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The Arithmetic Behind Engineering Serendipity at Web Summit

About 12 inches of rain fuller than the week before, we Texans and one Estonian paratrooper are packing up the travel trunks like a gang of roadies and heading to IRELAND. Last year Ireland was something special. At that time, Vinli was just a team of five with a mission: figure out what the heck UK/European developers want. While we think we got closer to uncovering that special sauce, we also happened upon two integral partners for Vinli: Seval Oz of Continental-ITS and Jeff Hagins of SmartThings– now a Samsung company!

Heck, we even ran into our pals from Keen IO and Twilio–if you are an evangelist or community cat, these two companies are pretty much the gold standard for how it's done!

This year is an exciting one too. Following the closing of Vinli's Series A round, we qualified for the START program at WebSummit – an exclusive club with primo positioning of expo stand adjacent to Google. Last year Vinli took part of the BETA program; situating us next to thousands of startups and entrepreneurs looking to make it big! Some of the most exciting companies from last year’s START program, e.g., Getaround, have gone on to do great things like raising another $24M – led by mutual hacker, Cox Automotive – for expansion to tons of new markets and more awesomeness.

And let’s not forget that we learned a few tricks last year at Web Summit. In addition to being witness to one of the most well organized events of its size, we also put together a strategy for determining how we set our event engagement metrics. Our team has found a little formula that translates to massive wins for the company which we're happy to share it with you. While this is pretty simple arithmetic, we want to make sure you are equipped accordingly. We know y'all would do the same :D – right?!

NOTE: You and your team will need to figure out what your ratios beyond engagement look like.

OUR FIRST AND ONLY RULE FOR ATTENDING ANY EVENT

HUSTLE as hard as you can! i.e., see every human as a potentially exciting conversation; be open to making a possible business/working acquaintance; and get ready to meet your could-be next best friend.

You are already in a place with people who share similar interests as you, why not try to meet as many people as humanly possible? A few things to get in the way of your potential: too many of those malty beverages (Guinness) and too little sleep! On the latter, I suggest packing your magnesium, melatonin, eye masks for flights and ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones (if you've got 'em).

THE MATH

Time to actually meet people – remember, this is a compressed sprint of three days. You can literally meet people in-flight, at your airbnb, hostel or hotel, during lunch and dinner AND on those storied Web Summit Pub crawls, NB, rule above (max 3 pints y'all!)

24 hours in a day = 6 hours of sleep + 18 hours to meet people

1440 minutes in a day = 360 minutes of sleep + 1080 minutes to meet people

86400 seconds in a day = 21600 seconds of sleep + 64800 seconds to meet people

1 conversation = 5 minutes

1080 minutes in a day / ((1 conversation)/5 minutes) = 216 conversations

How many days will you be at Web Summit? 3? You can do the math :)

EXAMPLE TRIP

On this trip, you decide to go play in the Wicklow Mountains or head west for the Cliffs of Moher like Mark did for a day and need to sacrifice a day at the Summit. Here’s the math for that.

(2 days of hustle X (1080 minutes)) / (5 minutes / 1 conversation ) = 432 conversations

If there are 25000 people at Web Summit, this means you’ll be chatting with a small percentage!

(432 conversations / 25000 potential conversations) * 100 = 1.73%

RECAP

  • Over 2 days, you can have roughly 400 conversations (bring team members and see this number multiply)

  • You should be able to start conversations with roughly 1.5% of all 25000+ attendees

  • Don’t feel discouraged, you’ll miss talking with roughly 24600 people!

  • Track the number of interactions and conversations you have. Over the course of the year, you'll be pleasantly surprised (so will your investors and founders) by how many people you've met. Among the mix will likely be some new running mates, partners and new employees.

If you want to have a successful Web Summit and bring back the booty for your company, go talk to people. I’ve laid out the math like a good primary school teacher.

Now that you’ve got the math down, we will need to define qualitative tools for making certain you connect with people. The reason I love working with my team at Vinli is their interest in genuine human interaction and relationships. Andre and Blake are two of the best in the world at lighting up a conversation with a total stranger, and I’d like to share a few of their friend-winning, rapport-building techniques.

Look at everyone: Look at the person – in the eyes – you wish to speak with and identify something that could be of mutual interest. Remember, you’re at Web Summit and you can assume a common interest in technology.

Below are questions to ask yourself before approaching someone

  • What kind of tech are they interested in?

  • Does their name tag give you any hints about them?

  • What kind of shoes are they wearing–are they a skater, golfer, runner, barefoot extremist?

  • What is on their shirt?

  • Do they look happy, sad, hungry or thirsty?

Muster your courage to start a conversation. Here are some nice conversation starters. While they are not scientifically proven, clinically, I’ve seen them engage people time and time again.

  • “Nice sandals! Where'd you get them?"

  • “You’re with X-company, I’ve heard of you. What’s your role there?”

  • “What kind of coffee (tea?) are you getting here?” – waiting in line for a coffee

  • “Where are you from? I’m from X-City”

  • “Your shirt is awesome! It reminds me of OR I’ve heard of y’all!” (Yes, you should try the Texas vernacular, "Y'ALL" – possibly the best English linguistic innovation. We're taking it worldwide.

  • “I noticed you mentioned X-anything! I love that X-anything!” – overhearing a conversation

  • “My CEO told me to meet people… What’s your name” :)

Lastly, I’d strongly suggest taking pictures with everyone you meet and tweet them out for posterity and fame. Pictures help etch those conversations and interactions in your brain; leaving all parties with a stronger and more profound experience.

Lastly, you might work in a hug (H/T Tim Falls) if you're feeling it or at least a bro-hug. You know, that bro-shake followed by a hug in. Those from stand-off-ish cultures will certainly remember the awkward moment.

That’s it! If you want to meet the incredible people attending Web Summit, create a goal for interaction and use this to ensure you make the most out of your time – for you and your company. Trust me, the more people you can chat with, the more you will learn about yourself, your company and the more fun you will have.

If you find yourself at Web Summit, please drop by Vinli's stand on Wednesday (next to Google in the main RDS hall). Our team will be in hard-to-miss turquoise Vinli shirts and sporting matching turquoise Chuck Taylors. As always, we anticipate an epic event with epic friendships soon to be made and complete randomness to be experienced. Our team’s motto is “engineering serendipity,” and I for one can’t wait to! See y'all there!

Tweet us: @cscottgeorge @blakeburris @anakkurt @vinliDev