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Why I Refused to Pitch

Photo by Chris Barbalis

I crashed a VC cocktail — but I crashed it good.

I crashed an investors’ and entrepreneurs’ networking event the other week in NYC. Yes, I am an entrepreneur. No, I was not invited. Yet, I am sure I gained the most value out of anyone else who attended.

Finding out about this event last second, immediately I felt pretty intimidated. Several accomplished entrepreneurs properly invited to this event were mingling, versus myself — a budding entrepreneur waltzing their way into this intimate environment. Everyone was networking, pitching ideas, and exchanging cards while I searched for my chance to jump into the buzz.

The very first people who came up to me were from Greylock Partners, one of the oldest VC firms with a fund of $3.5 billion.
This is how is went down:

Them — “Hi, we don’t know who you are and they said to go meet someone you don’t know. What is your company?”

Me — *15 second pitch in one breath, surprised at the sudden spotlight*

Them — “Ah interesting. Here’s our card. Nice meeting you!” *walks away and repeats with another unsuspecting person next to me*

Me — *disgusted at how transactional and impersonal that felt*

Also me — *refuses to pitch anyone else the rest of the night*

Meaningful relationships matter more

So why did I refuse to pitch anyone the rest of the night? We are at a startup networking event with VCs roaming around, after all.

I believe that the exchange I had was in no way ever going to blossom into a relationship. I felt so turned off by their approach that I doubted that I could respect them as potential people to build some deeper connection with. Whoever I introduce into my life, be it personal or business or both, I want it to be genuine and transparent and mutual. Not over a cold pitch that left me feeling robotic. So I refused to pitch.

Ironically, by refusing to pitch the rest of the night, I ended up having much more meaningful conversations with several major VCs, angel investors, and other entrepreneurs. Slightly taken aback by my refusal to tell them about my venture, they immediately respected my reasoning and just went with it. We chatted about family, life, locations, and the event itself —all conversations that otherwise would never have been had.

Golden Rule: Personal connection is 

“Bet on the jockey, not the horse.”

Personal connection is what a real relationship gets based on. It is what makes you memorable and what makes you more appealing to investors. They know that any future work with you will be heavily reliant on relationship stuff so they want to know who you are as a person.

The saying “bet on the jockey, not the horse” is perfect in calling attention to the importance of the person over the idea, as risks should be weighed in regards to whoever is riding the horse, not the horse itself.

Even Airbnb co-founder, Joe Gebbia, mentioned in the “How I Built This” interview that Paul Graham offered them a spot in Y-combinator not because of the idea (which was dismissed as a bad idea by Paul initially), but because of Joe’s character of having hustle and grit.

After the event, I didn’t follow up with anyone as I usually would since I was planning on doing that when I returned home from my “vacation.” I put aside all the business cards in my luggage with no intention of looking at them. To my pleasant surprise, several people, including prominent investors I met, reached out to me and connected over Facebook and LinkedIn.

Anomaly? I think not.

Conclusion

Next time you’re at a networking event, by all means pitch yourself first before pitching your business! Rather, make as much of a humanly connection with others as you can, as this will be the ultimate determining factor whether or not you will have gained a meaningful relationship and not just another business card.

Tara Demren is a social entrepreneur, poet & insight capturer who is fascinated about startup culture and why we are the way we are. She is the host of Tea Time with Tara, which curates high quality content & shares life takeaways for all.