The global pandemic forced you to isolate. That you get a pass for. Your insistence to stay 100% virtual in 2023 though? That I can't support.
If you do anything that requires building trust, like say, convincing VCs to invest in your company, I urge you to close your laptop and venture into the physical world.
Now, advice like this rarely sticks without context or texture. But you're in luck because I know this. And doubly in luck because I just got back from a 2 week trip to São Paulo Brazil with tons of stories to share that link to this advice... IRL FTW.
So let's go (vai!)...
I won't pretend like I'm unaffected by the siren's song of Zoom convenience. There are many unfortunate days when I don't take a single step outside my house. My work is computer-based, my teammates are global and remote, and I work with founders mostly over Zoom. If I wanted to, I could easily convince myself that staying at home in my PJs all day was the right thing to do.
But instead, I did the complete opposite two weeks ago and flew down to Brazil.
How'd that happen?
It really started two years ago with a random meeting that was the precursor to this most recent trip. My best friend, Parker Treacy, had moved to Brazil full time to start his company Cobli in 2013 and along the way met another entrepreneur named Brian Requarth. Parker asked me to chat with Brian about his new company because he thought I could help.
As many of you know, the company Brian started is called Latitud and I decided to help with their first cohort not knowing it would become the A16Z backed rocketship it is today (or that Brian would become a Shark in Mexico...😅).
That meeting was over Zoom though, so how is this a lesson in IRL?
Although my initial meeting with Brian and conversation with Latitud took place over Zoom, my continued engagement probably wouldn't have happened if it weren't for something Brian did.
Soon after my first workshop with Latitud, I happened to be in Sonoma where Brian was living at the time. We exchanged texts about meeting up but it was hard to coordinate. While at a nice restaurant with my family, I heard someone say my name. It was Brian. He noted the restaurant we'd be going to and showed up to say hi, drop off a nice bottle of wine as a thank you gift, and just get a solid, IRL handshake.
I haven't seen the studies, but I estimate one solid handshake and a couple minutes of pleasantries is the equivalent of 10 Zoom calls and 100 emails when it comes to building a relationship.
I honestly am not sure I would have done more than my one workshop with Latitud if it weren't for that effort Brian made to see me in person.
Brian, Latitud, and I have now done a lot of work together and expect to collaborate even more.
1st IRL lesson - if you think a relationship is valuable, make the extra effort to see them IRL. IRL can accelerate trust tremendously.
How strong is the relationship? I now go to Brazil 2x per year partially to support the community that Latitud introduced me to. Pretty darn strong!
So what other lessons can I share from my trip? There were a lot of IRL experiences that you all can learn from. My trip was event-filled and the biggest pull was not work this time. I actually decided to go down for my birthday and then add some more startup-related events around it!
Here were the top IRL experiences from my trip and the lessons you can learn from them:
Hat tip to my best friends in São Paulo for organizing my birthday party. I didn’t expect anything big, but they went all out. We had a fantastic dinner, toured the city on a party bus with dancing, and ended the night at karaoke. It was perfect.
The next day we had so much to talk about. What’d you think about the food? Remember how much so-and-so danced on the bus? Can you believe how good Jason’s rendition of “A Whole New World” was? (made the last one up)
The big reminder here is how important live, FUN experiences are. Yes networking is important, and yes warming up investors in person helps…but gosh, try to to add more in person experiences with some silliness and laughter. It will soothe your soul, build stronger bonds with friends, and energize you…
(ok, enough of this personal growth stuff…on to some business lessons! 😂)
One of the highlights of my trip was hosting the "Festa dos Founders" at a beautiful restaurant called Quincho. It was a combination of a live workshop and a party, where founders and investors had the opportunity to network with each other and receive live coaching from me.
I often test people over Zoom on their elevator pitches. This was different, and it showed!
The takeaway for everyone is in-person, off-the-cuff pitching is much more challenging than presenting behind a camera from the comfort of your home…and you should be doing it more often. By putting yourself out there and testing your pitch in the real world, you become more comfortable and adaptable in any situation. It's crucial to step outside your comfort zone and embrace these face-to-face interactions. You never when you might have to pitch!
After seeing how much people enjoy Dawn Patrol (the morning coffee meetup I host for founders in LA) I decided to organize a similar event while in São Paulo.
The turnout was fantastic, and we bonded over warm conversations and yummy coffees at Deus Ex Machina in São Paulo (fun fact: i lived across the street from Deus in Venice, CA for many years!).
This experience reinforced the notion that short, casual in-person interactions can be incredibly powerful. Dawn Patrol works so well in part because there are no lofty expectations early in the morning. Before people have had their coffee, founders and investors meet up in a casual setting without a ton of pressure, allowing genuine connections to happen.
Not every in-person interaction needs to be intense or formal to be valuable. Much like Dawn Patrol, even a 30-minute conversation over a cup of coffee can help build connections and foster relationships.
On my last night in São Paulo, a friend and I organized an intimate dinner at his home. We invited both new and old friends from the tech community, including YC-backed companies and hot Series B startups.. The evening was filled with laughter, meaningful discussions, and connections.
There’s something magical about spending quality time over a meal. It sounds simple but that’s because it is.
So, my last IRL lesson is extremely simple and tactical: I encourage you to make the effort to have group dinners with 4-10 people once a month. Minimum. It doesn't matter if they are with new or old friends, or for work or pleasure; any permutation works. Just do it. You’re missing out if not.
My trip to São Paulo was an awesome reminder of the power of in-person experiences. Not new lessons… just reminders because these are things we all inherently know but COVID made us forget. Now that I'm back in LA in my remote work grind, I'm doing everything I can to integrate these IRL reminders into my life here!
And while IRL experiences do tons for our lives overall, there are specific impacts for my readers in the startup world. The impacts IRL has on building trust to help raise that round of capital, hire that new talent, or even convince a founder to take your money (for my investor readers) go light years beyond what can be achieved through screens.
Step away from your computer, close that laptop, and venture into the physical world. Don't miss out on the magic of in-person connections and unlock their potential for your fundraising and life — IRL FTW.