Beware SXSW Networking Syndrome

March 11th, 2013 § 1 comment

I’ve been meaning to write a piece about networking events for a while now, and this article prompted me to finally do it today.

Beware SXSW Networking Syndrome | TechCrunch

“Wow! I’m wanted!” I thought to myself upon receipt. But after basking in narcissistic glory for a few seconds, my pride gave way to bemusement. For one, I’ve never met the sender. We’ve exchanged a couple of LinkedIn messages, but I don’t think that qualifies me as a close friend. And on balance the @Garyvee namedrop as a hook to entice the invitee felt more sad than enticing. But most striking, to me, was that this sender is not a PR person or event planner who trades in building social connections, but rather an entrepreneur whose startup I respect.We need this to understand how you use our service - you can take it out if you like. Cheers, your Blogspire team.


I have a problem. I totally grew tired of networking events recently. I just want to be in the office and talk to my team and occasionally help them close a challenging deal. but then i sometimes feel guilty for not spending every evening ‘networking’ and mingling on VIP events and such. how can that be?

whole industry flocking to SXSW for spring break is the greatest symptom of this mentality. forced fun i call it.

So i asked myself, why do entrepreneurs really go to these events? there must be a finite list of possible motivations, and i’d bet each of you, if being really honest with yourself can pick one that is the main driver. I could identify 5 phases in my own history:

  1. I wanted to tell everyone about this great new thing – we are makers, and we get excited about stuff we build, and want to talk about it. the more the merrier. until the novelty wears out, or you are successful and have to start working on other types of challenges related to growth.
  2. I enjoyed being part of the in-crowd – startup ecosystem does resemble entertainment industry, and today’s entrepreneurs are treated as rock stars in some respects. and attention is addictive and you do enjoy it. here, a lot of people are famous for 5 minutes, or sometimes 5 weeks or 5 months. nobody is famous for 5 years. though.
  3. I enjoyed meeting new interesting people – on every event you go, you will meet at least one very interesting person that will make the event worthwhile. and by interesting, i mean really interesting – doing something very compelling, thinking in special ways that inspire you etc.. but after a while, you realize you can only manage several hundred relationships anyway. unfortunately.
  4. I got business done there – strictly professionally speaking, you don’t have to have fun. you can just prey on prospects and partners and clients. works fine, but makes you pick the events very carefully. 
  5. ultimately, sometimes I felt it’s my job to go there. this was the worst, but actually made me notice the other four angles.

so these days, I don’t go to events if I can help it and I don’t go to SXSW, even though I know it would feel special, I would meet awesome people there and that I would do business. I still prefer working with my team on day-to-day challenges above all that.

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§ One Response to Beware SXSW Networking Syndrome

  • Paul Chaney says:

    I don’t go to SXSW (I used to) for two reasons: I don’t like crowds and I’m not a party animal, and it seems like that’s what SX has become – one big, crowded party.

    Oh, a third reason. I don’t live in Silicon Valley, so I’m also not part of the “in-crowd.”

    I hope that doesn’t sound like sour grapes. It’s not meant to.

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