People, serendipity, and technology

Imagine if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had never met. Or Watson and Crick. We would have never heard some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll music ever. Never learned about the double-helix structure of DNA that revolutionized science.

Serendipitous encounters can transform lives. It’s when you meet that person that opens up a life-changing opportunity for you. It’s when you introduce two people that end up being co-founders. Or when you see someone’s tweet about your dream job that makes all the scrolling worth it.

Eade Bengard says it better than I ever could:

“Your people are everything. And there are a lot of them you haven’t met yet, living in different cities or hanging in circles that haven’t quite overlapped. They are people who align with your values, want to start companies with you, want to teach you something about the industry you share, or even want to invest in you.“

When it comes to my life, there have been a few encounters that have transformed it. One of them was meeting Hooman Radfar and Steve Schlafman. We ran into each other during a Summit weekend in Utah.

I had been working with musicians and non-tech startups at the time – and was eager to learn more about technology. Hooman introduced me to some of his best friends in Silicon Valley. Steve connected me with the founders of the a16z-funded startup Genius. I spent weeks in their NYC office, soaking up the energy of a fast-growing company. I helped them out with connections in the music industry. This was my introduction to tech startups. It changed everything for me.

How can we increase our chances of meeting someone that changes our life?

It’s funny how life works. Someone we were randomly introduced to years ago can still be working with us today. And someone we just met can have an impact that lasts for decades, too. Meeting new people can be hard though – especially recently. We don’t want to waste our time networking or end up becoming transactional. But we can make it easier for serendipity to find us. Here’s how:

Be Prepared

When you do the work, you attract opportunities. So focus on doing the work first.

Some of the best new encounters happen when you share real-world experiences together. Surround yourself with interesting people. Join a startup. Move to a new city. Attend a course about a subject that fascinates you. Host dinners and small events. Remote work, distributed teams, and limited travel won’t stop you – you can make friends on the internet, too.

Making authentic connections in the digital world can seem challenging. So start writing, record podcasts or videos. Share what you are working on, what interests you, and what you learn. You will find that like-minded people will start reaching out to you. Send cold emails to your heroes, too. Stay genuine and curious. It’s not about impressing others or showing off. It’s about finding the few people that you want to work with for decades.

Help others win

One of the best ways to get lucky is to help others get lucky. The universe has a way of keeping score.

A great way to do that is to introduce two people who don’t know each other. I love that part. Nothing gets my brain neurons firing like the potential of an exciting new connection between people or companies. I get energized from scanning through my mental Rolodex. When things go well, it’s time for an intro. ‌‌I feel like there are two types of email intros:

  • Status-driven: Generic intros (often without double opt-in). The recipient is a high-status person that the sender has met for a few minutes at a conference 5 years ago. Everyone has sent intros like that. I have, too. I now follow this simple rule: Whenever I feel like I get an ego boost while writing an intro: I don’t send it.
  • Intuition-driven: These intros are the best ones. You send them when you feel that two people just have to meet. It’s like your intuition foreseeing the potential of their minds colliding. Our bodies know a lot more about energy in relationships than we do – so listen to your gut instinct – and send that intro.

Most intros go nowhere. Some can be awkward. But some change your life. When other people have helped you meet someone that did change your life: Go tell them. It will make you both happy.

‌‌The future of serendipity

I’m excited about software that helps you spot potential for serendipitous encounters early. Clay is one example. It’s the home for all your personal relationships – with the power of a CRM on steroids.

‌‌Clay uses smart search and clever UX to help find the right person, at the right time. The team calls it “search like you think”.

Now imagine if technology can tell who you should meet in the future? Not a Linkedin connection suggestion – but a true predictor of social dynamics and opportunity.

Until then, it’s on us alone to create the valuable relationships that make up our lives. So be prepared, do the work, take chances, send that cold email, get on that flight, join that community, connect the people you have always thought that should meet – and when an opportunity appears – pursue it relentlessly.