Roasting marshmellows with Steve Blank

13 Jun

How do you end up roasting a handful of pink and yellow marshmellows with one of the legendary entrepreneurs from the Mekka of innovation and (tech) business creation, Silicon Valley? And who is this guy, by the way?

Well, the well-dressed guy to your left is me. The guy wearing the fancy cowboy shirt is Mr. Blank. The name of the lady to your right is Rebecca, an Amerian who was recently thrown out of Denmark because she was, well American, despite being married to a Danish guy. That’s another story, though, with a far more political aspect.

The reason why I met Blank was because the startup I’m the co-founder of, Graduateland, had been invited to Silicon Valley by the Innovation Center Denmark, a governmental organisation helping Danish startups, who find themselves far from home, specifically in the San Francisco area.
The awesome team of Søren and Marie had put together a busy schedule for the bunch of Danish startups, and this included dinner and a casual chat at Steve Blank’s private ranch, just south from San Francisco.

Why is this interesting? Where I come from (Denmark) it is definately not common that the star of the show invites 35 total strangers into his home, and does this with no agenda of getting paid, or trying to convert to his cult (maybe, a little?).
To make a long story short – he gave a short insight of his career path and gave a presentation to his perception of entrepreneurship. This is not where I’m getting with this post. What I think is so positive is the approach towards people whom you have not yet met. It is genuinely positive, and it showed in so many ways during our days in Silicon Valley and in San Francisco. A journalist from The Next Web joined us, and subsequently made this video.

Exiting a movie theatre we’re asked by two old women, who had also seen the movie (which contained discussion about handjobs and teen sex) what we thought of the movie. Nevermind our response, being asked this, by strangers, after a movie has never happened in Denmark. Similar things happen in elevators, coffee houses etc.

We were introduced to a term called WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). This term explains the initial interest in talking to new people. Can I benefit? Can they benefit, and subsequently pay me? Do they know somebody who I wanna meet? This may also be emphasises by the fact that many of the early engineers from Google, Facebook etc have made tons of money. But they don’t look rich. Similarly, many venture capitalists and co-founders of successful companies blend in, but could potentially change the fate of the odd struggling startup. SO, everybody talks to anybody, if just to find out that they are not relevant. But this is alright, and people move along.

This might not a longshot to explain why old ladies talk to us, but the mentality that other people may have something useful to offer, be it only a kind response to a casual question, is appealing to a Dane, whose general approach to others is that they are just blocking the view. This can change, though.

Alright, first blog post must come to an end. Concludingly, my plan is to be inspired by the more open-minded approad shown by the Americans. We may be able to teach them many many things, but talking to strangers, they are way ahead of us.

1 Comment

Posted by on 13 June, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley



One response to “Roasting marshmellows with Steve Blank

  1. Karl Rover

    15 June, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Nice blog! Will definitely return!


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