Sharing means growing
By Goh Ai Ching July 31, 2012
- Networking means reaching out to people and giving, never mind the business benefits
- Never go empty-handed, no matter what your host says!
PIKTOCHART, helmed by the wife-and-husband team of Goh Ai Ching and Andrea Zaggia, was the grand winner of the Silicon Valley Comes To Malaysia (SVC2M) event that began last year and wound up last month. Goh, in Silicon Valley recently on a one-month study and networking tour sponsored by Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) and StartupMalaysia.org, writes about her on-going experience:
I have been given this advice here many times while at Silicon Valley:
The best impression you can make is the one where you give more than you take.
Although it sounds like a really easy statement, how on earth does a really small startup like Piktochart give to someone who is already really well-networked and connected? I do not have the answers to this and perhaps some readers would like to contribute.
But this is a general mix of what I have been doing and what I see the other investors/ founders doing very well.
Grand examples of giving more than taking:
- Make introductions. People in Silicon Valley are always hiring. They always want to know interesting people. If you have just met someone at a party, e.g. a German hacker who wants to meet a designer, and then you met a designer next when you finished talking with the German hacker. Always make the connection and be proactive about connecting people.
- When you meet someone new, ask first "What do you do?" and then "What help do you need?" It is genuinely interesting and heart-warming whenever I get asked these questions. People really try very hard to help make you successful. Silicon Valley is like the most inter-twined state of ego, where if you win (and you are not in a competing business), I win too (because I know you ;) )
- Offer to plan a class/ activity. This is another great way of socializing. A lot of people like power kiting, or what they call kite-surfing, so if you happen to be in a conversation with some enthusiasts, offer to make a trip together and you will be surprised at how much people bond over these activities or how many more people you meet.
- When visiting a house party, a yoga session, a BBQ etc, never go empty-handed. This was something I learnt the hard way. I usually bring a cake or a pack of beer cans when visiting friends, but on one occasion, I did not have a clear understanding that it was a brunch and went empty-handed. Other guests brought flowers, fruits, organic wine, etc. (Even if the host says don't worry, just come and eat, always be prepared to bring something, help them with the trash, thank them profusely for their generosity).
My example of giving more than taking:
- Describe what Malaysia is like. I met a senior engineer from Facebook who really wanted to expand his mobile team. When he found out I was from Malaysia, he told me that they have been trying to hire Malaysian engineers and asked for best tips and how to go about hiring.
- Explain why staying in Malaysia for the time being is more cost-efficient. I usually give examples of salaries and the talent pool that are available here to attract the entrepreneurs to hire from the country or do something in conjunction with Malaysians.
- Offer to send something/ information across and follow up. For example, I have a book which I have finished reading and do not need any more ... . I will pass it over to the person. Giving something physical is a great way of giving (I personally like writing thank-you cards a lot!)
- Add them first on LinkedIn. Most of the time, people do not add on LinkedIn because they are too busy, but not really because they forgot about you or do not want to get in touch. I feel like the "Accept invitation to connect" rate on LinkedIn with people I have met physically is about 99%!
In summary, create a reputation of being sincerely helpful. It is only possible to give when you are truly helpful to someone else.
Rebeca Hwang, the co-founder of Younoodle, has been praised time after time again for being the most helpful, intelligent and amazing person to be with. Because of how Rebeca has built her reputation, her acquaintances do not refuse a coffee chat with anyone she has introduced.
Giving is your reputation's best friend.
Goh Ai Ching is the CEO and co-founder of web start-up Piktochart. For more on her trip to the Valley, check out the company blog here.