Be creative. Consider events like the annual Big Wheels Race down Lombard Street in San Francisco. It turns out that the race draws heavily from Silicon Valley and is a great place to make contacts and have fun.
A more conventional venue is the Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup Group, says Peter Thoeny, the founder of Twiki.org. It meets monthly and generally features short presentations by four or five companies. It’s always well attended and making an advance reservation is a good idea, he says. It’s a good place to meet VCs as well as potential employers.
And there are endless meetings of user groups, and tech-oriented conferences. Attend as many as you can.
Ace the interview
OK. You’ve done the networking and made a connection. Now comes the most critical stage of all -- the interview. Here are some tips from the people who do the hiring, so pay attention:
1) Dress up, not down. Employees at your target company may sport the standard, Silicon Valley casual attire, but don’t be fooled. “Dress shows attention to detail. I don’t expect a suit, but it impresses,” says Devin Poolman, COO of 8020 Publishing.
2) Do your homework. Know the company, its competitors, and its technologies. If it’s a software or Web company, download its products and think of ways you can help make them better.
3) Leave (part) of your ego at home. “Don’t be too focused on yourself. I’m looking for team players,” says David Smith of Firefly Energy. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to admit it. And if you don’t know, don’t guess, adds VMware’s Bush. Be up-front and be honest.
4) Be solution-oriented in your discussion. “Coming in with a list of certifications or languages might get you in door, but what impresses me is how you solved a challenge,” says Robert Rosen, CIO of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Emphasize your ability to work as part of a team, or to be its leader, he adds.
Be their dream candidate
Hiring is a very subjective process. What impresses one exec turns off another. But you can’t be too passionate about technology. Asked to describe his “dream employee,” Samir Shah, CEO of Zephyr, wants “someone who really gets the new technologies that are coming at us so fast and furiously. Even if you don’t know them, show me you can pick them up fast.”
Arbabi of Melodis puts it this way: “We been very selective so far; we’ve tried to surround ourselves with the best and the brightest. What makes the best and the brightest for me? Number one is motivation, the desire to work in the space we’re in.”
Great advice. Follow it, and with a little luck and a lot of talent, you’re on your way to striking startup gold.