I debated and struggled with whether to even write this post, but as my two kids finished up their 4-week stint at Cotillion, I realized that I need to write it. In 4 very short weeks, my kids learned manners, etiquette, conversation, and generally how to introduce yourself and talk to new people. Boy, could I have used that when I was 13! One of the things they learned was manners, specifically that you do and don’t say certain things to, with, and around people you don’t know. You do say please, thank you, you’re welcome, yes ma’am, yes sir, no ma’am and no sir. You don’t ask a lady her age. Gentlemen always stand up when a lady enters the room, and you don’t start eating until everyone has been served and the hostess picks up her fork. Those are just a few of the nuggets my kids were exposed to.
The following conversation would be frowned upon at Cotillion. But first, a reminder: The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
I’d like to think that such an unwritten rule would apply to many other areas of life, specifically, startups and exits. Recently, I was approached by an entrepreneur whom I had just met perhaps 5 minutes earlier. Without prompting, he began a conversation, which ensued as follows:
- Him: “We sold our startup to Cbeyond.“
- Me: “Wow, that’s great.“
- Him: “Yes, it is. We raised $8M series A.“
- Me: “Awesome!“
- Him: “Yeah, then we raised $40M series B.“
- Me: “That’s fantastic.“
- Him: “Yeah, then we sold it to Cbeyond for over $200 million. How much did you sell your startup for?“
Does this written version sound as awkward as it actually was? Because it was. Awkward. Remember, I had just met this person maybe 5 minutes before. When he got to the series B point, I kinda felt like this was going in that direction, meaning he was going to give me his startup resume whether I wanted it or not. But there wasn’t anything I could do, other than rudely walk away, and I wasn’t really in a position to do that. The even more awkward part of this conversation is that he didn’t even know whether or not I had ever been in a startup before. He assumed I had, obviously.
I think there are some very candid conversations that can, should, and do happen around startups, mainly about failure and what we learned from it, because we’ve all failed at something sometime. However, it is my humble opinion that one should have more than a 5 minute relationship with another person before one starts breaking out the measuring tape, if you know what I mean. Not a great way to win friends of influence people.