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In The Media

John Yang Sam

by Larry Chiang on May 4, 2012

BASES Talk by Larry Chiang: Silicon Valley’s “Guy You Should Know”

by John Yang Sam

Originally appeared here

“[Dear Mr. Chiang] I just want to let you know that I’ve read all about you [online] and I think you’re an incredible genius. I’ve always dreamed of one thing and that’s to do business with a man like you.”

–Adapted from Bud Fox’s address of Gordon Gekko, in Wall Street.

This past week, Silicon Valley’s “guy you should know,” showed up at Stanford to speak with the support of couple of mentees to BASES (Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students) intern group on a talk titled “How to Get an Internship the Entrepreneurial Way,” but it might be better titled “What they don’t teach you as an undergrad and EVERYONE in Silicon Valley should know (if they don’t already).” While the talk was based around internships, Larry’s true insight was into the social workings of the Valley and how to make the most of being in the center of world’s continuous technological revolution. As a connector, networker, and all around ballsy and fun loving guy, Mr. Chiang knows what makes the Valley tick.

Coming from the East Coast where twitter among my friends is near unheard of and people thought I was referring to fixing my car when I said I wanted to work on my “startup,” the West Coast has been somewhat of a shock. Execs wear jeans to business mixers, professors introduce themselves by first name, and I have yet to see a tie outside those hanging in my dorm room closet. Larry Chiang’s lessons on the Valley are another eye opening experience into the completely different fast paced, mile a minute, culture that is the West Coast:

Street Smarts:

We’ve all heard the catch line that it’s not enough just to be good in school; you need to be street smart. How is the car salesman who never when to high school successful? Being clever, quick to verbalize, knowing how to read what people are actually thinking rather than saying, and getting connections in to the right places is just as valuable as being able to talk about anti conformal matrices. If you’re honest, ethical, and transparent about who you are while doing all this, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Larry used an example of his father who went to MIT, but learned a great deal from an uncle who only graduated from high school.

How to network at a party that you are not invited to: Going from Crasher to VIP

Larry is known for “crashing” parties to which he’s uninvited, and he is good at what he does. People often ask him “what was the one thing you did to speak at that party you weren’t invited to?” or “how did you go from a crashing the party to hanging out with the host?”

According to Larry, “The one thing that I did was the 40 little things I did.” There is no one secret to Larry’s success. Instead it’s his accumulation of actions that allow him to pull of such crazy maneuvers as getting into a prestigious film school for acting without ever even applying! If there is one central theme the Larry stressed, it is working the wait list:

Larry’s tips for making in into that business event of the year whose rsvp you missed:

Getting in: Tell people you want to go!

-Pre-network the event—Facebook and/email to get initial attention

-Blog or pre-blog the event

-Add yourself to the party’s waitlist by calling/emailing the event organizer

-Show up 5-10minutes before the party starts

-Own up that you weren’t officially added to the wait list, and talk to the gate keeper—Have an elevator pitch ready for who you are and why you want to get in.

When you’ve got in: Be a good guest!

-Almost everyone who crashes brings friends, avoids the host, and eats all the free food. DO THE OPPOSITE

-Seek out the host, introduce yourself, explain that you are crashing their party, and explain why you went through all the trouble to attend their event. If you are genuinely enthusiastic and transparent about what you’re doing, how would the host look if they sent you out the door?

After the party: Show you’re appreciation! (Remember the manners your parents taught you in middle school)

-Say goodbye to the host!

-Mail in the thank you card afterward or follow up in another way to show your appreciation in another way:



-Handwritten note



Emailing is a campaign. If someone important doesn’t get back to you after your first attempt, it probably means they have so many emails that they never saw it. It can’t hurt to send them another email (even the same one) a day later. Send emails in waves, until they get back to you. As Cameron Teitelman, one of Larry’s panelists and the founder of the SSE Labs start up incubator explained, if they don’ t get back you in 24 hours and you’re persistent it’s okay until they get back to you. Being positive, asking questions, and inviting people you’ve met to events can only help your case.

Planning Three Years of Internships in Person

According to Larry, you can hack three awesome internships in sequence using much of the same strategy as crashing a VIP party. The major thing is to decide what you want to do and then go for it:

– Look for mentorship from an executive: work email

-Genuine compliments can go a long way. Everyone likes to hear positive feedback.

-Tell them about yourself, what do you have to offer them?

-(Oh, and see Bud Fox’s quote at the beginning of this post.)

-Define your expertise:

-Have something specific to offer for their company and talk to them about it.

-Ask if they’re the person to talk to about working on your project for their company or if they can refer you to someone else.

-Asking for a five minute phone chat to tell them about yourself and ask a couple questions can go a long way and lead to further opportunities to get to know your role models better.

-Genuinely telling someone, “I’m interested in learning about what you’re doing and learning more about your company” can sometimes be all you need to start a conversation.

-The Kicker: Have an “AWESOME PROJECT” (startup, research, recent related experience) to talk about as well!

-And as Larry always stresses: SEND A THANK YOU afterwards!

The Ultimate Networker: A Really Cool Guy

Finally, what I realize I got most from Larry’s talk and getting to know him a little better over dinner were the things left unsaid: Larry is an example of an ultimate networker and connector because he is just “a really cool guy.”

How many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs do you know that would offer to give an undergrad their number the minute they met them? or offer to be your first follower on twitter? Larry is the kind of guy that can “crash” anything as he wants to say—from VIP Silicon Valley mixers to the Stanford Dinning Services (which tweets him afterwards)—because at the most fundamental level he is someone who other people want to be around because he helps them as much as they help him.

What anyone who has met Larry Chiang and gotten to talk with him a bit realizes is that the true value and secret to being a good networker is being someone not who just knows a lot of people, but who helps a lot of people as well, and gives back as much as he receives.

I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to have met Larry and look forward to learning more from him in the future.

-John YS

Also, here’s an excerpt of the Q & A session with Larry’s Stanford panelists: Cameron Teitelman of SSE Labs and Stephanie Sy of the Stanford Daily:

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