I am sitting in the ballroom of the Hungarian National Museum, noticing the ceiling paintings and admiring the intricate details. It’s a beautiful example of Neoclassical architecture and art.
As I lower my gaze I take stock of the smart and well-dressed group sitting at my table. I’m at the Startup Safari Budapest’s invite-only VIP dinner.
This event held at the Hungarian National Museum’s reception hall, perhaps one of Budapest’s most refined venues. I am sitting with the who’s who of the Hungarian and European tech scene. I take another sip of the famed ‘Tokaj’ dessert wine.
They have no idea who I am, but everybody knows who they were. Over the course of 2 hours, I get introduced to some of the top players in this field.
How did I get there?
Let me start from the beginning.
5 years ago, I got an email from… myself. Spammers often try to bypass the junk mail filters by sending you emails from your own name.
I initially disregarded the message. A few days later I came across it again but this time I noticed something peculiar. It had the accents on the vowels the right way for a Hungarian name.
I wondered, what spammer would know or care about this? So I opened the message.
It was not a spam, it turned out. There was another person with the exact same first and last name who was also in the tech field. As I would find out later, we were almost the same age and looked similar enough that people would confuse us for one another at the conference he would invite me to. In Hungary, when you meet someone else with the same name, you called them your “Drusza”. Yes, we have words for everything, including every type of sausage under the sun.
So this perfect stranger reached out to me and says he would like to meet. I’m busy with deadlines for an upcoming product release but this seems to be too good of an opportunity to miss out.
So I reply to the email and catch my Drusza just in time. He was visiting with his wife and child and they had a flight leaving late that evening.
So we meet up.
Within a few minutes of conversation, we realized we had more in common besides our names and country of birth. For one, we had the same approach to network building: give and serve our network and community whenever possible, without keeping track or expecting something in return.
He originally learned about me in a meeting with a mutual contact of ours, Chris. Chris was trying to send a file by email to Peter. As he typed in our name, my email address came up. So Peter immediately told Chris “Hey, that’s not my email. Who’s that.”. He was fascinated by the fact that he found someone with his name in San Francisco of all places, and he felt he had to meet me.
Over the next few years, him and his Partner Balazs would come to visit and I’d meet up with them and do my best to help them, making introductions and organizing social events when they were visiting.
Years later, when my Drusza started organizing the Budapest edition of Startup Safari, he reached out and invited me. The first year I came as an attendee, the second year he invited me to speak. In Hungarian. I had already spoken at various conferences but never in my mother tongue.
As it is with Hungarian hospitality, he made sure we were very comfortable and taken care of, organizing opportunities for the speakers to socialize and to really get to know each other while enjoying some of the best eateries Budapest has to offer. Peter has relationships with some incredible people who share our values of integrity and paying it forward. Professional success or a large bank account is not what grants access to his inner circle.
Over the course of this conference and other opportunities that came out of my friendship with Peter, I made a number of great contacts and friendships. Many of whom went on to reach the pinnacle of their profession and whom I know I can count at a moments notice.
Do you want this for yourself?
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What has been possible for you through your network?
What’s possible for you when you have a powerful personal and professional network?
Comment below and tell me. I’d love to hear.
What a fascinating story!! Thanks for sharing!
What is your favorite “unexpected connection” story ?
When you met someone and unexpected and great things came out of it.