time to give me several interesting ideas for my Fulbright research.  Fred Wilson looks at between 5-10 bplans a day, blogs/microblogs/audioblogs incessantly, and seems to constantly be hanging out with his kids during any spare moment, and yet finds time to comment on my blog, circulation circa 60.  Peter Barris had to cancel our first meeting because he had to smooth talk some foreign diplomat into letting his company launch a satellite into space, but he made absolutely sure to follow up with me.  The list of amazing people i’m indebted to goes on and on.  Thank you so much.

Why do successful people make the time?  I think there are a couple of reasons:

1)  Successful people are open to opportunity. You never know where it is going to come from, so you’ve got to keep your ears open.  If you tune people out with a superficial filter-just because they aren’t already important, famous, or powerful- then you are never going to catch the superstars of tomorrow.

2) Successful people pay Karma forward. I’m not even being spiritual here.  If you give someone an opportunity, even if they don’t end up benefiting you immediately, they will remember that you helped them and will go out of their way to help you down the line.

3) Successful people are just plain efficient. Who in gods name is typing blog posts from the treadmill anyway?  Further support for the maxim “If you need something done, give it to the busiest person you know.”  Lord knows this has held true in my own life.

4) Successful people are nice. These people are people too.  If you are nice and are talking about something they are interested in, why wouldn’t they want to talk to you?

Note: I’m not saying that everyone should start harassing the most famous people they can think of, but I am saying that anyone can contribute to anyone else’s life.  There’s no reason to be afraid to approach someone if you have their best interests in mind.  It pays to be good.

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7 responses to “Be Accessible (Plus 4 other lessons learned from successful VCs and Entrepreneurs)

  1. This might be my favorite post so far. I think your first point is especially true. Opportunity doesn’t always come in the form you expect – smart people realize there is an element of serendipity involved, and by staying open, they maximize their opportunities. I’m guessing the approach you take to these people also has a big impact on their willingness to talk. Any tips on that front?

  2. You cannot be more right. Humility, transparency, and openness is what makes these folks great. Your point about giving yourself the opportunity to be continually listening to new ideas spot on. The chance to put yourself in someone else’s shoes regularly is refreshing and these kind of conversations really help sharpen ones own analytical abilities. Thoroughly enjoyed this, thanks!

    • Thanks for the kind words Joe. I really appreciate it. These are the principals I try my best to live by and I think that is one of the reasons i find myself drawn to VC as a profession. Seems like a place where you can do well for yourself by treating people with respect.

  3. Brett – thanks for the nice call out. I think you are right on the money with this post. It’s my experience also (and the way I try to live my life.)

    • thanks brad. I try my best to do the same. I hate hippocracy and thus the only way I can get comfortable with reaching far and wide for help (which one needs to do to accomplish big things) is by being willing to help anyone that fate brings to my step.

  4. Pingback: Network before you need to « TIME TO GET STARTED

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