One of the Silicon Valley’s most respected entrepreneurs (and investor), Reid Hoffman has been crucial to the fate of 3 most important companies in the region — Facebook, Paypal and LinkedIn. Yet, he says he’s still hustling and looking for opportunities to put himself in the middle of interesting information flows.
Hoffman, billionaire and co-founder of LinkedIn — the Network Man himself — was recently in conversation with Fareed Zakaria on his CNN show, GPS, in which he shared insights on what he is really good at and enjoys doing, a.k.a relentless networking.
In spite of being an early investor in Facebook, a part of the initial Paypal mafia and co-founding LinkedIn, Hoffman feels he could have done better. ”I should have volunteered to work at Netscape. It was the center node of this new technology and the commercial ecosystem of the internet,” he told Zakaria, referring to the now defunct internet company best known for its web browser with the same name. “I should have told them — ‘I will be a janitor — I just want to work here and start working my way up.”, he said.
When asked by Zakaria, what an individual should be doing to enhance their talent and their opportunities, he strongly recommended getting into the right network. “Connect yourself to the central nodes in the network. So do whatever it takes to say — ‘Look this is the direction that I want to go in. So how do I meet some interesting people?’,” said Hoffman.
He underscored that building relationships with influencers in the area that one wants to be a part of is crucial for multiplying growth opportunities. “You go to the smartest people you know and say, 'Who do you know who I might be able to meet or might be able to do something for, or build a relationship with?' because part of how you build a relationship is you start by saying 'I'm not just asking, I'm trying to build a relationship, I'm trying to give as well," Hoffman told Zakaria. He reinforced that volunteering for work is the way to make sure that the right people notice your energy. While working at his first “real job” at Apple as a UX designer, he realized that he was attracted to and felt better suited for product management. This made him approach the product managers and ask if he could describe to them a few product ideas that he had and if they’d be willing to give him instructions on what he could do better and how he could learn to do it. The response was very positive.
The conversation once again reinforces that the criticality of getting out there and constantly making efforts to build relationships with smart, like-minded people for those who want to grow a lot — whether to learn, to find mentors, to seek new opportunities, to start up or to recruit. As Hoffman puts it, “That is the nature of this age”.