Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Bill Gates, Bollywood Dancers and Me

Next week I am going to a private ski resort in Switzerland with Bill Gates and a group of Bollywood dancers.

Oh, and a few thousand other people (but that's a mere detail....).

We're all going to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum Annual meeting. Garlik was selected as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2008 and that means that I get invited to go along and rub shoulders with 27 Heads of State, hundreds of business, science, political and technology leaders and even a rock star or two!

This is the first year that I have been invited so I really don't know what to expect. All I know is that one of the Indian delegations is hosting a Bollywood themed evening and that I will be attending. Condoleezza Rice is going to be speaking too, and I hope the two events don't clash because Condi is very impressive and all that but let's face it Bollywood is Bollywood.

As I said I don't really know what to expect but I think you go to lots of presentations about how to fix the world's problems (one of which I am speaking at), attend lots of cocktail parties and power breakfasts (I never feel particularly powerful before about 10am, unfortunately) and NETWORK.

"Networking" is an essential skill for someone trying to build a business. In fact it is probably the key skill. Don't have a killer idea? Network with people who do and one of them will come and work with you. No money? Network with money-men. Can't write software to save your life? Enter the mysterious world of geekdom and may be someone really smart will come and play. It's all about networking.

So, Davos will involve a couple of thousand people holed up in a Swiss Ski resort for 5 days networking like crazy. "Hi, I'm Tom, let's do lunch...", "Hey dude, Tom here, fancy a power breakfast?, "Helloooo ladies, my name's Tom and you'all must be from Bollywood!".

The problem is that I am what is commonly known as an introvert so the idea of 5 solid days of networking makes me slightly queasy. I find it a bit difficult to walk up to strangers, grinning inanely and just start talking to them. I might not have anything to say. They might not be interested. How do I start - "do you come here often?".

People just assume that entrepreneurs must be extroverts, quite happy to talk to anyone about anything at any time, but it's not always like that. Certainly a lot are. But some of us are introverts and it's more of an effort to network. We tend to be more focused about it. We build relationships with less people perhaps but they will often be deeper relationships and it will be because we think there is genuinely something in common, some shared understanding. It's a different style. Both can and do work - extrovert networking and introvert networking - but you really have to find your own style and not try to be something you aren't.

Actually, some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world are introverts. Bill Gates for one. I met him a few years back when he and I did a presentation together in London to about a thousand people. It was very interesting. Before the presentation we were introduced to each other. I was waiting in the empty presentation hall when 5 or 6 security guys swept in to the room and spread out, followed by Bill and his assistant. They came up to me and he stuck out his hand, slightly nervously I thought, and said "Hi I'm Bill". I was slightly taken aback and was tempted to say "No, you don't say, get outta here, you're kiddin' me right?" but instead, glancing at the security guys who all glanced back at me, I plumped for "Hi, I'm Tom".

So, off to Davos next week. I've been asked by the FT to blog daily from there so I'll share what it's like for a newbie amongst the great and the good and if I manage to record a video of me Bollywood dancing I'll be sure to post it here :-)


Gormengast said...


As a fellow introvert do not be bothered by how you may feel. Rejoice in it.

PS. I would have responded similarly to Bill, saying "Hi, I am Gormengast".


June Forbes said...

So refreshing to know that you can work so seriously hard and not take yourself so seriously.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom what came to mind when you met Bill with all those body guard was the theme tune from the good, the bad and the ugly. This surely would have broken the ice - sending chills down their spines. Or you could have opted for "My name is Ilube - Tom Ilube - shaken and stirred....


Anonymous said...

makes a change from salsa!! Nice to know you are using your considerable talent for writing again, shame to waste it( it always brightened my day anyway)

Hazel said...

Just started reading as recommended (?) by "confused of Calcutta". As a fellow introvert I thought I'd bring you this blog posting which I found VERY helpful.