02 Mar Lessons from the Youth
A year and a half ago, I was a normal high school student. Droning through my classes, without a startup, just waiting for the bell to ring to the next class. My social life was a mess, as petty high school drama took up most my time.
Today, I flew back from traveling across the country to Redwood City, CA. Me, along with my other co-founders, were the youngest team participating the Startup Grind 2017 Global Conference. Startup Grind was an annual conference where the top 100 startups from around the world are selected and invited to showcase their startup. Not only were we invited, but we were selected as one of the top 50 of the top 100 startups in the world to pitch out product, MindMap (getmindmap.com) to over 4,000 people.
Over the course of 3 days, we attended a VIP event for the top 50 startups, showcased our startup to thousands of people, spoke with top investors, attended speaking events for Dave McClure, Mark Pincus, Michael Seibel, Vinod Khosla, and made some fantastic new friends.
There are some invaluable lessons that I have learned throughout this experience that I believe are well worth sharing, along with some stories tied to each.
Networking is just the adult version of making new friends
On the second day of the event, we were invited to the VIP mixer, a place where the selected top 50 startups got a chance to meet each other, socialize, and network. We got there expecting a formal event where ideas were shared, and companies were pitched. This was not the case. Even though we showed up a few minutes early, the room was already bustling with people not just talking about their companies, but their home towns and countries, cars, jokes, experiences, and just life in general. I learned that day that networking doesn’t have to be some formal occasion where business is the only topic. Networking is simply forming a friendship and strengthening it.
NO just means Next Opportunity
Startup Grind was in part sponsored by the 500 Startups startup accelerator. 500 Startups hosted a competition within the Startup Grind event called Startup Court. Here, the top startups of the top 50 startups compete for a spot within the 500 Startups accelerator. Unfortunately, Testify was not selected to compete for this spot. However, this just means that we need to work harder and apply for a spot ourselves to prove that we belong there.
Nobody is too big to talk to
Towards the end of the VIP Mixer, the we worn out and ready to go home. As we were about to walk out, we spotted Dominic Merenda. 43rd employee at Google and an investor at Sand Hills Angels, he would be the most successful and interesting man we had ever talked with before. For a few minutes, we debated even approaching him. Even though we approached him as a team, Testify was never even brought up in the conversation. Instead we had a blast talking about cars, influencers, experiences, money, and cracking jokes left and right. He was the most successful business man we had ever talked to. But instead of formalities, we ended up having the most enjoyable and laid back conversation with him the entire event.