“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Networking and growing your network is key to any business activity. For example, seeking referrals was an important part of raising Hustle Fund’s inaugural fund. “We started by approaching friends and acquaintances and asked everyone if they were interested in investing or knew 1-2 people who might be interested in chatting with us about potentially investing Hustle Fund,” writes Elizabeth Yin, General Partner at Hustle Fund. “Most of [our fund] came from referrals – not from within our direct network of people we already knew.”
Single or Double Opt-in?
The consensus on #vctwitter seems to recommend the double opt-in – seeking permission from both parties to be introduced. However I have encountered some people who do not do double opt-in introductions. If the introducer has insight, such introductions can be very valuable and efficient. Get it wrong and often someone is left feeling annoyed.
I heard of a great solution to the single opt-in introduction. I cannot remember the source, but the argument is this: any introduction is a potential lead and it’s not up to the introducer to qualify your leads. Being open to any introduction – single or double opt-in – has the potential to generate lots of leads for whatever you’re trying to progress be it a capital raise for your venture, fundraising for your new fund, making connections in a new city, or seeking out your next job or opportunity. What you need is a good lead qualification system, to quickly and easily respond to the introductions worth responding to.
If you receive a single opt-in introduction, the person being introduced shouldn’t be offended if you don’t respond, because you did not have the opportunity to opt in or out.
Introduction or Vouching?
I tended to take time and care to understand mutual needs before making an introduction, but I found myself erring on the side of not connecting, particularly when I was really busy and felt short on time and capacity. I wanted to be able to vouch for connections 100% of the time because I felt like my reputation was at stake, especially as many of the introductions I’m asked to make are to potential investors. However, I started to feel like an unnecessary gate-keeper. I wanted to improve entrepreneurs’ access to investors not create more gates. I also realized that sometimes other people with specific industry or market knowledge and expertise are better positioned to evaluate a team and an opportunity.
As Hunter Walk, partner at Homebrew, wrote, “[introductions without vouching] can still be mutually valuable in many contexts.” I recently sought permission to introduce an emerging fund manager, with no vouching and next to no due diligence on her and her fund (I looked at her LinkedIn profile and skimmed her investor deck). I want people to succeed, especially people who are trying to build their track record or transfer their skills to another (related) domain, and connections can make a huge difference.
If you have an excellent network, how are you using it and leveraging to help improve access for others?
What are your criteria for making a connection and what would happen if you loosen your criteria just a bit?
I can’t work with everyone in my network all the time nor can I connect with everyone I know every single day. Making potentially mutually beneficial connections improves our social fabric, brings us closer, and helps us stay connected.
How to Ask for Introductions and Make it Easy for Everyone
My friend and sales advisor Shannon Ward of On Track Media gave me great advice on asking for introductions and making it easy for everyone. In summary it looks like this:
- Do your homework on who you want to connect with and be specific with names if possible.
- Get on the phone or get out of the building and start by speaking with people in your network. If you don’t have a specific name, be as specific as possible when describing the type of person you want to connect with. Try to get 1 or 2 specific names from the people already in your network.
- Follow up immediately after the call or meeting, thank your contact for offering to make the introduction to the person they named, and provide a “forward intro email”. Use templates for your forward intro email and personalize/tailor it as needed.
- Use CRM (customer relationship management) software to track your emails, your ask, and your introductions. Schedule a reminder to follow-up.
- If an introduction happens, thank the person for introducing you.
- If the introduction leads to some other successful action or activity, it’s nice to let the introducer know.
Similarly, Pete Kazanjy made available a great, detailed resource for a Silicon Valley-style business introduction.
For more resources on networking, check out:
- Build Your Dream Network by J. Kelly Hoey
- Work the Pond by Darcy Rezac with Judy Thomson and Gayle Hallgren-Rezac
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Pique Ventures is an impact investment and management company. Pique Ventures enables a diverse community of investors to pursue integrated investing. Integrated Investing is a proprietary investment decision-making methodology to help create a better world and was developed specifically to evaluate impact and early-stage ventures.