Part One: Ask for Help


There’s an amazing dynamic in the New York startup scene.

People help each other out.

Just start talking and you’ll see what I mean. These folks are generous. They share their experiences.  They make suggestions.  They want to participate in new projects.

Here’s an example:

In 2010, I spoke to Charlie O’Donnell about getting the Daily News more involved in the startup community.  Charlie took on the challenge, and, within a few weeks, organized and publicized an event for us.  We put out a “call to action” around tools to engage readers to participate with our products, took applications, selected five companies present to the Daily News senior management team and, as a result of all of this, started working with Olapic.  This event turned into the Always Be Closing Startup series at NYU, and Charlie replicated it to help other companies connect with startups, too.

But there’s more. People will help you even when you don’t think you need any help and aren’t looking for it.

Here’s an example:

Last summer I was just starting to think about launching the Daily News Innovation Lab.  I went to events to meet people in the community and learn.

At one of these events, a Keiretsu investor forum, the organizers gave everyone the opportunity to introduce themselves.

During the break following my brief overview of the Daily News Innovation Lab, Michael Francis introduced himself to me.  His employer, Regus, was interested in providing office space for companies participating in the Daily News Innovation Lab.

Before that moment, it hadn’t even occurred to me to involve professional service partners in the program.

That one 1 minute intro led to the development of a much stronger and comprehensive program for the Lab participating companies.  I went on to recruit 5 additional partners before we announced the program. 2 more partners came to us after the launch, and asked to participate.

During the short time I’ve been working on the Lab project, I can think of dozens of examples of people offering to help.  I had help with networking, the structure and scope of the Lab program, recruiting mentors and advisors, all of it.  And once the Lab team was involved, the power of asking for help was multiplied by 8.

The point is, you’re not in this alone. You’re not the first person trying to innovate, start a lab, or take steps to disrupt a traditional business operation.  There are people out there who can and will gladly help you out and give you advice along the way.

But there’s a caveat.

People can’t help you if they don’t know about your project and don’t know what you need.

You have to start talking.

So the next time Jonathan Lehr gives you the opportunity to do a one minute intro at the beginning of a NY Enterprise Technology Meetup, or you have any opportunity to start conversations in the New York startup community, don’t be shy.

Speak up!

Tell people what you need and ask for help.  You just might get it.

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