My #GiveFirst Story: David Bloom

Entrepreneurial education begins with un-learning and demythologizing. Shark Tank is a game show. Silicon Valley is a sitcom. Zuck is an outlier.

One of the hardest entrepreneurial myths to bust is “networking.” Students think it means elevators, pitching, sales. Or worse: that you can network from behind a screen without Getting Out of the Building.

I teach Selfless Networking. You just met somebody new? Shut up and listen. What are their values, their goals, their challenges? Listen, listen, listen.

Then, if you can connect them get the resources they Need to Succeed, just do it. Help the other person. Go out of your way. Expend social capital. Expend actual capital. No quid pro quo.

Through Selfless Networking, you learn how to serve them better, Discover new opportunities, and sharpen your entrepreneurial focus. You can’t do any of these things by pitching, so begin by helping.

In other words, #GiveFirst.

#GiveFirst is the animating principle for Techstars Detroit Startup Week, its hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of participants. When I first encountered this hashtag, its reductive beauty took my breath away. Months of entrepreneurial learning and unlearning packed into two words.

The challenge, of course, is walking the talk. Empathy, generosity, and altruism can seem to run counter to the hyper-capitalism of entrepreneurial mythology. In fact, #GiveFirst accelerates innovation and adoption, which is the whole point.

Set aside Return On (networking) Investment for a moment and just #GiveFirst because it feels good. The intrinsic motivation of helping somebody is your Drive; the extrinsic will follow. The world is full of Givers and Takers and Makers and Fakers. Help them all.

#GiveFirst

David Bloom

University of Michigan School of Information

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