Networking is one of the most cost-effective routes to market.
Hinging on connectivity and sharing, it is a crucial component for growth. Indiscriminate of profession, building networks and connections is invaluable, and as a founder, connecting with high-profile individuals can play a key role in propelling the success of your startup. Here are my top tips to boost your chances of linking with quality, high-profile contacts.
1. Work out what you are after
Before you go about establishing connections with your wider network, it is important to draft a plan. Decide what you are interested in, whether it be experiences, introductions, introductions to experiences or all of the above. Figure out the urgency of each networking goal and establish how much time and effort you will devote to each.
There is a limit to the efficiency of networking and there has to be a balance between building your business and your network. Part of this is asking yourself what your objectives are, both personally and for your business. This process is iterative and should be continually developed over time. Perhaps it is the experiences of those in the same industry that you are after, or, alternatively, insights from different industries with parallel dynamics. Are you more interested in general business experiences such as onboarding the right team or managing cash flow, or are you seeking specific industry insight into the fundraising process?
You may also be seeking introductions to potential customers or investors, or introductions to those who can provide you with details of their own experiences. Perhaps you may be after coaching or mentorship, which will require more attention to detail when deciding on the appropriate high-profile contact to connect with.
2. Get introduced
Once you have clarified goals in mind, the best way to contact helpful people is through an introduction, be it through a mutual friend or contact. Identify who you are interested in meeting and pinpoint who would make the best introduction from a list of those you already know. LinkedIn is a very helpful tool for this, and you may find it beneficial to upgrade to a premium subscription, which gives you the option of sending direct InMail messages, which I have had great experiences with. You can also try emailing high-profile people directly, although it is important not to spam.
Getting yourself out there and meeting face-to-face at events is also beneficial to expanding your network, however you should be selective and only attend those within your areas of interest.
3. Have a clear demand
My next tip is to remember to be clear in what you are asking to avoid miscommunication or misunderstandings. Time is of the essence, and I find it is always helpful to have a very brief description of your business and what specific experience or advice you want from them. Make sure the process is low friction, such as a quick email, phone call or coffee. Remember that there are only so many hours in a week and many people try to help as many founders as possible but receive so many requests!
So there you have it, a few tips on connecting with high-profilers for advice while building your startup. Remember that there are also countless resources on the web that will offer guidance that can be just as helpful. Discussion boards on sites such as AngelList, Startups.co and Onevest are expansive networks on their own, housing global communities of entrepreneurs, investors and talented job candidates.
Benjamin Chong is a partner at Sydney-based venture capital firm Right Click Capital, investors in high-growth technology businesses.