Networking Finesse From Jeff Clavier SoftTech VC
Everyone knows that networking is a major key to success. You could have the most amazing idea ever, you could be the next Steve Jobs, but if all you do is sit in your basement and write code, who really cares? It’s really unlikely that anyone is going to even glance at your ideas—much less give you money to turn them into realities—if no one knows anything about you.
That’s basically the advice that Jeff Clavier, head of the venture capitalist firm SoftTech VC, has for all of you out there who are trying to make it in the startup world. By his estimate he’s had around 10,000 pitches thrown at him since he started his firm, an estimated 200 to 300 per month.
So what’s the difference between a pitch that makes it past the first round and one that doesn’t?
Big surprise: it’s all about who you know.
Clavier suggests introducing yourself at a conference so that he’ll know your face, but don’t do it unless you’ve got the goods to follow up. By that I mean make sure you have someone he knows who is willing to send an introduction email and vouch that they know you.
One caveat, though:
If he subsequently asks them about you, he doesn’t want to hear, “Oh, yeah, that dude… Umm… I think he came up to me at that conference last week?” Simply introducing yourself to someone who knows someone you want to know is not networking; it’s just being lazy. Take the time to build actual relationships, whether they’re work or personally based. Show people you’re a reliable, hardworking person and they’re much more likely to vouch for you when the time comes.
Also, Jeff Clavier SoftTech VC’s managing partner points out, other people’s cred lends you cred. If SoftTech VC gets a cold application, guess where it’s going? Bottom of the pile. If you want to inch your way up, do the kind of introduction I described above. If you want to make sure you’re on the top, find someone who trusts you who Clavier (or whichever VC you’re trying to approach) trusts. A vote of confidence from someone he himself has spent time building a relationship with means a lot; their relationship boosts your potential relationship.
Look at it this way:
What happens when a guy approaches a girl in a bar? If he just goes up to some random good-looking woman and says, “Hey, I couldn’t help but notice you. You come here often?” what is the likelihood that she’s going to respond at all, much less in a positive way? Not very high.
However, if the same woman is sitting in a bar and one of her friends comes in with a male friend and introduces them, it’s a whole different situation. That guy is going to get at least the initial “getting to know you” conversation—which is already more than the first guy got—and his chances of not leaving alone spike dramatically.
When you’re dealing with investors, don’t be the guy in the bar using the cheesy pick up line and don’t be the guy in the basement writing code by himself. Get out into the world, build relationships, with the people around you or those great ideas of yours will stay just that: ideas.