The Rules on Grabbing Coffee

Having coffee is essential to a successful career.  Meeting someone for coffee or a meal is a great way to make new contacts or reconnect with friends, colleagues and connections.

There are rules for a coffee meeting that are important to be aware of for successful networking:

  1. If you are asking someone else for coffee, the other person should pick a place and time convenient for him or her.
  2. Be on time.  Obvious I know.
  3. Offer to buy coffee for the other person.
  4. Pick a table or location where it is easy to hear the other person.  Tables in the middle of Starbucks or near the barista can be extremely noisy.
  5. DO ask for advice.  Everyone loves to talk about him or herself, tell you their story and provide advice.
  6. DON’T ask for referrals to people.  Generally, a person offers to make a referral.  A referral is currency.  People tend to make referrals for people who are strong connections where making a referral is helpful to his or her relationship with the other person.  A cold referral is meaningless and often puts the person you are having coffee with in an awkward position.
  7. DON’T ask people whom you don’t have a deep relationship with for referrals to investors.  It doesn’t work.  If you are raising money, get referrals from people who know you well, mentors, investors in your company, board members or company advisors.  If the person you meet likes you OR likes the concept of your company, they will offer to make introductions to investors during or after your meeting.

There are probably others and I will keep updating this over time.  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.


Launching a Product on FaceBook: The Bacon Salt Story


This is the story of Bacon Salt or J&D’s Down Home Enterprises – the most successful Seattle start-up that you have never heard of.  Or maybe you have.  In 2007, Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow developed a zero calorie, vegetarian, kosher certified bacon flavor seasoning and decided to start selling it on the Internet.   Within months, they had a significant business making hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2007 revenue.  Today they are at a run rate of millions of dollars in revenue.  How did they do it?  Social media, particularly Facebook.

I met with Bacontrepreneur Justin Esch several weeks back where we talked about their strategy and how they developed a grassroots following for Bacon Salt through online guerrilla, Seth Godin-style Purple Cow marketing.  Here is Justin’s recipe in launching a physical product on Facebook:

  1. Create a Group on FaceBook:  Check out the Bacon Salt group on FaceBook.   Before broadly opening up the group to the public, Justin and Dave went and made sure that there was plenty of content, pictures and videos to keep people busy and make it a fun experience.
  2. Invite 100 or so Friends and Let the Newsfeed Do It’s Magic:They then invited 100 or so friends to start populating the room leaving comments on the wall, etc.    Make sure you invite the popular people who have lots of friends on FaceBook.  As everyone knows,  FaceBook users can watch what their friends are doing on the newsfeed.  When friends see other friends join the Bacon Salt group, they get curious, check out the Bacon Salt group, and join the group.
  3. Make Sure There Is Lots of Fresh Content:  Just like good blogs or communities, groups on Facebook need lots of care and tending.  Justin and Dave made sure that there was a constant stream of interesting Bacon Salt related content and encouraged the community to place or promote Bacon Salt in interesting places.  The result was hundreds of pictures and videos of Bacon Salt all around the world.  There are some amazing pictures and videos in the group.   They also filled the group with Bacon Salt recipes and random bacon musings.
  4. Target the Rabid Fans: Justin and Dave then used the interest tagging on FaceBook to target every Bacon Fan and every group that was about Bacon.  They reached out to all these individuals to make sure they are aware of Bacon Salt.  They sent them free samples to get the early adopters to talk about Bacon Salt, tell their friends, or wrote a blog post on Bacon Salt.  The ground swell started.  Here is hilarious video that someone put together.
  5. Do Some Good & Sell Some Bacon Salt – OPERATION BACON SALT:  Justin and Dave encouraged rabid fans of Bacon Salt to take pictures and post them on FaceBook and around the Internet.  J&D came up with the brilliant idea of sending free samples of Bacon Salt to soldiers in Iraq.  Iraq, being a Muslim country, does not have any pork products, let alone bacon.  The soldiers in Iraq were incredibly appreciative of the generosity of J&D and loved the taste of Bacon Salt.  They took TONS of pictures of Bacon Salt in military vehicles across Iraq and the world.  Word got back to the States of their good deeds resulting in more and more press coverage of the Bacontrepreneurs.Operation Bacon Salt

They have basically replicated this strategy on MySpace as well.  Their business is doing extremely well.  Bacon Salt is knocking on the door of distribution through major grocery retailers and they are slated to appear on QVC at some point in the near future.

Bacon Salt QVCbacon-salt-qvc.jpg

What’s even more amazing to me is that they have bootstrapped it 100% to date.  Now that’s what I call a story of two Seattle boys done good.

Would you like some Bacon Salt with that?

Are You Managing Yourself Online?


Facebook created the social newsfeed and has revolutionized how consumers ingest information.  I check my Facebook profile a couple times a day (if not more) to see what others are doing on the whole.   The news feed model has spread like wildfire through the fabric of the social networking world and now there are probably at least one hundred various social networks doing something similar, integrating with Facebook or betting on Google Open Social.  Though I have not been a big fan of Plaxo in the past, I think the Plaxo Pulse has done the best job of integrating lots of different social networks and social information sharing resources while challenging LinkedIn’s dominance (allowing me to integrate my LinkedIn profile with Plaxo – brilliant.)

Managing all these identities with different people involved in different networks with different information is challenging.  Google my full name “Nikesh Parekh” and you get:

  • Nikesh Parekh’s LinkedIn Profile
  • Nikesh Parekh’s Blogger Profile (which I started in 2005 and never really developed)
  • Nikesh Parekh’s ActiveRain profile
  • Nikesh Parekh’s Naymz profile (signed up for but never really finished)
  • Nikesh’s Zoominfo profile
  • Nikesh Parekh’s Amazon profile
  • Nikesh Parekh’s Spoke profile
  • Nikesh’s Facebook profile
  • Finally on Page 3 – Nikesh Parekh’s Blog

Anyways, my point being, more and more people are using the Internet and Google as their primary source for information.  Management of your personal search results and consistency of information across social networks seems like a core problem that more and more people are going to run into.  In the process of trying to “share” my blog with others, I had to log into at least four different social outlets (just to start): Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, and Digg. 

I know there are lots of companies going after either 1) being the dominant social network or 2) creating an integrated social network platform to make it easier for people to manage their information.   Brad Feld wrote a good blog here on “Friend Integration” which is not exactly my pain point, but it is interesting nonetheless.

My gut tells me there has got to be a better way, there are lots of opportunities here and a big need beyond the two opportunities above.  Any other thoughts?