For millennial Brett Knutson, the journey towards true success starts with a problem — and a burning desire to solve it.
He had a ton of both when he was building his fourth company, Hive, in 2013. Brett had very little to zero background in tech but a lot of love as a caring son for his disabled mom.
Drawing on his experience as a sales executive, his ability to build strong relationships, and a natural warmth towards people, Brett formed a technology team to productize his vision: a social app that brings people with the same interests together, especially those living closely in a local community. The app, he hoped, would enable his mom, who lost her driver’s license and struggled to find friends, to discover new acquaintances in the local community and enjoy warm and supportive company despite her disability.
The app delivered on its promise and more.
According to Brett, his mom did find many local friends who, like her, are interested in early education. She also built strong friendships with people who loved dogs. But, on top of helping his mom develop meaningful and vibrant relationships around things she was passionate about, Brett’s vision also attracted the attention of angel investors and venture capitalists who saw strong revenue potential for his mobile app, including the co-founder of EA Games as lead investor. As a result, his company generated a $20 million market valuation and is already used and loved by hundreds of celebrities and influencers, including YouTubers, Nickelodeon, Disney and reality TV show stars.
Unlike Facebook, which generally helps you find existing friends all over the world, Hive lets you discover new ones based on your hobbies and interests — across the planet or just right in your physical neighborhood.
Care for a bike ride around the park or to exchange dinner recipes in person with a new friend? Check. Want to discuss issues, tips, and ideas in-depth with people online who also care about the things you’re crazy about? Check.
What You Don’t Get in Networking Events and Coffee Meetings
I’ve interviewed Brett, and he shared a lot of fascinating ideas and tactical tips for professionals and other entrepreneurs who want to take their game to the next level.
Zeroing in on the concept of “social,” Brett said:
“Everybody goes to networking events and coffee meetings, bringing business cards. I think that’s so wrong. A business card is an excuse for someone not to put your phone number in their phone. A business card is an excuse for someone not to follow you on Instagram. A business card is an excuse for someone to not care.”
Coffee meetings, he added, only go so long as you have consumed a cup or two. And, what can you really build in that short span of time, he asked.
In contrast, a community of people strongly bound by the same passions is exactly where lasting and meaningful relationships can grow.
To Get the Most Out of Networking, You Have to Be Willing to Give the Most
If networking for you means just meeting a person so they can help you out with a problem, then you have the wrong mindset, according to Brett. The right approach would be to proactively “add value” to everyone you happen to meet, without expecting anything in return.
“Even if you’re new or just a beginner, you can still add value to even the most successful people,” he said.
“Not everybody needs value-add when it comes to business but you can still try to add value outside of business. A lot of super successful people have relationship problems, and sometimes just being a good listener and helping guide people through their relationship problems can add value. Be a friend.”
Having met many tech and business leaders as a successful entrepreneur himself, Brett recounted his friendship with Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak.
“When I would have dinner with Woz, we would just talk about highschool pranks that he did and laser pointers and nerdy stuff. We never talk about Apple, and we never talk about my business. We just talk as friends.”
From wanting to solve problems to building startups, Brett encapsulates the ideal entrepreneur persona: an active leader driven by ambition but steered by heart. He served as a sales rep and sales manager in the corporate world before starting or co-founding several businesses — including a direct sales company that failed, a profitable watch company (Amare), an acquired medical answering service (Mediphone), Hive and others.
For people who want to achieve sustained success, Brett offers this final takeaway:
“‘I help them, now they want to help me, and I’ll get mine,’ is short-term thinking. Be smart and think long-term.”
If you want to learn exactly how Brett raised money for Hive and how to use these secrets to raise money for any type of business, check out the detailed guide at www.BrettKnutson.coOpinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.