Being Nice Matters

MARCH 21, 2013

On a relaxing Thanksgiving afternoon at home in Florida, I was surfing the web for tech talent at Penn. Without much effort, I happened upon Firefly and its founders: Justin Meltzer, Patrick Leahy and Dan Shipper. Their site offers a download-free screansharing customer support product, where confused users can instantly get help navigating websites. While learning all this on their site,, I saw an Olark Live Chat widget in the bottom of the screen light up. It was promising. Someone might be online.

So I wrote, "Hey, anyone there?"

"Yes," I got back. "How can we help you? Do you have any questions about Firefly?"

"Actually, no. Sorry." I replied, "I'm actually looking to talk to one of the founders. Who is this?"

"This is Dan. How can I help you?"

"Hey Dan. My name is Steve and I am a freshman at Penn. I'm really impressed by what you guys are doing and was wondering if you could meet to chat sometime."

"Sure, email me hereā€¦"

And just like that I had a meeting with Dan Shipper. If you want to hear more about what we discussed, check out this post. There are a few lessons to be learned from this interaction with Dan. First of all, it is useful to reach out to people doing interesting things in your industry. People love to hear that others think what they're doing is cool and they also love to talk about it. So take advantage of this.

But more importantly, Dan teaches a critical lesson about being approachable to everybody. He could have blown me off without any foreseeable consequences, but instead he took the time to sit down and chat with me. A good friend of mine, Randy, likes to say that "successful people always ask 'what can I do for you?'" and Dan embodies that idea beautifully. At the time, Dan stood to gain absolutely nothing from being nice to me. However, he was nice anyway. And interestingly enough, the very next day after I met with Dan, I was honored by a position on Dorm Room Fund. And not even a few weeks after that, DRF committed to fund Firefly, Dan's amazing startup.

Like Dan, we at DRF aim to be some of the most approachable and helpful people in Philly's entrepreneurial community. We are working hard putting on events, giving talks, holding panels, and meeting with the best and brightest student startups every day. If you're building something cool, or want to be building something cool in the near future, we'd love to talk to you. It's our jobs to ask "what can we do for you?" And we love our jobs.