By Guest Blogger Rebekah Wu, Founder at Right-Hand Partners
Your network is NOT your net worth.
Having said that, a substantial network of high quality business associates can propel your business forward at a much faster pace than if you didn’t have a network. How you build that network is by no surprise called, “networking”.
I immigrated with my family to the United States as a teenager from Japan and our family knew no one when we first arrived. I had to build my current network from scratch as an adult. And, I’m going to share with you how I did it over the past 12 years in the Silicon Valley.
I worked for a Fortune 2000 company back in 1999 where I worked with a couple really smart and generous Sr. Directors who were already in their mid to late 50’s. When I quit the company to become an entrepreneur, those two friends introduced me to several of their friends who were VP & C-level executives at various corporations in the bay area. I took these executives out to lunch and picked their brains.
You may have heard of the saying: “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” I quickly learned that to be true. The lunches I paid for got me more introductions to executives of other companies in the bay area. After meeting with them typically over lunch, I was introduced to other executives. Eventually, I met the right people to advise me in my startup.
As I was raising money for my startup, I showed up at a lot of evening networking events produced by nonprofit associations for entrepreneurs in theSilicon Valley. I was typically one of two female entrepreneurs in the room of 100 men at these events. And, like every other entrepreneur, I rushed to the front of the room to meet the VCs to give them my elevator pitch and my business card. Interestingly, entrepreneurs in those days followed the gentlemen’s rule of “ladies first” and often allowed me to get in front of the line where I had ample time to pitch, shake hands and exchange business cards with my target VCs.
Soon, my techie friends started to ask me for introductions to VCs I’ve met along the way. So, I started producing lunch events for my friends and other entrepreneurs to meet the VCs that I had met that month. And, my network started to grow.
Eventually when my startup died with the rest of them in 2001, I was able to capitalize on my network and start Right-Hand Partners.
Why am I telling you my story? Because there are three useful takeaways from my personal story you just read about me.
One, ask. Ask your highly connected friend(s) for intros that don’t conflict with their business or day job. When you get an intro into a high quality business person that may be able to help you, ask them to meet you for lunch because everyone eats lunch. And, it’s the one hour people can use to get out of the office to meet people outside of work to talk about something other than “shop talk” during the day.
Then, ask them for intros to their connections. Most business people have friends of their caliber and higher. This is “A way” to keep your network very high quality.
Heads-up #1: LinkedIn.com is a great to place to start linking with business associates, former classmates, former bosses and co-workers, etc. You never know who your connection is connected to! Facebook is also used these days as a business networking vehicle. Many active high-tech VCs and entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley are using Facebook and LinkedIn.
Two, show up. As Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” Show up at the events where you can meet your target customers or investors.
When you show up, be genuinely interested and participate in the event activities. Stand out above the crowd and be the approachable one. Go up to someone, greet them with a smile, shake their hand and start a conversation. A simple, “what do you do?” is a great conversation starter at any entrepreneur event.
If you see your target VC wandering around, take big confident strides toward him, greet him, introduce yourself, and then go right into your elevator pitch and watch the line form behind you. Just make sure that you have a refined elevator pitch to use for this spontaneous meet and greet. (Read my “Is Your Elevator Pitch Ready?” post.)
Here’s a fact. VCs are always looking for the best fundable deal flow. This means that it is their job to meet entrepreneurs like you, shake your hand, listen to your pitch and exchange business cards. It also means that you may have something they want — an elevator pitch, an executive summary of a HOT fundable startup and possibly your network of quality entrepreneurs and potential customers for their portfolio companies! What a concept?!
Three, become a resource. Give and you shall receive. Heard that before? In theUS, there is an idiom that says “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” Essentially, when I do a favor for someone, it makes it easy for me to call that person for a favor in return when I need it. Vice versa obviously works.
Especially when you are an entrepreneur, if you can help a fellow entrepreneur, why not help? That entrepreneur is potentially going to introduce you to a paying customer, a high powered business associate or THE investor who funds your deal. Or, he/she will spread the generosity to other entrepreneurs and eventually it will all come back to you as the source…though, help may not come in a form expected or from the person(s) you helped.
I encourage you to attend quality events and conferences like those that Oulu Wellness Institute produces to meet high quality entrepreneurs, active investors and advisors.
Be a cheerful resource for others – even if you get to a point when you think you’re always giving and no one is giving back to you. Know that your reputation as a quality resource will spread. And, soon you will begin to receive introductions from people, to people, that you never would have met otherwise. Even C-Level executives need intros from quality resources. How do you think they got there in the first place?
About Right-Hand Partners (RHP): RHP is a VC Relations company and a trusted conduit to reach the venture capital community. RHP has relationships with hundreds of venture capitalists representing over 150 VC firms. 34 companies that RHP coached have raised over $167M since September 2001; 8 have been acquired. www.rhpartners.com
RWu (at) rhpartners.com