I had three conversations with people today asking why I didn’t do a video with Robert Scoble while he was here. All of the calls were from friends (some new, some old).
The simple answer is that I didn’t want to. I have some cool clients I could talk to Robert about. An Arabic Social Networking site – and my partner is an Iraqi citizen currently working with the US Olympic team in Lake Placid New York. He wants to be the first Iraqi citizen to qualify for the Winter Olympics. That is a VERY cool story. But it isn’t mine to tell.
Another client has an Enterprise application that could actually change the global economy, and how companies do business on a global scale. Again, not my story to tell.
Would they have been interesting to Robert – absolutely.
But I didn’t invite Robert here to listen to me – I invited him to listen to the San Antonio tech community (or at least a very small slice of it). When the time is right, my clients may talk to Robert. Or not.
If I would have done a video with Robert, or even had my clients here doing a video with Robert, then my hands would have been dirty – I would have been serving my own interests, and not the interests of my community.
Did I profit from Robert coming here? Absolutely.
I met Robert for the first time in person. I met his producer Rocky, and we got along very well. I made friends out of iFriends.
I also met the Chairman of Rackspace. And the co-founders of Rackspace. CEOs and engineers from local companies. People that I can meet people through. And friends I haven’t seen in a while because we are all busy building stuff.
I did profit. But I didn’t take anything away from my primary goal – sharing what we build in San Antonio with the rest of the world.
I could have taken a more self-centered approach. I would have gotten some air time. I would have made a momentary blip on the Internet Radar. By electing NOT to do that I made friends. I met people I can work with in the future to showcase even more San Antonio Tech.
And in the long run, I benefit if San Antonio Tech benefits.
It is simply an investment in the economic infrastructure I depend on to feed my kids, and pay my mortgage. And an investment in relationships that are formed first on an ingrained trust that I am NOT just looking out for my own interests. I need a thriving tech community here for me to make a living here. And I need people that trust me to work for them, and not for me.
I am planting seeds. And I am patient. I have no expectations that they will bloom tomorrow. But I am not going anywhere. I can wait.
A final example. I met the Chairman and one of the co-founders of Rackspace for breakfast WED morning – before Scoble arrived. I had not met either of them, and I wanted to make sure they knew who I was – so I wore a Rackspace T-Shirt (I am a Rackspace Solutions Partner, so I get some swag).
Much later in the day I was sitting in the Menger Hotel bar, waiting for Robert and Rocky to check in and then come down so I could give them a ride. The bartender saw my Rackspace shirt and asked if I worked at Rackspace. I told her no, and she was visibly disappointed.
But then I told her that I had breakfast and lunch with the Chairman of Rackspace and she immediately brightened up and started gushing about how her husband was a Sophomore at San Antonio College studying computer science and that he wanted desperately to intern for Rackspace. I could tell from her level of interest in Rackspace that her husband must have a LOT of interest in Rackspace if he got her that excited about the company.
So I asked her to write his contact information down for me, and I promised to give it to Rackspace. Was a simple thing for me to do.
The guy sitting at the bar with me said, “Man, I wouldn’t do that – there are only so many markers you can call in”.
And that’s the way HE saw it. I saw a chance to do a very little thing that may mean a very great deal to someone.
In my thank you email message this morning to the Rackspace team that helped put this event with Scoble together I included the kids name and phone number. And I said that I didn’t really expect them to do anything with it, but that I promised I would pass it on to Rackspace. I also mentioned how passionate this guy’s wife was and suggested the husband bust be a serious “Racker“.
Later this afternoon I received an email from one of the co-founders of Rackspace telling me he would include this kid in the nominees he made for the internship positions.
It took 2 minutes of my life to do a nice thing. I am not even sure yet if it was a meaningful thing. But I felt better for having done it.
And that is exactly what people miss about charity/helping/being a friend or just being nice. It isn’t about what it costs YOU, or what it brings YOU. It’s about the affect small acts of kindness can have on people.
But mostly it is about liking the guy I look at in the mirror every morning.