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

FullSizeRender (1)


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.

An empty moving walkway at Dulles Airport.

Airport Insanity And Points Of Nudge

An empty moving walkway at Dulles Airport.

Dulles Airport Photograph by Claus Pelz, Bethesda.

It’s 4:55 am in Dulles airport outside DC. After a 40 minute cab to the airport, then the train to the B gates, I try to find a quiet place to sit and wait. But quiet has been chased from the modern American airport as far as I can tell. There are two conflicting sources of music playing at gates 75 and 79, a TV on in between blaring the scrapings of the 24hr news cycle, and an open walkie somewhere broadcasting fuzzy chatter between airport staff out there in the dark moving the planes around.

We’re all choosing what to focus on, trying to tune out Trump on the TV, while the gospel and the country rock battle it out in the air around us. We are maybe 15 people at this end of an airport hallway that could be anywhere. 1 in 5 of us are struggling with our mental health. Some are hearing other voices beneath the useless cacophony of the empty airport. Some are repeating positive affirmations. Some are on the pale gripping edge of panic. Some are sleep deprived and twitching. All are curled in hard angled chairs, despite the flying chairs we’re about to be strapped into for hours, despite what we know about sitting being ‘the new smoking.’

The decades old sit-down-and-consume pattern still pulses through this cavernous empty room though we know better, and as we approach 5am the chain stores rattle open their doors. There is nowhere to stretch out our spines or ease our prodded nerves beneath the neon lights. These public places could be less hard. Endless aching bodies and tired psyches stream through here, and with small changes a little more health could be fostered here, and from here sent pouring out into the world. Airports are places where we could nudge our way towards new patterns, they are small points of entry into millions of lives. I dream of stretching stations, quiet areas, sleeping pods and friending stations, exercise bikes that send free electricity into the system, gardens that I could help tend while I wait… in a dream of green and calm I slip beneath the white noise and dose off waiting to board flight DL3794 back home.

*This daydream was inspired by conversations with friend, dancer, occupational therapist Ashlea Watkin.*