I believe, at its essence, the venture business is all about connections. Moreover, it is about good will or, at the risk of sounding very New Age, it is about Karma…the age old principle that what goes around, comes around. One of my favorite shows is My Name is Earl about a poor soul, Earl, who has realized that every time something positive happens to him, something bad takes it back and then some. He is determined to make good on a list of 260+ wrongs from his misguided life to kick start karma in his favor. I digress here, but well worth the watch.
Like Earl, I have found that good things seem to happen when you do good by others. There is no obvious cause and effect or quid pro quo. However, I firmly believe that when you help others, especially others that you do not expect can every repay the favor, favorable coincidences occur.
No one in the venture business has figured out how to systematize deal flow, customer introductions or other “network” effects beyond constant networking and spreading good karma. Deal flow goes hot and cold very quickly and for no apparent reason. It also comes from the most unexpected directions and connections often.
Furthermore, venture capital and entrepreneurship is founded on the basis of mutual dependence. You see it in the need to form financing syndicates, sharing due diligence, helping each other recruit managers, getting introductions to potential tech customers and such. Your reputation is your core asset and it is built a meeting at a time and spreads through six degrees of separation. It is a surprisingly small community and world. Like a bad blog or video post (just ask Kryptonite locks), one or two bad acts can reverberate throughout the system.
So, what should we do? I don’t know what the right solution is, but my thoughts are:
-- constantly reach out and meet new people and reconnect with old acquaintences
-- help others whenever you are presented with an opportunity
-- don’t approach relationships or interactions looking for what is in it for you (often it’s not there or obvious)
-- commit random acts of kindness
-- realize people are fair, helpful and good if given a chance
-- do no evil (as Google, ironically, says)
Here is a story that came from a recent email chain forwarded to me.
"One Glass of Milk"
One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.
Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, "How much do I owe you?"
"You don't owe me anything," she replied. "Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness."
He said, "Then I thank you from my heart."
As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in people was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up and quit.
Many years later that same woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.
Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor's gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case.
After a long struggle, the battle was won.
Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words...
"Paid in full with one glass of milk"
(Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly