1. Bringing efficiency to professional networking

    People are finally beginning to realize that effective networking is about building deep relationships, not accumulating shallow acquaintances. This is clear with the emergence of several applications that help facilitate building these deeper relationships, through 1 on 1 professional networking.

    Conferences, meetups, and mixers are great, but they often cater to shallow interactions. It is almost impossible to have a 20 minute uninterrupted chat with someone at one of these events. Plus, the people at these events often have calculated ADD and will bounce out of a conversation as soon as they lose the slight bit of interest. Yes, these events are great ways to prospect people you may want to connect with deeper at a later time. However, this is a time consuming strategy. Why not prospect people with the information that is already available at your finger tips.

    Enter a handful of applications which will help you network effectively and on your schedule:

    Let’s AppWeave (my favorite), TreatingsCoffeeMeCoffee List

    All of these applications operate on the same basic premise. Evaluate prospects online via their LinkedIn, Angellist or other professional info. Then decide which people you would like to connect with. If both parties are interested, then chat is activated and you can setup a 1 on 1 meeting. Yes, this is basically Tinder for professional networking.

    These applications take your networking game to the next level in two ways. First, these applications facilitate deeper interactions. All the people using these platforms are looking to dedicate 30-60 minutes of their time to have a 1 on 1 chat with you. Second, these applications let you network on your time. Prospect professionals you want to meet passively and at your leisure. Then set up meetings that fit conveniently into your schedule.

    Skip that meetup this week. Hop on one of these apps (or all of them), pick your favorite coffee shop, and start doing some next level professional networking.


    If you are in SF and want to meet for coffee let me know: dan.polaske@gmail.com

     


  2. How to never fail

    Having a failed app, project, or company, does not make you a failed entrepreneur. The only way to fail as an entrepreneur is if you stop making things.

    After a couple nights of drinking way too much, I was down. Not only feeling like shit physically but mentally too. I felt disappointed in my current progress towards my entrepreneurial goals. Then I realized the only way I will stop progressing towards my goals is if I stop making. Making is what I like to do. Bringing things into the world that others use and see value in. Certainly my goal is to bring something into the world that is a big hit. Something millions of people love and use everyday. I’m convinced the only way I will reach that point is by constantly making. Weather I’m making software, physical products, or content. The only way I can fail is if I stop making.

     


    What I learned working at a failing startup

    • Never ask an employee to do something you are capable of doing, but haven’t done yourself. This of course does not apply to highly technical tasks for which you can’t do. At this startup we were asked to do sales in a channel the founders had clearly not explored themselves. Therefore they were unable to supply a starting point or provide much guidance. This hurt our performance because once we hit walls or roadblocks we did not have anywhere to turn for support. Additionally, it seemed to be in the founders best interest to have an understanding of what we were doing and what metrics to use to measure our performance.

    • For non-technical/unskilled labor positions provide more structure in the beginning rather than less. Along the same lines as the first lesson, we were thrust into a sales channel for which we really didn’t have a solid foundation or starting point. This resulted in poor performance in the beginning and wasted money. I would rather find at least a base strategy for what works before scaling up my sales team.

    • Don’t scale your sales team before proving the product. The company had really not spent the time to prove the product before they hired us. I can think of a handful of ways they could have proven the need for the product before scaling up the sales team, but they didn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong paying for users can definitely result in proving your product, however it is not cost effective.

    • Work alongside your team. Sit with the sales guys and take a few calls. Sit with the customer service team and knock out a few tickets. I know this is not always possible, but most of the time it is. This is not so much of a productivity thing. It’s more symbolic to me. As an employee we would meet with the founders in the field and we would be hustling trying to get users, and they were just sitting back and chilling. If they had spend a least 5-10 minutes of their time going around and working alongside us, it would have sent a profound message to the team that I think would have been massively beneficial. I’m a fan of leading by example.

    • A product that relies entirely on the community to add value is fuckin’ hard to get off the ground. Many successful products that provide a ton of value because of their massive communities started by adding value to a single person with no community. The best example I can think of is Instagram. The filters on Instagram provided instant value to any user regardless of how many friends they had or how large the community was.

    • Hire people who will succeed in the channel you are pursuing. Without going into too much detail about what we were doing, I will say that our female marketers performed way better than the male marketers. Knowing who your audience is and how they will respond to the salesperson is great to know before you scale your sales team.

     

     


    Quit wasting your money & start meeting people

    Recently, I had a coffee meeting with a guy I connected with online. In the meeting he dropped an awesome line about paying ridiculously high rents to live in the city of San Francisco:

    “If you are not meeting as many people as possible you are just wasting your money living in the city.” -Niv Dror

    I pay $1,100 to literally live in a closet. Why pay stupid high rents to live in the city? Location, location, location! Living in the city cuts down your commute to work, and puts you next door to a plethora of epic restaurants, shops, and bars. But more importantly you are living right in the middle of a high concentration of people. Many of whom are a lot like you. If you are not putting yourself out there and connecting with these people you are squandering opportunities.

    When Niv told me I was wasting my money by not meeting enough people, I took it to heart. I now have two tasks I complete each week to ensure I am taking full advantage of living in the city.

    1. Talk to a random girl - Each week, I talk to a completely random girl I run into on the bus, at the market, at a coffee shop, or wherever. The only rule is I have to be sober.
    Highlight so far: Met a girl on Muni, got drinks with her two days later, and we still kick it.

    2. Grab coffee with a stranger - Each week, I will grab coffee with someone I have never met before, either by connecting online or through introductions. Also, this app called Weave (Tinder for business), has been really helpful in arranging at least one random coffee meeting per week.
    Highlight so far: A random morning coffee turned into meeting Drew Houston (Founder of Dropbox). This is a longer story for another post.

    This past month I have really put myself out there, and met a bunch of awesome people. Its crazy to me, how quickly I have seen direct results from my new weekly routine.

    I encourage you to do the same. My two weekly tasks may not fit your current situation, but anything you can do that continuously facilitates connecting with new people is a great idea.

    Want to be my random coffee meeting this week? Let me know: dan.polaske@gmail.com

     

     


    What I learned at the Launch Hackathon

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    I attended the Launch Hackathon a couple weeks ago and here are a few things I learned.
    (Thanks @jason for putting on an awesome event)

    Think mobile first
    We built a bookmarklet that did not work on mobile, and the judges hated it. They knew it was not built for mobile but they asked us anyways what our mobile strategy was. Haha of course we just said “there isn’t one…it doesn’t work on mobile.” They then looked down at their papers and scribbled down some notes that I can only image said “these guys are idiots.”

    The next hackathon I attend our team will be thinking entirely mobile first, I suggest you do the same.

    Styling out CSS elements
    I learned how to style out all my design elements in CSS. Under our time constraints it was necessary for me to help out with what little development I am capable of. It was an awesome experience to pick up a new skill in literally a few hours. I actually learned some cool CSS style tricks that the developer I was working with didn’t even know.

    Always be open to learning something on the fly, even if you don’t think you have the time. The pressure and time constraints will help you focus and learn faster than you normally would.

    When meals are served, get in line right away
    If you don’t you risk missing out. They ordered a ton of food. But it was all gone within 15-20 minutes (breakfast was the exception). In a room filled with hungry, tired and irritated devs, food does not last long.

    Time your breaks and team progress updates around your meals. Don’t wait for the ideal stopping point.

    Think company as well as tech
    Going into the hackathon I figured the focus would be on the technology we built. Though of course that was important, I found the judges favored hacks that could become real companies. This was clear in the finalists they selected. Additionally, the judges asked us what our monetization strategy was. It sounded like a ridiculous question to have to answer, since what we created did not exist just 48 hours prior.

    When you start thinking about what you wanna hack, think about the true value you are creating and how that can be monetized. Do this from the beginning, not at the end!


     


    Win now. Lose overall. Thoughts on shortsightedness from Naval

    In a recent talk at the Launch Festival, Naval from AngelList noted that shortsightedness is often the root cause of issues between investors and founders. He explained that when huge sums of money are at stake people often look for ways to optimize for immediate short term gains, regardless of the consequences. Even if that means screwing your friends, investors or your customers. He notes that this behavior continues in the tech industry because often times it works. You screw your investors and friends but you have accumulated such a large sum of money, you do not have to work for the rest of your life. But did you really win? I guess it depends what game you are playing. Naval suggests playing the long term game. You do not win the long term game by screwing friends and ruining investor relationships. Despite the ability to make huge gains in the short term, Naval believes that if you play the long term game you will actually end up ahead in the end.

    Naval sums up his idea of long term thinking with this awesome quote:

    “The best returns in life come from compound interest”



    ps: Thanks @jason for the free ticket to @launch

     


    Twitter Creepiness or Creative Networking?

    I was at a tech conference in SF last week. Across the aisle from me was this cute girl. She was looking down at her phone. I happened to notice she was on Twitter. Then I thought, what are people doing in Twitter during a speaker…usually following the speaker. Plus the speaker had just plugged his Twitter on the first slide. So I hopped on Twitter and went to the speaker’s follower list. Knowing that your most recent followers show up at the top I looked through the top few profiles. And sure enough I found her in the top 5 people.

    Now this was more than an exercise in creepiness. I am always fascinated with creative ways we can connect with people. This recent followers technique could prove useful during the next tech talk I attend. Scanning the profiles of the speakers most recent follows will give me a nice feel for who is in the room, and who I should connect with.

    I’m sure you’re curious as to who this girl was, so here she is: @kaylacrlsn

    If she asks, tell her that creepy guy @dpolaske told you to follow her.

     


    The wrong way to pitch an engineer and accept criticism

    This week I have been cold messaging people, in order to gauge interest for my new project (Pigeon). One guy replied saying he was not necessarily interested in the product but he wanted to talk about software development in general. So I hoped on a phone call with him.

    He was not an engineer himself but was looking for engineers to work with. I asked him what specifically he wanted to build. However, he could not give me straight answer. It was pretty apparent he didn’t want to go into any details about what he wanted to build. In a message he left me after our chat, he said:

    "I’m looking to work with people on developing some apps and some social networks…Umm and then products and configurations can be born from that"

    His description of what he wanted to build was just as vague in my conversation with him.

    I tried to call him back to let him know we where not interested in any additional software projects at the time, but he didn’t answer. So to save us both time I sent him a text. At the end of my text I sent him this piece of advice:

    "The pitch you gave me about the software you wanted to build, is not gonna get any engineer excited about working with you. Your pitch has to be more specific and show the engineer how you have validated the product you want them to build."

    He responded by telling me to never contact him again.

     


    My Startup Cover Letter

    Hey <company name>,

    I will be a great fit for your blah blah blah position. Yes, this is seriously my cover letter that was not a typo. Rather than tell you why I will be a great <position>, I wanted to share two stories with you that provide a small glimpse of who I am. I will let you decide if I will be a great fit at <company name>.

    Problem Solving: I packed my bags and moved to San Francisco on July 15, 2013. While crashing on a buddy’s couch I began hunting for my own room on Craigslist. After about a week of messaging potential roommates, I had nothing. No open houses. No calls. No email responses. This made me realize, I either suck as a person or my email introduction sucks. I decided my email introduction could use some work. To determine what it was missing I decided to put myself in the shoes of the people receiving these introductory emails. So I found one of the posts I emailed and I re-posted it. I literally copied the post word for word and used the same photo, and to ensure I got some responses I dropped the rent by $200. Sure enough I received 20 introductory emails within the first 30 minutes. I quickly took down the post and began reviewing the emails. I realized all of the emails were boring and sounded exactly the same. The emails where genuine and truthful, but there was little to distinguish one email from another. The one email that caught my eye was a guy who mentioned that he was a trained juggler and he inserted a link to one of his Youtube videos. I decided that I needed to spice up my wording and I also needed some kind of wow factor. My new introductory email had some more exciting wording, and it started with a picture of me wearing a tuxedo from when I was 4 years old. Booyah! The response emails began to roll in. After a few open houses, I found some awesome roommates, signed the lease and moved in August 1st.

    Culture Fit: My first job out of college was as an accounting specialist for a small city in southern California (Goleta). Like many offices there were people who really loved their jobs and were awesome at them. Then there were those who showed up a few minutes late and always cut out  few minutes early. Needless to say the office culture was not that of a young passionate startup team. This of course did not stop me from doing small things to try to spice up the culture of our office. My most popular contribution to the office culture was “Apple Time”. So for some reason I like to cut my apples up into slices before eating them. Each day at around 4pm I would walk from my desk to the kitchen to cut up my apple. People began to notice my apple eating habit and would ask me around 4pm “is it apple time yet?” So one day I decided to give the people what they wanted and let everyone know when it was in fact “Apple Time”. Since I am an exceptional vocalist (lies) I decided the best way to get the word out was by singing the “Apple Time” song on my walk to the kitchen. The song consisted of me repeating “Apple Time” in my best opera singing voice (the song was based on “T-Shirt Time” from the Jersey Shore). For the next year at 4pm everyday I got a chuckle or at least a smile from everyone who was lucky enough to hear my fruit serenade. At my farewell party my “Apple Time” song was mentioned as my most memorable contribution to the city and that it would be sorely missed.

    Thank you,

    Dan Polaske

    dan.polaske@gmail.com

     


    How I hacked my room hunt in SF

    Finding a single room in San Francisco sucks. A room that is in a solid neighborhood, at a decent price, and with people you can stand to live with can be quite the challenge. Here is how I did it:

    I packed my bags and moved to San Francisco on July 15, 2013. While crashing on a buddy’s couch I began hunting for my own room on Craigslist. After about a week of messaging potential roommates, I had nothing. No open houses. No calls. No email responses. This made me realize, I either suck as a person or my email introduction sucks. I decided my email introduction could use some work. To determine what it was missing I decided to put myself in the shoes of the people receiving these introductory emails. So I found one of the posts I emailed and I re-posted it. I literally copied the post word for word and used the same photo, and to ensure I got some responses I dropped the rent by $200. Sure enough I received 20 introductory emails within the first 30 minutes. I quickly took down the post and began reviewing the emails. I realized all of the emails were boring and sounded exactly the same. The one email that caught my eye was a guy who mentioned that he was a trained juggler and he inserted a link to one of his Youtube videos. I decided that I needed to spice up my wording and I also needed some kind of wow factor. My new introductory email had some more exciting wording, and it started with a picture of me wearing a tuxedo from when I was 4 years old. After a few open houses, I found some awesome roommates, signed the lease and moved in August 1st.

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