It’s not that I’m totally against name-dropping. I mean, let those without sin and all, it’s just that when other people do it, and when they do it with the thinnest of veils as if it’s an accident or it has some deep and obvious meaning to crystallize their greater point, I can tell. And so I assume you can tell too.
So I’m going to avoid any sort of implied pretense and just come out and tell you that I’m going to name drop, partly because it has some deep and obvious meaning to crystallize my greater point, but mostly because if you’re an entrepreneur or investor, I really want you to come to the next ExitEvent Startup Social on February 24th in Raleigh, which you can do by signing up and getting you and your startup verified.
Anyhow, to recap this past social, which was Tuesday, January 21st at Lonerider Brewery, I’ll throw out an anecdote. A founder I had never met, one from a startup that had recently generated a little buzz, introduced himself to me Tuesday night and told me it was great to meet me. I returned the sentiment, we chatted for a bit, and then I pointed to a table where sat Jason Caplain (Bull City Venture Partners/Southern Capitol Ventures), Lister Delgado (IDEA Fund Partners/NC IDEA), Bill Warner (IMAF-RTP), Aaron Houghton (BoostSuite/iContact co-founder, also an angel) and Sumit Vohra (Lonerider founder), and said:
“Wait. Stop talking to me and go introduce yourself to those guys if you haven’t already.”
Look, I’m not saying that you’re going to walk into every ExitEvent Startup Social and find one table with those kinds of folks sitting at it (Lister, for example, can’t do Monday nights). But I will say this. If you let the snow keep you home Tuesday night, you missed that chance.
I’m not even saying the next Social is going to be a huge opportunity for you. I’m saying that the reason we have it every month, snowstorm be damned, is that one of these months, you’re going to get something very valuable out of it.
That’s why some of the more seasoned entrepreneurs have been showing up regularly, by the way, because you don’t win if you’re not in the game. And you don’t have to go to every event, in fact, you absolutely shouldn’t.
But here we get from anecdote and shameless name-dropping to my deep and obvious point:
Opportunity is 90% about being in the right place at the right time, physically and metaphorically.
Any successful startup founder will tell you: You have to have the team and the product and the strategy and the execution down, but even then there’s an element of luck that separates success from massive success.
It can also be extrapolated that the same luck is the difference between success and failure.
But, and believe it or not I’m quoting my Dad, “There’s no such thing as luck – ” then here I’ll paraphrase a little bit “in startup.”
Luck is being in the right place at the right time, having the right tool at the right moment, saying the right thing to the right person. In most circles, that’s called opportunity.
And opportunity knocks but once and it’s not always going to be knocking on your door. A lot of the time, it knocks on doors like Lonerider’s on a snowy Tuesday night.
I’m not saying that you’ll go to all these events, or any event, or the ExitEvent Social, and fall face first into an opportunity — that’s not what I’m getting at. I’m not saying you should be cold calling people you think can help you, especially if you don’t have an immediate ask or at least questions you need answers to.
I’m saying if you want to be lucky, you need to be at the right place at the right time — especially when that place is somewhere you’re not, but when someone who is there and can help you gets wind of an opportunity and says to themselves:
“Huh. You know who might be perfect for this…”
Be in the back of enough minds, favorably, that you make that happen. Have the product ready to fulfill those expectations. And get your pitch down. You never know when you’re going to have to use it.