TL;DR I grew my LinkedIn network to 22K contacts. You *might* grow yours to advance your career.
“You want to have as large a LinkedIn network as possible,” he said.
At the time, I didn’t understand.
What was this investor was telling me?
I’d been on the professional social network for a few years. I’d cultivated a decent group of contacts.
“A large network,” he explained, “makes it easier to get introduced to people who can make a difference for your business. Or career.”
I could agree with his logic. It made sense at the time.
“How do you do that?” I asked.
“Work on it every day.”
I asked a few more questions and learned he had grown his network to just over 3,000 contacts.
“A large network will give you greater access.”
My competitive fire was sparked.
I was determined to grow a larger network.
I became a LinkedIn Open Networker (a L.I.O.N.) and spent one year sending out invitations and helping others grow their own networks.
It took about 15 minutes a day.
By the end of the first year, my network had grown to 7,500.
By the end of the second year, it was more than 10,000.
At the beginning, I wasn’t selective at all about inviting people in my network.
I started with the people known to have the largest networks, moved my way through the LIONs in my industry, and accepted everyone who asked to join my network.
Today, my network is nearly 22,000.
Do You Need A Large Network?
Before I give you a few tips to grow your network, let me ask Do you really need that big of a network?
[To be continued]
Netflix just started airing Altered Carbon. It’s a rad take Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk novel. One of my favorite genres, cyberpunk typically explores how the street repurposes tech, life in cyberspace and off-planet.
Last fall, I reread William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy – Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. (Neuromancer, BTW, is credited with “launching” the cyberpunk genre, though purists will cite British New Wave authors and Philip K. Dick as originators.)
I was searching for biotech references. And man, did I find them, from the neurotoxin sacs that are surgically implanted in Neuromancer main character Case’s body, to a Mitsubishi-Genentech merger (that never happened), and hackers trying to bring back by-then extinct horses.
In many ways, Gibson already riding the biotech wave years before synthetic biology was re-defined. Gibson includes less biotech in later novels but he is always readable. His writing enjoyable and thought-provoking and he remains one of my favorite authors, plus his Twitter stream is a blast to follow.
I’m a story nerd.
I enjoy re-reading books, re-watching movies. I like figuring out how the authors or film makers put the story together. What hints did they place at the beginning of the story, and resolve at the end?
I’ve read plenty of books on writing screenplays, plotting, and character development.
Pedro Paramo is the one book I’ve given away the most.
Mexican Juan Rulfo’s thin, 1955 novel launched magical realism. It’s a story about a son looking for his father, and a father longing for his son. The book drips death on every single page.
The novel is a fragmented, post-modern masterpiece that is highly relevant today.
Paramo influenced Nobel-prize winner, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s said Marquez had memorized long passages of the book. I can’t recommend it enough.
Here’s this week’s 3×5.
I like to work in 90 minute blocks of time, often split in sprints of 2×45.
Of these, I find Forest the most useful and fun. You’re growing a (virtual) tree while you focus. You can choose different species of trees and more unlock over time. My current favorite: stalks of bamboo.
My niece Violeta introduced me and I am forever grateful.
I’ve been a fan of Steve Blank and Bob Dorf’s The Startup Owner’s Manual for a long time. It’s a big book. It’s also full of practical insights (“Get out of the building…”). I’ve recently been referring to it since I’m launching a new business offering. It’s a book that breaks down the Lean Startup process.
Tim Ferriss’ Impossible Questions (email subscription required). There’s 17 of them. I’ve been thinking about these…
“We can build any product. The question is: Will anyone buy it?”
She is developing a new chip set. It’s revolutionary in its design and potential applications.
When I ask about customers, she answers, “We’re building a platform, like the app store.”
When I ask about validated customers, she answers, “It will be a hundred times cheaper. Than the competition. They’ll all buy it. Wouldn’t you?”
When I asks about product-market fit, she asks, “What is that?”
It means, I explain, you have a product that people want to buy.
She repeat her statement about cheaper cost assuring – not just driving – sales.
To me, that’s the end of the conversation.
I can’t help people who haven’t spoken to their potential customers.
Or, those that think they don’t have to.
I can’t draft messages in a void.
I can. Sure.
But there’s no guarantee they’ll work and I won’t take the risk.
If we agree with Reis (and I do), we’re lucky we can build almost any product today. We also have more knowledge about building businesses.
What we don’t have is insights into customers.
Will they buy our product?
The Lean Startup methodology forces you to get in front of your customers.
It helps ensure that you’re developing something the market wants. Before you create it.
Wouldn’t you rather know that up front?
Here’s a spoken word version of the keynote I gave at Biofabricate 2017.
To learn more about why you need a bio strategy, click here.
I’m starting a new weekly feature. Not to clutter your life – you can opt out if you’d like – but to document and share the things that influence me during a week.
To keep myself focused and brief, I promise to only share what fits on one side of a 3×5 filecard.
The file card. The notecard. A small piece of lined paper. Blank white, or colored.
Three inches by five inches. They’re typically printed with eleven lines.
Highly useful. I consider them an essential tool for a writer.
Easy enough to carry anywhere, they’re old school. Like a pencil. They can be anti-technology. Turn off your phone, your computer, and focus your effort on the little card in front of you.
I usually carry around a stack but if I’m pressed for time or room, I’ll fold a couple, put them in my pocket, grab a pencil or pen.
Here’s this week’s file card:
Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories – A New York Times Magazine photo essay on General Pencil Company. “Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence. They help to rescue us from oblivion.”
Genemapper – This near-future novel follows a “leaf and flower color” designer as he solves the mysterious collapse of a crop he designed. Full of ideas, especially around from-scratch genetic design.
The Chaco Quarterly because “one must distinguish between Information, knowledge, and wisdom.” Wisdom distilled into 90 seconds because there’s not enough wisdom in the world.
That wraps this first issue. What do you think?
Happy New Year!
Over the holidays, I unsubscribed from dozens of newsletters. I was very critical in thinking through whether a newsletter belonged in my email box. Was it helping me stay informed? Was it inspiring? Or, was it wasting (virtual) space? Here are a few of the newsletters I subscribe to stay up to date on biotech, pharma and synthetic biology news.
- Biofuels Digest
- BIO Smartbrief
- Genetic Engineering News
- Life Science Nation
- Pharmaceutical Executive
Biotech Investment Newsletters
Synthetic Biology Newsletters
- NeoLife – “Neo.life is an online magazine (in beta) for the leaders, pioneers, and early adopters of the Neobiological Revolution.”
NY Local Newsletters
- Lacerta Bio – This is my friend’s Carlos Velez newsletter. It focuses on licensing for biopharma and medical devices.
- Westchester Biotech Project
I subscribe to few general business, sales, and inspirational newsletters from the following superstars:
- James Altucher’s idea newsletter
- Chris Brogan’s weekly marketing newsletter
- Kai Davis’ marketing for freelancers newsletter
- Anthony Iannarino’s sales blog
- Jeff Walker’s product marketing newsletter
What are you reading? Are there biotech newsletters that I missed?
Have you subscribed to messagingLAB’s newsletter? Sign up here.
Good Riddance 2017
It was a good year, but not without its challenges.
The TL;DR is:
- mL grew more than 10 percent but is still down from its 2015 high.
- I co-authored and published What’s Your Bio Strategy?
- I moderated a panel at SynBioBeta SF17 and keynoted at Biofabricate 4 and enjoyed it.
- I now live with myaesthenia gravis.
- I started a novel that’s been in my head for more than ten years.
- I took time off to travel from Boston to Montreal on a family cruise. I also spent some quality time in the Adirondacks.
My three words were bold, creative, authority and I kept those in mind all year long.
New York City and my microcosm in Brooklyn was depressed after the 2016 election. (For God’s sake, there was a planned victory party – at the intersection of President and Clinton streets just a few blocks from I live.)
The sense of the unknown and dread filled the air. I mean you could, you really could, feel it. And I don’t say that lightly.
I counseled friends to focus on ONE issue. I suggested focusing on what you could control. I knew trying to make sense of everything would be overwhelming. That’s proved true.
I promised myself I’d focus on science and education. I emailed and called my senators and representatives when a science or education issue came up.
As the year progressed, my focus became local. I started participating in fights against charter schools. I started calling representatives, at the local and state level on sad state of the New York City subways. This was me being bold.
As we enter 2018, I’d like to do a better job helping those who are less fortunate. Especially, those who don’t understand or speak the language, nor how the system works. As a communicator, that is one of my most important jobs.
Karl’s Life Personal
2017 was a weird year.
One morning in April, I woke up seeing double. I went to the emergency room and spent a day and night undergoing a battery of tests.
I thought I had a brain tumor. I thought I had suffered a stroke. Luckily, those diagnoses were ruled out quickly.
36-hours into my visit, the neurologist arrived and said, “I’m getting you out of here. It seems like you have myaesthenia gravis.”
I wore an eye patch for nearly two months and learned that in New York City, no one looks at you twice with an eye patch. I also learned a lot of people have suffered worse – from migraine’s to Bell’s Palsy, cancer and strokes.
It took another month to get the final diagnosis: Myaesthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease.
An excellent neuro-opthalmologist treated me with steroids. After two months, my vision was back to normal.
In retrospect, it feels like it was stress induced (though my doctor wouldn’t agree). I hadn’t been taking care of myself. I was doubting my business. I was overwhelmed by a book I was writing. Two of boys were making major transitions. I thought I was ready. Maybe I wasn’t.
I’m better now and appreciate the importance of good health.
Once the illness ordeal ended, late in June, both Alejandro and Felix graduated. Alejandro graduated from Bard High School Early College. He had been accepted to Cornell and would be going in the fall. Felix graduated from fifth grade and joined his brother, Tomás, at the excellent Math and Science Exploratory (middle) school.
My parents traveled from California, attended the graduations, then we drove to Boston. There, we joined my sister, and her two kids. We boarded the Maasdaam and took a week long cruise along the east coast down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.
I had never cruised before but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The best thing was the mornings: I’d get up and take a table at one of the restaurants, write in my journal and drink coffee as the ship woke up. Eventually, my father would join me to read the paper. Then little by little our family would arrive.
The only downside was the food. It was excellent but I learned that I had little self-control and by the end of the fifth day, I had chronic heartburn. I’m sure that was due to the over eating.
Karl’s Life messagingLAB
messagingLAB started the year with a two big projects that abruptly came to an end in March. I wasn’t prepared and had to scramble.
Those projects were interesting, pushed me to use digital marketing skills that I hadn’t used in years, as well as coming up with creative marketing solutions for my clients.
Later in the year, two projects required me to draw upon public relations skills that I also hadn’t used in years. One of those projects resulted in some pretty spectacular media placements.
I lost one piece of business because the project ended (we’re still friendly and looking for ways to work together); one piece ended because they ran out of money (we had a great relationship); and one piece of business I lost because the add-on was deemed very expensive.
I lost three proposals because messagingLAB was too expensive. I didn’t like that but took those losses as lessons to work harder to explain the value in hiring me.
I also celebrated five years of working with one client. That was a significant milestone and says a lot about the relationship we have.
I took a bold financial risk# in the middle of the year that didn’t pay off and ended the year at a loss. I’ve been in the hole before and it’s no fun, so I’m taking aggressive steps to move on. (#No, it wasn’t Bitcoin, though I believe an online currency is an inevitability.)
I decided to examine messagingLAB’s offerings. I added media relations and am making it a policy to start all projects with a roadmapping session. I’m also creating a training company to help people understand the opportunities presented by biotechnology.
What’s Your Bio Strategy?
In November, John Cumbers and I published What’s Your Bio Strategy? We interviewed 25 trailblazing academics, entrepeneurs and thought leaders.
It was an incredible experience. And it helped cement me as an author and authority.
I started my career writing music reviews. My first published (and paid!) articles were interviews. I’ve written dozens over the years. The group interviewed for WYBS were among the best.
John invited me to moderate a session at SynBioBeta on Strategy. A month later, I gave a keynote at Biofabricate.
I’ll admit that in both cases, I was very nervous – it’s been many years since I took the stage – so I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. For SynBioBeta, I spoke to all the people on the panel before we got on stage.
For Biofabricate, I rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed. That way, when I got on stage, the presentation was automatic.
Both were well received.
In December, I taught a bio strategy class to a non-technical audience. They enjoyed it. I also appeared on the FutureTech podcast.
So, I plan to do speaking and teaching in 2018.
The Dragon Burns
When the boys were very young, I would wake up with them, help them go back to sleep. Usually, I couldn’t fall back asleep. So, I picked up the bad habit of surfing infomercials.
Because infomercials among the most sophisticated marketing stories you can study.
At the time, Alejandro had already started to read chapter books. And like most boys in second, third, fourth grade, he read a lot of books about dragons.
Tomás would continue this and to this day, at age 13, he reads fantasy novels over other genres.
(He also plays Magic the Gathering, which includes a whole story line (Tarkhir) about dragon lords and how all the dragons are extinct. But one guy goes back in time to makes peace among the clans and revive the dragons.)
One night, I had this idea that it would be great to order a dragon from an infomercial.
The idea stuck and I ended up working the idea into a screenplay with a friend. We worked on it for more than a year.
We got busy and dropped the project. But the story never left me. It’s been brewing for five years. During that time, I’ve gotten a lot smarter about what we can create with biology.
I started writing the novel in September and joined a writers group. I workshopped the first 30 pages and got a positive response.
I’m going to continue the book and will tap into my community to get the science right.
It feels like a big book. It’s about applying creativity in new ways.
And now that I’m a bit more than half way through the draft I’m wondering where I’m going to go with it. I’ve written novels and screenplays in the past and wrote them for the enjoyment of it.
That’s how the book feels right now. So, I’m just enjoying the process.
I have no idea what 2018 will hold but I’m excited to define my three words, focus on growing messagingLAB, enjoying the writing, and my family.
2017 started with a sense of dread. 2018 looks to be very exciting.