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The Long Term Relationships

2 minute read
by Alex Hillman

“the long term relationships that lasted was with a network of people – much larger than those in your current company” This quote comes from a history lesson by Steve Blank about how Silicon Valley came to be what it is.

The important lesson in here is not that by following these rules you can become a replica of the Silicon Valley, though I fear that many will cargo-cult their way in that direction.

The lesson is that Silicon Valley wasn’t always Silicon Valley, and it didn’t become Silicon Valley by mimicing other cities. It became that way by focusing on a culture of long-term relationships. Not the fast and dirty “what can you do for me?”, but the kind that – as Steve categorizes it, acts with an understanding of what it means to “Pay it Forward”.

In an email following up from this week’s post about Philly Startup Leaders, the topic of “growth companies” came up. Here’s what I said, as related to the “pay it forward” model.

I’ve spoken with [person’s name removed] at length about what can be done for early stage companies. One thing he and I tend to disagree on is the definition of a “growth” company. Most people read “growth” and punctuate it with “exit”. I don’t want that for Philadelphia, and I think that’s one of our biggest opportunities to differentiate. I’d be curious to hear how that differentiation factors into your strategy, if at all.

Here’s what I’d like to see: Philly-loyal companies grow, hire, grow and nurture talent. Talent spins off, creates next Philly-loyal company. Grows that, hires, nurtures talent. Repeat. Reinvest. Repeat. Reinvest. This addresses retention and hiring concerns. It also creates a rich culture of people who know how to start and grow companies in Philly.

I’ll put $100 of my own money today on [company name removed] being a part of this evolution in a big way. But they can’t know it we expect it of them. They just need to keep doing what they’re doing, and it’ll happen. I’m sure of it. $100 sure of it.

My personal goal? I want that pattern to be known as a “Philadelphia Exit” and be something that other cities strive to recreate.


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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.