I, Elaine Ou, am nobody. No one outside of my immediate circle of acquaintances has ever heard of me.
But plenty of people have heard of Stanford. If I attach Stanford to my name, then their reputation is projected onto mine. That one word tells a story that would have taken much longer to tell had I tried to explain myself with no point of reference.
The team has spent the week making cold calls to businesses all over the country. Not surprisingly, nobody south of the Mason-Dixon line has ever heard of Barnacle. When we ping them out of nowhere, their defenses go up.
But then we say Barnacle is a startup that came out of Stanford.
Just like SnapChat. Just like Instagram. Just like Google.
Borrowed reputations lend context to the unfamiliar. In Australia, I told people that I went to college at Caltech. Few people over there have heard of Caltech. It’s that school from The Big Bang Theory, I would explain. I went to the school from the TV show. They have heard of the TV show.
Over here, CBS and Chuck Lorre use Caltech to provide a story for the show. Overseas, the show provides a story for Caltech.
The kids at Team Barnacle are continuing our cold-call campaign for the rest of the week. I’ll be slinging phones again first thing tomorrow morning. I’m calling from Barnacle, I might say. We’re a startup that came out of Stanford.
I think I’ve heard of that company, they might reply.