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After taking a break in September, Conversations for Investing with our Values returned on the eve of All Hallow’s Eve. On October 30th, we met at Coffeebar on Water Street to talk about trust and how it affects our investing activities and decisions. I welcomed Loa Fridfinnson of Activ8 Corporate Relations as a guest-host.

Investment relationships require a high degree of trust – trust that the business is going to do what it says it’s going to do. But there is also an element of reciprocity – businesses want investors that they can trust, that will support them in fulfilling their vision, through good times and bad.

As an investor, how can you determine if a business and the team behind it is trust-worthy? Brand is one way. Whilst a logo and a website can convey some information about a business, brand goes beyond imagery. It conveys a business’ culture, the management team’s vision, and is done so in the tone and style through which key messages are communicated and how the business’ people behave. The way information can be quickly communicated over the internet and through social media can increase transparency. It can help you figure out if there is an alignment of values between an investor and an entrepreneur or business. How often do we “Google” someone, check out their LinkedIn profile, read someone’s blog or tweets in order to verify who they are, what they are saying, and what others are saying about them? But just as technology can help us find proof of trust-worthiness, honesty, and authenticity, it can also be manipulated. Good recommendations can be faked, as can whole company profiles, and bad references to someone or a business can be erased, leaving behind a stellar track record.

What about people who do not have a social media nor internet presence. Are they any less trust-worthy? Some people do not want to be found via the internet nor on social media. You may just have to figure out if you can trust them the old fashioned way – by meeting them in person.

Whilst most of the information conveyed via social media is data – that is, words and numbers, not emotions, feelings, nor energy – how can we build trust or determine trust-worthiness? Here are some of the things I look for:

  • Do they do what they say they are going to do – even in their online interaction
  • What kind of tone do they take in the language they use

Equally, when you are communicating via social media, remember that people on social media are real people – interact with compassion, kindness, and say hello 🙂

In my opinion, social media is an entry point – like an introduction from an acquaintance or even just by over-hearing a conversation in a café. In the field of investment, my engagement and interaction with investors is almost entirely in person and face-to-face. New introductions to investors have come from personal connections not social media. However, the likely flip-side is that investors are checking my internet and social media presence, to verify my qualifications and credentials, to see who I am connected with and what I am saying, all with a goal of determining whether I am a credible and trust-worthy ally to investors.

I believe someone’s trust-worthiness is something we need to experience. Look for ways of working together and collaborating, so that you can “walk a mile together” and build trust through experience.

We have a great line-up of topics and guest-hosts in the works for next year:

  • January 2013: InvestmentThinking – how to think like an investor and an introduction to tools for making better investment decisions
  • TBD: Place-making – what does it look like to invest in urbanism and place
  • TBD: Incubators and accelerators
  • TBD: Social innovation
  • TBD: Women in technology

The next event in the series, and last one for 2012, will be Let’s Talk About Giving on Wednesday, December 5th. I will welcome guest-host, Alli Riese from TIDES Canada in the Hollyhock Room, Flack Block. We’ll be starting at 6pm and wrapping up at 7.30pm so that we can continue the evening and conversation over holiday cocktails nearby. Come celebrate and reminisce about an eventful 2012 with me and Pique Ventures.