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Three Important Networking Principles. Alina and Ruslan Gafarov at the Grand Business Event.

In late May of this year, the founders of San Francisco Innovation Hub, Ruslan and Alina Gafarov, took the stage at the Grand Business Event in New York with a presentation on the essential principles to follow in networking in order to create a positive impression on your conversation partner.

Below, we share the textual format of their presentation:

Alina: Seven years ago, Ruslan and I came to the United States. We visited all the typical tourist destinations – New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. And here we were, standing in front of the Apple headquarters. Ruslan’s heart skipped a beat, and he said to me, “Imagine if we came back here next time with entrepreneurs? We could visit offices, learn about corporate culture secrets, successful business strategies. We could study how startups thrive here and how venture funds operate. We could create a kind of business tourism. What do you think?”

I replied, “Your idea doesn’t sound that great. First of all, who would even let you in there, my dear? Secondly, who will tell you all these details? And thirdly, who would even want to go with you?” In our family, when I say “not a great idea,” it usually means there’s something to it. But we figured out this pattern later.

Still, Ruslan went ahead and posted on Instagram that we were gathering people for a trip. And later he tells me, “Alina, there are comments. Call the guys, let’s come up with some price and sell the tour.”

Two weeks later, we’re sitting in our kitchen in Ufa, drinking tea. Eighty people commented, and we already had ten sales.

Ruslan: In reality, we could speak on an endless number of topics. I’m interested in venture investments; I’ve even written a book about corporate culture. But when we realized that we would have an audience with various backgrounds here, we thought that the most valuable thing we could share with you are the principles that guided us in building our community in Silicon Valley. They might seem obvious, but in practice, they truly work.

Pay upfront

Alina: When we meet people, we immediately think about how we can be helpful to them. And it’s done genuinely, without expecting any benefit from them. It’s similar to venture investments. You invest money in 10 companies, and maybe nine of them will fail. But one company might succeed and more than compensate for all the investments.

The same thing happens here. We meet people and sincerely try to use our influence to be helpful to them, whether it’s through introducing someone new or accomplishing something within our capabilities. And we don’t expect anything in return. And believe me, one person out of those 10 will definitely make up for all the best moments we spent on networking and engaging with people. It really works well. And I sincerely recommend you to use this approach.

Ruslan: When we came to the Valley, we didn’t know anyone. We organized events where we invited people we wanted to be friends with, people we wanted to be helpful to. We were actually introducing people to each other.

I always thought about who I could connect with whom to make it beneficial for both. And I have a great life hack for you. At this event, you’ve already met a lot of people. Think about those you’ve met and consider who you can connect with whom. Just propose that they meet and give them the opportunity to learn about each other. Just pay upfront, without expecting anything in return. I assure you, magic will start happening.

Speak concisely and to the point

Alina: The more successful a person is, the more attention and demands are placed on their time. This happens through social media, email, and of course, at parties and events. Therefore, people prefer brevity and specificity. How can you be helpful? What task are you currently working on? How can you be of assistance to this person? Learn to quickly adapt depending on who you’re communicating with and what problems this person might have that you can address.

Ruslan: When introducing yourself to someone, strive to explain very briefly and clearly why you’re currently engaged in what you’re doing. For example, venture capitalists receive an average of a thousand investment inquiries. They already have an allergy to irrelevant conversations. They’ve been at this for years and decades. When people talk off-topic, their hearing switches off, they stop hearing you. That’s why it’s crucial to clearly explain to people the significant problem you’re solving and why this particular person is the right partner to discuss this issue with.

You must have a clear understanding of who is in front of you if you want to build a relationship with them. Study their interests to understand how you fit into their context. Describe your project specifically that you’re working on and demonstrate your understanding of their work to explain why you are the right person for continued conversation.

Be inclusive

Alina: In California, there’s a favorite word “diversity” and “inclusivity.” Being inclusive means being open and willing to listen to people, even if they express unconventional ideas, and agreeing with them.

Ruslan: I understand this principle very well. How did I understand it?

I have a specific appearance. When I used to fly to Moscow and talked about what I do, people simply didn’t notice me. It was very hard for me. I felt the lack of inclusivity in Moscow. But when I came to California, I’m completely ordinary. I don’t like New York, I love California, because here I feel free.

In fact, this is one of the key principles in Silicon Valley. It doesn’t matter how you look or what religion you follow. The main thing is the results you achieve. Nobody talks about people negatively. After all, the circle you want to join is often very small. If you have the opportunity to be tolerant and avoid negative thoughts about others, it’s very important. Even if you don’t say it out loud, people still feel your thoughts.

For example, Alina and I learned to read each other’s minds. It’s true. When I was on a Vipassana retreat, on the third day, I felt very unwell and wanted to leave. That’s when Alina messaged, saying she felt that something was wrong with me. How did she do it? We weren’t directly communicating.

I’m sure there’s a connection between us. If you start thinking negatively about other people, your networking won’t be effective. It’s important to cleanse your thoughts and mind from negative thoughts…

The San Francisco Innovation Hub creates an international community of entrepreneurs centered in Silicon Valley.

With us, entrepreneurs explore modern innovations and venture investments. Many participants come to us with bold ideas and a desire to launch their own startups. We provide them with mentorship and advisory support, helping them find the right direction for developing their businesses. Over the years, we have collaborated with around 1000 entrepreneurs from all over the world.

We have successfully launched our projects worldwide. Participants come to us not only from the CIS countries but also from other corners of the globe. We collaborate with the Vienna University of Economics and Business and host students from the eMBA program every year.

Our community continues to grow. We don’t rest on our laurels because we consider it our mission to make the world more aware. Therefore, it’s essential for us to unite exceptional entrepreneurs and continue our development.

If you want to join us, leave an application for the upcoming Immersion Program in Silicon Valley by clicking the button below.

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