I used to hate the saying, “It’s who you know, not what you know.” Mainly because I didn’t know anybody. It seems, that has changed.
Recently, I had dinner with a gaggle of VC and entrepreneurial luminaries. It was rarefied company. I had to marvel. How did a brown gal from East L.A. get here? I realized I had been invited–which was my first clue. I had social capital.
Social capital, a fancy way of saying it’s who you know, is what greases the skids. You accrue social capital through exposure and access.
The first exposure that would lead me to that recent dinner came when I attended a public high school in a middle class neighborhood where the kids all talked about going to college. This exposure changed my ideas about what was possible, but it wasn’t until I got into Stanford that I had access. Suddenly I was surrounded by super talented students and the chance to have a relationship with them meant all sorts of access–even to a nice meal when their folks were in town.
Well, one open door led to another and I had the courage to step through them–challenging myself along the way. Over time, I began to see the benefit of forming connections and staying connected. It’s something that played a particularly powerful role in my life when I became an entrepreneur. My openness to meeting new people and keeping my old relationships up-to-date helped me to find advisors, investors and customers.
The interesting thing about social capital is that most can accrue it, as long as you are positioned for exposure and access. You can expose yourself to a good many things by getting informed–read, visit, study–surround yourself with the people, places and things that comprise the arena to which you want access. Though bear in mind, as my own story illuminates, access does not come over night. It’s an investment in your true desires. But I have found every locked door has a key.
So it turns out that social capital matters. Why? Because every part of our capital eco-system is made up of one common denominator: people. Time to get to know them.