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Venture capital is often referred to as an apprenticeship business because so much important learning comes from day-to-day experiences. Yet, as an article published by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) explains, you can shortcut the learning process by learning from experts: “Your learning curve can be shorter—and your results better—if you learn from pros who’ve already mastered key … ... read more

Venture Capital Relationship Intelligence

How to Become an All-Star Networker, According to A Venture Capitalist Expert

By Rebecca Hinds

Heidi Roizen is an all-star networker. A successful entrepreneur, venture capitalist--currently an operating partner at venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and former executive at Apple, Roizen credits networking for much of her career success. Looking to boost your networking prowess? Here are three tips that Roizen has embraced on her path to becoming an all-start networker

Don't equate social media connections with true intimacy.

Traditional networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter rely on vanity metrics such as the number of connections or the number of followers attributed to your name. These superficial metrics make it very difficult to glean your true relationship strength with various connections.

Roizen is adamant that you shouldn’t equate social media connections with true intimacy. She says,

“Just because someone connects with you on LinkedIn doesn't mean they're your friend. Social media creates a false sense of intimacy, particularly when people choose to expose a lot about themselves. Social media has allowed us to have broader relationships, but at the end of the day, human relationships haven't changed — we haven't increased a human being's capacity to have close associations with a lot more people.”

In order to get an accurate gauge of your social capital, it’s prudent to adopt a more holistic measurement approach. Affinity can help you understand your relationship strength with each individual in your network. The relationship strength is based on a complete host of factors such as frequency, last contact, writing style, and other patented methods. This gives you a much better pulse into your actual social capital.

Build relationships based on giving.

In his groundbreaking book, "Give and Take", Adam Grant delineates three groups of people: givers, takers, and matchers. Grant determined that givers tend to be most successful. They embrace a long-term view and focus on how they can help others. By putting others' interests first, they secure high levels of trust and respect.

Roizen, like Grant, recognizes the value of espousing a giving mindset. She says,

“In essence, you're building up human capital in the capital bank, not necessarily knowing how you're going to spend it.” Givers look to grow their network by giving, without any expectation of return, imbued with confidence that the social capital accumulated will be leveraged in the future.”

Know your ask

Networking is difficult. Many decades ago, Robin Dunbar determined that the human brain is capable of maintaining only a certain number of relationships. This number--150--came to be termed Dunbar’s number. Not only are multiple relationships difficult to manage cognitively, but it’s also difficult to devote sufficient time to maintaining and, ideally, fortifying, a large number of relationships. Effective networkers strive to be as efficient as possible in their networking pursuits, while still prioritizing high levels of trust and rapport.

Roizen reminds us that there are only so many coffee meet-ups we can have. She recommends being very specific about you ask. In discussing the approximately 10 coffee meetup asks she receives every day, Roizen reflects,

“If that person were to think about my day instead, maybe what they'd say is: "I'd like five minutes of your time. Here's my résumé, and I have two questions to ask you — here are my questions." I'm more likely to say yes to that, even for someone I don't know, just because they've packaged it in a way that allows me to be efficiently helpful. When I ask a favor, I think, "How can I make this so easy that they won't mind doing it?"

Before engaging in any networking endeavor, be sure that you are crystal clear on your ask. Are you looking for advice? Are you looking for a job? Are you on the lookout for an investment opportunity? Don’t leave your connections guessing. By articulating and clarifying your ask from the get-go, you’ll prime yourself for successful networking pursuits.

In a Harvard University case study centered on Roizen, Roizen highlights three key elements of successful networking: access to the right people, performance in and after the interaction, and consistency over time. These elements are difficult to keep track of and monitor over time. By leveraging Affinity, you can accurately keep tabs on how effectively you are embracing Roisen’s three criteria for networking success and make inroads to becoming an all-star networker.

Venture Capital Relationship Intelligence