Skip to main content

Social Proof: High School All Over Again

I've had a lot on my mind this week, and last night I had a dream that sparked memories of other dreams, as though they're all part of the same mystery.

I have no idea the meaning, but there was conflict without resolution, which is somewhat similar to parts of my waking life. The great thing, though, was that Dad was in it, and although we were in conflict in this one, it's always good to see him since his passing in '96. (Ah, unresolved issues, son?).

Why am I telling you this, you think to yourself. I have no idea, but I'm in a contemplative mood after watching the sunrise, listening to the birds and getting a head start on a big push for HN.

Ok. So. Social Proof.

Today Fred posted about "social proof", which has become the accepted currency of angel investing, and basically means that, well, if Fred is in then I'm in. 

Fred doesn't like social proof, by the way, and if Fred is in, I'll take a look but I'm not going to invest in anything without vetting it (were I investing again).

As a founder of things, I absolutely hate social proof. I don't like how it makes me feel. I was never with the in crowd growing up. Or ever, really. I created my own in crowd and ignored the others (pretended to, anyway).

I even felt awkward within my own in crowd. I'd put people together from different parts of my life, and assumed they'd just like each other as much as I liked them, and no, it doesn't work that way. It took me years to realize that.

I was socially awkward growing up, and still am. I'm outgoing but introverted, and I take social risks that simply make the inevitably painful assumption that others assume the best of me, that I have good intentions, or that they'll, well, accept me.

And a lot of times that approach is not understood, and so I take my hits in the subtle ways they're delivered--the silences, the exclusion, the absence of a greeting or invitation. I got an invitation last week and was surprised how much it meant to just be invited.

I make the mistake of thinking that everyone understands what I'm talking about, or is even interested. And they aren't, mostly, which is expected given the narrow niches I talk about (search, street kids, community enterprises).

But I've never figured out how much to say, or what to say, or when.

In business that's not a terrible thing; you need the gumption to try to make a sale to someone or raise capital, etc. Gumption (or perhaps it's courage) opens doors. Sometimes it closes them, though.

Social proof is terrible for me. I don't know the "in" crowd that much. It's just like high school, it feels. I know a few people in it. Out in the Valley I know very, very few, and social currency is everything in the Valley. And it makes me uncomfortable to try to appeal to the 'in' crowd. I'm not conventionally unconventional, I'm awkwardly so.

I'd have to immerse myself there and ingratiate myself to a range of people, many of whom I don't agree with, and in doing that my social awkwardness would undermine the social acceptance the social proofers are looking for.

No acceptance, no currency, no currency, no social proof.

I hate it.

So I have little social currency in the angel investment world. I'm not sure how much I have in the real world,  in my community in Lancaster; that's a side effect of speaking out, or talking too much about difficult issues, or perhaps it's just the way I do it.

Not everyone cares as much about your own beliefs as you. That never sunk in with me enough to modify how and what I communicate.

And that is perhaps why I'm more comfortable with the awkward misfits I find at Social Venture Network, or Startup Lancaster, or the startup classes I give occasionally. Bunch of great people, not entirely comfortable in their own skin.

And none of that--none of it--defines my value as a leader and builder of business. But it does have impact on it, and someday maybe I'll figure out how to moderate the awkwardness and feel more comfortable so I'm somehow more accepted and can move more freely among the social proofers.

Or not--it might be better to stop caring about that and simply get on with the work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beta Signup

I've been working for quite a while on a new search concept, though the further in I get, the closer the rest of the world gets to what we're doing. So today I'm inviting you to sign up for the rather modest beta, which will be ready soon if we can nail down a few difficult  details. Jawaya is a way of navigating the web and getting better results. And that's as much as I can say right now, because we're not a funded startup, and things are moving really fast in this space--it's going to be very competitive. I predict there will be about 10 funded startups in the next 6 months doing something similar. One of them will be mine, and we aim to make it the best. We're raising a round of capital to fund the team, and are shooting for early sustainability. This is my fifth company; my fourth in the tech space, and my third software company. I think it will be the biggest and can possibly have a positive impact on the world by reducing the amount of time it takes

Where Innovation Happens

As I get closer to a go/no-go decision on a project, I've been thinking about the difference about my vision for the project and the supportive innovations to enable the core innovations The vision combines (in unequal parts) product, core innovation as I imagine it, the application of that core innovation, design, marketing,  developer ecosystem, and business development. The core innovation enables everything else, but it's the application of the innovation that makes it meaningful, useful, and in this case, fun. This week we're testing initial approaches to the implementation for our specific application, and that's where we'll develop the enabling innovations, which is basically where the rubber meets the road. The difference is that the enabling innovation happens at the source of real problems only encountered in the making of something, and in a project like this just getting the essence of it right isn't enough; it also has to be safe, the compone

The Real Jobs Problem

It's the economy, stupid.  Well, yes, it always has been, if you're in the distortion field of politics.  But whose economy? The pundits, the White House, the Republican candidates all miss the mark. They keep talking about debt, taxes, and monetary policy. None of those things tell the real story behind today's economy.  The Old Economy Keynes was right--in the old economy. Economy gets weak, pump some money into the economy through public works projects, which  1) puts people to work, which  2) boosts the economy and  3) generates new tax revenue, while  4) leaving us with another generation of reliable infrastructure to support  5) more growth (for growth's sake, which is another post).  The Beach Ball Imagine a beach ball, partially deflated to represent a recession. Got it? Now imagine the govt pumping that beach ball back up through sensible public investment (which we haven't seen for decades). The New Economy Same beach ball, same pum