This Is the Single Most Important Thing You Can Do as an Entrepreneur
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Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: Silicon Valley has an inimitable blend of talent. No other region can match its collective capacity or wisdom for scaling, except maybe China. Listen to this week's episode here.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for quite some years now, and I’ve learned that the single most important and satisfying thing you can do as an entrepreneur is to offer help to others. When I was just starting out with my current company, Chattypeople, I had some interesting offers to buy it, or merge the company. There were a few friends like VC David Blumberg and entrepreneur Oliver Roup who were able to give me really great strategic advice on the value proposition of the deal, and whether or not it was worth it. Even though I am a pretty seasoned entrepreneur, it was invaluable to have advice from objective entrepreneurs who could be that sounding board, and give time and energy in a truly helpful way.
In addition to being incredibly kind for others who might need some direction, collaboration and mentorship are strategically important for you as an entrepreneur. The best of all businesses are built on relationships -- who you know, and who they know. The more people in the ecosystem who are willing to just be helpful, the better off everyone will be.
1. Give others a platform.
For one of the other publications that I write for, I’ve made my column geared towards interviewing VCs and investors about what they do, how they invest and why they invest. I find out what they’re looking for, how they find the startups that they’re looking to invest in, and try to share that in a way that can help new entrepreneurs who are looking for funding or trying to understand the funding process.
When you give others a platform through interviews, guest speaking invitations for conferences or any other space for speaking or promoting, you give back to the community and give others a leg up.
2. Donate your expertise.
Once you’ve gotten to a place where you have the ability to give back, it’s fundamental that you do. I often speak at events for no pay to talk about my experiences as an entrepreneur and share advice about funding and how to find funding. Not only is donating your time good karma and good for your own mental well-being, it’s also great for the visibility of your company. Though you may not see the immediate effects of your donation, you send ripples of helpful effects that will help countless others who were once in your position.
3. Mentor those outside Silicon Valley.
I also mentor young entrepreneurs who are from background outside of Silicon Valley to help them learn how to connect with people, think through the process of entrepreneurship and how they can start a business. We go through the ideas they have for their startup and what they need to do to make that idea successful, and then I hold their hand as they get started as an entrepreneur.
I have specifically tried to help entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds because it’s important to reach beyond the affluent community of Silicon Valley to help those who have not benefitted from living in this region. I’m an immigrant who moved here seven years ago, but there is a lot I can help with from the inside that wouldn’t be possible for people who don’t have connections here. There are a lot of great startups who only need the introductions you can provide for them.
When I was first starting out, I had a lot of help. It’s valuable to help and care about other people, and important to be able to give back, for you and for the community at large.