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Pay it Forward and the Two Year Rule

April 4, 2009


I recently heard a talk by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. Along the way Tony made a comment about always taking advantage of opportunities to help others, and how often he has experienced people he’s helped subsequently having some positive personal and/or professional impact on him about two years later.
Which got me thinking…
I actually have had a remarkably similar experience. In my line of work it is pretty straightforward to see how establishing relationships with good people can be valuable down the road, whether in the form of investment opportunities, talent to recruit to portfolio companies, or just smart folks who help me understand where the web is going.
And recently I’ve had a raft of encounters with great people I first met 18-24 months ago and whom I had a chance to help or at least get to know well, and who are now helping me in myriad ways, not the least of which is giving me an opportunity to fund them as they leave their mothership and start their own venture.
All of which serves as a great reminder to try and take the extra moment to be helpful to the person looking for a job, or the entrepreneur whose current venture is not a fit for me, or the corporate exec looking for advice on entering startup land. Help them now and chances are many of them will pay it forward…


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  1. April 4, 2009

    At Web 2.0 in San Francisco last week, David Rose of AngelSoft made a corollary statement point for budding entrepreneurs in the audience. David said that if you passionately believe in your idea; prove it by reaching out to people who can help. Don’t worry about looking silly. Just remember that your ultimate goal is to make the world a better place.

  2. April 5, 2009

    My old boss Reid Hoffman always says that constantly doing “small goods” for others is the most effective form of networking. You do “big goods” when the occasion arises, particularly for those you are most loyal to, but there’s a constant stream of opportunity to do small goods.

  3. David Polakoff #
    April 6, 2009

    It’s amazing, though, how many people, at mid and senior professional levels, do not share your outlook. It speaks personal and professional volumes about the people who do take the call, meeting or take the time to respond to the Email. At some point, there will be mutual benefit; and even if there’s no “ROI,” you’ve at least done someone a good deed.

    “You gotta reap just what you sow; that old saying is true. (Eric Clapton”).

    Thanks for voicing what should be a professional’s mantra.

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