Every other week I get a friend in the startup community inviting me to a meetup, drinkup, mobile mondays, conference, etc. I reject most all of them.
When I first moved to SF I went to all of them. I had no better options, I thought, but I quickly realized that the movers and shakers, the people with any influence in Silicon Valley, were not at those meetups.
Everyone at the meetups had no connections, but they came to the event to meet people who had connections. In short: **Everyone who doesn’t know Anyone was trying to meet Someone.** It was the blind leading the blind.
In retrospect it is kind of comical: I had the idea that these connections could then connect me to other people, when in reality those people were equally oblivious and unconnected to the SF tech scene, and thought the same thing about me. We ended up as this little interconnected group of people who knew no one important.
A general meetup or tech party in SF is a very inefficient way to meet people of value to advance your business. For fun, fine, but there are better ways.
1) Reach out individually on LinkedIn or through friends.
I wish I would have wasted less time at meetups and more time just reaching out to every 500 Startups, Techstars and YC founder within a 20 mile radius. Most of them are willing to meet with you if you are proactive. Warm introductions are best if you can get them, but if you can’t don’t wait on them. When we applied to YC (we got rejected) we reached out to every YC founder we could find, and the same for Techstars (rejected) and 500 Startups (rejected).
Once you meet enough of those people they are the key to gaining entry into the private communities and meetups that happen and are actually useful.
Even if you aren’t a part of one of those incubators, knowing enough of the people who were plugs you into their networks, and you can benefit from many of the network effects anyway, which leads to #2.
2) Become part of more exclusive groups.
I’m a member of 50 Kings, a group of curated tech entrepreneurs that go on a retreat with each other once a year. I can safely say I’m probably the least accomplished of that bunch, but I emailed the founder, he interviewed me, and liked me enough to let me come on the yearly trip. **(Cold Email)**.
I just met this morning with a group of founders that are focused on talking about growth. Everyone in the group is an established, funded founder or VP at an established company, and a couple are from YC. It was a good use of my breakfast hour, and resulted in an immediate introduction.** (Random Connection/Old Friend)**.
I managed to finagle my way onto the British Airways Ungrounded Flight, which has led me to numerous valuable connections, and there is a Facebook group if I ever want to call on that network. **(Cold Email)**.
Specifically for my industry I was part of the Class of 35 at Phocuswright (the travel conference’s group of 35 travel industry execs under 35), which gave me a good network for the travel industry, and I will be joining Ladders, the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) equivalent.
It takes a lot of hustle to meet the right people to gain access to the better networking groups and communities, but until you do you are really just treading water. The important people you want to meet don’t want to go to a general meetup and be ambushed, so you have to figure out how to swim in the same circles as they do first, and attending meetup after meetup won’t do it.