Notes On Investing In Your Network With Yahoo’s Jeff Mallett And Dr Jiro Kondo

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When I first met Dr Jiro Kondo he was a friendly beaming face in a bakery. We chatted about my role at Yelp and his position at the University of McGill where he’s teaching finance and helping create a course on investing in start-ups. Afterwards we added each other on various social networks, as you do. This was a ‘weak tie’ but a very friendly one.

Recently he invited me to attend a lunchtime lecture at the McGill Desautels Faculty of Management. Canadian investor and builder Jeff Mallett – the person who had pulled the strings at Yahoo as it grew from 7 to 4000+ employees – was going to give a talk on “Investing in your Network” and I was super pleased to be included. From my current work in a local community of writers and business owners; to previous incarnations trying to build links in arts communities; and further back to an MA about the history of open source communities: if there’s one thing I’m curious about it’s the health of networks.

Anyway, that’s an intro that brings us to today, sitting in the back of a packed class at McGill, listening to a frank talk about what worked and didn’t at Yahoo and at the reams of different start-ups Mallett has been involved with. Mallett and Dr Kondo tossed ideas back and forth and synthesized a series of things that made me go “Huzzah!” (quietly) and made me want to remember and share, so here goes.

(I’m going to rattle these off in the way they kind of glommed together for me, which is not the same structure they were delivered in, sorry. Had to be there I guess.)

Look For The Humble Helper, The Quiet Link… Look Across Levels.

Mallett talked to the students a bit about how they might be tempted to buddy the Boss, or impress the professor. To make their network valuable by going after Big Name Contacts. There are a lot of business books (and self-help books) out there that will tell you to find Mentors, and Mallett pointed out that this title is a lot to lay on someone. His advice: think of it as just finding help; just people who have strengths where you have weaknesses. Helpers. And look for people close to you, the business owner on your block, the weird but wise family member, the people who actually care about you can teach you stuff too. Read the rest on Linkedin.

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