Being helpful…

One of the unique things about living in Silicon Valley, is that people here feel part of a very big & very successful ecosystem. “You are not alone” is the feeling that you instantly get whilst living and working here. Over the course of building gyft, my new startup, I have really come across some amazing entrepreneurs, investors, marketers and technologists who are all willing to “be helpful”. In the midst of what is certainly the frothiest market in the valley since the late nineties, the question “How can I be helpful?” has never been more used. I’m finding it to be a phrase that I hear practically every single day, and each time I hear it, I am reminded of the fact that even if, during the conversation, both parties realize that there are no immediate ways to work together, there is still a camaraderie that surfaces when someone asks the question: “How can I be helpful?”.

The topic of discussion quickly changes from the original reason for the meeting (which may become moot as the conversation progresses), to brainstorming around other creative ideas to help one another. The most helpful interactions I’ve had have really been with other entrepreneurs – they’re in your shoes, walking your path and they know how hard it can be. They’re always the first to say “how can I be helpful?”. It’s generally because they don’t have spare cash to invest in your startup, but they like you and they want to help you be successful.

So, when people ask “How can I be helpful?”, what they are really saying is : Can I make introductions for you (to investors, partners, employees etc)? Do you need some advice with any part of your business? How can I support you in doing what you are doing and helping you become successful? How can I connect you with the people that can really help make a difference in your business? Are there people higher up in the food chain in your segment of the market that you need to know (CEO’s etc)?

This support structure is the strongest fabric that runs through Silicon Valley. The willingness to help build relationships and create connections is really a differentiating cultural facet of Silicon Valley which I don’t believe has permeated anywhere else. It’s the culture that binds startups together and it helps breed success. I’ve been to many places around the world and I have yet to see the same level of engagement and willingness to give back. It’s no wonder that LinkedIn was conceived and created here.

Entrepreneurs from halfway around the world have contact me on LinkedIn, asking for introductions to people who work literally down the road from them, and who their own investors and board members know, but who are not being very helpful with introductions. And I’m not making that up! The support offered by investors (angel and institutional) is unparalleled in the valley. Give and you shall receive.

So, as I begin my new journey with gyft, I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been helpful to me (too many to mention) in my journey!

This post was inspired by Arjun Sethi – thanks for being helpful today!