Leverage your network

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

During my lecture on the VC/PE industry at HR College yesterday, I was asked by a student about ways to locate  angels and VCs if he had a business plan in mind.   I gave him the same answer I was always given: networking.   A thought did spring to my mind – it is now much easer to find a VC or angel than it was twelve years ago when my partner (Rajeev Tipnis) and I were desperately seeking seed funding to get NetMorf, one of my first entrepreneurial ventures, off the ground.

The Internet has made sources of capital like angels and venture capitalists much more accessible, especially in the age of social networks, blogs and tweets.   Coincidentally, just yesterday, Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge (formerly IDG Boston) put up a thought-provoking opinion on the motivations for VCs to blog and tweet.     Angels have now organized into networks and have their own websites and some of them are as accessible as VCs.   There used to be a time when getting to an angel or a VC was your first test as an entrepreneur.  (For the record, I make it a point to be very accessible via LinkedIn or Twitter and in person at conferences and just about anywhere in public.)

The question to ask yourself is:  am I using my networks well?  Both online and offline?

Building your local/regional network offline can take years of conscious effort; in my experience it takes three years of conscious networking to begin from scratch and achieve a large enough set of connections that can be  moderately useful to you.  Five years gets you a good network.  But social networking online can accelerate the process greatly.

Once you have an offline and an online network you have to “work” them both.  Know what to ask of whom and how.  Unfortunately, there is no guide to get this right.   Perhaps I can get into a discussion of best practices in another post if I get specific questions.

Even 15 years ago, the pre-pubescent Internet was a great resource.  In my case in addition to my real world connections, the Web has played a major role in every career move I made:

  • 1992 – first job out of school in Utica NY: applied via email
  • 1995 – second job in Boston: found the job on Usenet
  • 1998 – Rajeev and I found angel investors for NetMorf via Web searches
  • 1998 – Recruited a CEO for our startup off an online resume bank
  • 2003 – Researched and applied to business school online
  • 2006 – Got a lead to my current investment role via Linked In

Remember the days when you had to mail letters to friends across town or across the globe and then wait for days or weeks to hear back?   Today we tweet-out to each other instantaneously.  Our connected life is so much richer!   So go forth and work your network and good luck.

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  1. Anand Parasuram
    January 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

    So true. And to think of it, so many people stay away from these sites for fear of identity theft.

  2. Shyam Kamadolli
    January 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Now that Google Voice is also listening in on voice calls the privacy concern is spreading to voice calls as well. Personally, I think security needs to be traded off against convenience and GMail and GVoice and Facebook/LinkedIn etc. all provide a positive tradeoff.

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