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How to date a supermodel (or get dealflow or find cofounders)

The original post appears on Rob Fitzpatrick’s blog – the Startup Toolkit. Rob is our lead instructor for the Startup MBA program, which covers everything they don’t teach you in a traditional business school. It’s a steal at £750. We’re offering an early bird-discount of £680 if you sign up before Tuesday June 11 and if you sign up with a friend, we have a ‘Bring a Buddy’ discount of both of you only paying £500 each. You can read more info and apply here and email me directly if there are any further questions about modules, payment plans, and speakers: adele@escapethecity.org.

“You take your laptop and go work out of cafes across the street from a photography studio or agency where supermodels work.You need to be where they are and then say hello to them sometimes. That’s pretty much it.”[1]

Supermodels are a key ingredient in the you-dating-supermodels equation. You need to be where they are before anything else matters. Put another way: are you struggling to close funding because your product isn’t good enough or because you don’t know enough supermodels?

This anticlimactic advice prompted me to completely restructure both my personal and professional life to great effect.

Important doesn’t mean hard and striving isn’t progress

We’re wired to believe that these rare, important events are also difficult. So we invent laborious solutions. You want to date a supermodel so you spend a year getting those pecs and that six pack. Congratulations! Your chances are still 0.

Your abs really aren’t the issue unless you’ve already got a robust pipeline of supermodels coming to your weekly pool party and storming out indignantly once you remove your shirt to mount the diving board. And who knows, you may not even need the abs. They may think you’re funny.

I would clarify Woody Allen’s much repeated quote to say:

90% of success is showing up (to the right place and possibly creating that place if it doesn’t yet exist and also talking to people while you’re there).

In our admittedly stretched metaphor, showing up to the supermodel cafe is useful whereas showing up to the gym is not.

How I used the supermodel cafe principle to get set up in a new city

3 years ago I moved from SF (where I knew lots of people, investors, and startups) to London (where I didn’t). Some of the handy places I prioritised attending (or organised) were CEO/VC poker night, startup burger night, and every startup meetup I could find. I soon realised I was only meeting about 1 quality person per meetup (and it was hard to create good relationships), so I began siphoning them off into a bimonthly braintrust[2] and ditched the meetups.

I found a conference with unusually smart attendees and began hanging around the events and being helpful to the organiser until he started including me in things. Similarly, when I’m single, I work out of cafes instead of my office. If I was single and wanted to date a banker, I would work out of cafes in the financial district.

When I wanted to understand how the earliest stage companies got started, I hung out at universities and got involved with their entrepreneurship programs. When I needed contract work, I started giving talks on how business guys could most effectively manage the time & costs of hiring techies. If I wanted to scale an agency business, I would find a way to hang out every day with struggling freelancers.

When I decided to try my hand at running a shared office space, I co-opted the dwindling CEO/VC poker night into an “anyone interested in startups” poker night, hosted it at my empty office-for-rent, and grew it to about 50 players (or more cynically, potential desk customers) per week. When I [briefly] wanted to get back into the game industry, I went to lots of game nights. And importantly, everything in this list is really fun.

This conclusion features references to Greek mythology

I’ve received a lot of value from transforming what appears to be a herculean or even sisyphean[3] task (cold calling & selling, going to bars to chat up strangers) into an easy pleasure (playing poker with interesting people, working in a cafe).

Building a pipeline sucks. Hanging out in fun places with interesting people is rad.

[1] I’m paraphrasing that advice from a source I forget and have been unable to Google, which I realise isn’t the most authoritative citation, but any search with ‘supermodel’ in it is somewhat… contaminated.

[2] A braintrust is just a small, consistent group of people who regular meet to talk about how things are going. We did a 1 hour format with about 5 people in different industries talking about what we tried, what failed, and what we’re doing next. It led to a lot of value in terms of sanity checks, ideas, connections, and general encouragement.

[3] Sisyphus was that crafty Greek king condemned to spend his time in the afterlife trying to get a boulder to the top of a too-steep mountain. It would invevitably roll back down, trivialising his tremendous efforts thus far. My point here is 1) don’t try to trick Zeus and 2) just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s useful. Herculean tasks, by contrast, are just plain hard.

Photo Credit: Graphic Dix SL Photo Studio via Compfight cc