I couldn’t survive in the #wilderness without help, the help of many people, too many to list here, though I made a short list here of people who went way above and beyond what would normally be considered nice and thoughtful. And, I would say that most people around here are willing to help, though what some people miss about the dynamic is that, in order for someone to help, the person who needs help needs to be quick, clear, and decisive about asking for something specific. It never hurts to ask, but the request needs to be laser-focused so the other party can quickly decipher whether or not they could truly help.
The flip side of this, for me, was a bit dark. Not to dwell on it too much, there were some encounters that left me wondering why I was here. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to be nice and helpful, but there were some encounters that were very biting. It’s easy to say, “just forget it and move on,” but with reflection, it makes me think about how hard it is to crack in here for some.
I’ll share one experience, briefly.
While I was interviewing up and down Sand Hill Road back in the spring, a founder started reading my stuff and encouraged me to meet one of his former buddies, who happened to be a VC at a pretty well-known firm. He made the introduction, it was couched in terms that I was talking to other firms, and his friend accepted the email and made the schedule right away. I went into the meeting with the impression that it was just a conversation, but that every conversation around here is kind of an interview, no matter what. The guy ended up being about 25 minutes late (so we chatted on the phone, with me in the conference room, he in the car), and then continued when he got in. It was clear after a bit that whatever I was interested in wasn’t really his interest, but instead of offering to me to meet some of his other partners, he started to bash my background.
Now, I have a very “eclectic” background. I’m not a technologist, or a computer scientist. I’ve never really had normal jobs like “marketing” or “sales.” It’s hard for me to fill out a normal LinkedIn profile. I don’t get “recruited” by others.
Toward the end of the meeting, he started to give me some advice. I always appreciate advice, even the unsolicited kind. But, then he picked on one part of my resume that surprised me. I was a bartender in New York City for a little over a year. It was really fun. I wouldn’t say it was hard work, but it was work, and I was dealing with lots and lots of people. You deal with every type at the bar, the aggressive, the shy, the drunks, and lost, and the confident.
Anyway, his advice was that I wouldn’t have credibility here in the Valley until I did something here. That’s valid, I’m used to that. But, he also mocked me specifically for being a bartender, that no one would care about it. It was very precise. It’s tucked at the bottom of my resume. I mention it sometimes in passing to share my passion with food and drink with others. It’s not an amazing accomplishment, but it’s part of who I am. I agree that being a bartender has nothing to do with technology work or investing, but his willingness to dismiss it entirely was eye-opening. To me, it was a reminder of how faceless the race for technological advancement and the corresponding profits could sometimes be.