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Entrepreneur Lessons From Outside the Valley: Lesson #1 Net-WORK it!

March 17, 2009

WHAT: Be a really good networker.

Unless you plan to start a business sending mail bombs to people, you’ll need lots of company – partners, advisers, colleagues, and customers.

Antoine grew Sandbox from a spark he saw in one of his earliest network-building experiences:

The first time I realized the power of networks was when I was 16. I attended a meeting of high school student leaders from neighboring towns and areas. It was unforgettable – the atmosphere generated by a group of very engaged young people getting together. It actually led to things – bars that were opened, huge student parties that we organized.

Sandbox started because we wanted to harness the energy from an exchange between people, and make it broad and international.

Switzerland is a tiny country with lots of borders, lots of languages, and millions of smart people. As one result, Swiss kids like Antoine deeply understand that to thrive is to build connections across all this variety.


1.   Remember that it’s an exchange, so exchange something! If you’re asking for something from someone (contacts/expertise/services), don’t forget to share your own contacts/expertise/services. Don’t have any? YES, YOU DO. Think harder.

2.   Figure out how to speak people’s language. Do you speak other languages? Literally knowing another language helps you to better connect with people. Very helpful in networking (and in love… remember the otherwise unsexy, but multilingual, barrister in A Fish Called Wanda that a very busty Jamie Lee Curtis nonetheless lusts after?)

3. Look pretty, and smile. Have you ever inched away from an extremely slobbish-looking individual while taking public transportation? You probably didn’t feel inclined to say hello to that person or give them your contact information.

Antoine is a good-looking young man, and he smiles. This is like a facial handshake when you’re meeting someone for the first (or even hundredth) time. We’re physical beings and the more we can embrace and maximize this, the more others will be attracted to us and want to know what we do/think/have to offer.

These strategies worked well for Antoine, and the guy started a company based primarily on the power of networking.

I’ll be test-driving them and sharing my results on Twitter.

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