Reid Hoffman and Joi Ito's H2 comes out of stealth

By Richard Nieva , written on May 22, 2013

From The News Desk

There are certainly many reflective points we can take from Facebook’s one-year anniversary as a public company this past weekend. But one of the chief among them is the reminder that today Web 2.0 companies are large, global companies.

Trying to take a company from promising startup to large-scale international operation is one of the core goals of H2, a professional network for C-suite executives in the technology industry spread out across eight countries, including the United States, Japan and England. Founded three years ago, the organization has quietly been building out the network and today comes out of stealth with the unveiling of a new website. The organization also announced its first conference, H2O, in the fall.

The organization – which was originally named Hemisphere, but was changed because the founders wanted something that also felt elemental -- has about 250 members, including senior level executives from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Greylock partner and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, entrepreneur Joi Ito, and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure are among the organization’s advisors. Right now, membership is referral only. Fees have been waived thus far in favor of building out the network, but members will have to start ponying up in 2014, says CEO and cofounder Nayan Patel.

Patel, who was also LinkedIn’s director of international operations, says each city’s chapter has about 25 people and meets over dinner every other month. There's a clear link between LinkedIn and H2’s philosophies: Both prize your network as your most important asset, whether you connect online or off.

There are other organizations for high level executives, like World 50, but this one seems to have more of a startup and entrepreneurial bent.

Patel says members give each other advice in scaling both product and business infrastructures, and the aim is for members to build out “executive playbooks.” “They need playbooks, and they need them to be fresh,” says Patel. “Things can change from one year to the next.” Consider the ever-evolving common wisdom on how to enter the Chinese market.

I ask Patel if there is the concern of homogeneity when top executives from across the technology industry come together to develop such playbooks -- if the worst case scenario is some kind of groupthink. He says there is no worry of that because members are creating strategies tailored to their own companies, while getting advice oftentimes from one on one conversations with others.

“We’re just providing the connective tissue,” says Patel.

[Image courtesy FlyingSinger]