Contacts, Then Capital

When he pivoted from being a Grammy-nominated RnB artist to being a tech entrepreneur, Ryan Leslie didn’t know anyone in Silicon Valley. “I didn’t have any investors in my phone. I had only music industry people in my phone. I needed to figure out, ‘Okay, how do I go raise millions of dollars for a platform so I can help people?'”

Since that platform was a tool for SMS marketing and it was 2013, however, none of his music industry contacts wanted to hear anything about it. So Ryan flew down to California, started knocking on doors, and, eventually, managed to collect several million dollars in funding.

“The number one challenge between where someone is today and where they want to be is either contacts or capital. If you can solve for the contacts, you can get to the capital.”

For most people, money is the big problem. That’s why Ryan suggests: Contacts first. “The contacts could be fans. It could be customers. They could be investors.”

Though not its main feature, in some way, this blog is a giant rolodex. It brings people into my life, and with every daily post, its potential to attract more people grows. Who will show up when? I have no idea. But I trust that one is greater than zero, and that the right people will be on my email list at the right time.

In your case, finding the right contacts could mean cold-calling ten people each day. It could mean building a Youtube channel. Or it could mean going to lunch with every single person at your company.

Solve for the contacts, and the capital will follow. Whether it’s literal capital for your next, bigger venture, or simply enough money to live comfortably and do your own thing, you’ll either need enough fans, enough customers, a new boss, or a line of investors to pull it off.

How you increase the number of lines in your phonebook is up to you, but no one succeeds alone. Ultimately, we’re all carrying each other, and so offering something to the community while asking for help in return isn’t just normal, it’s necessary — and, according to Ryan Leslie, “that’s where you should start.”