Your network and How to use it (better)

[Editor’s note — The following article was written by a guest author, Nick Feneck, Regional Manager for Asia at Seedstars World]

How valuable is your network? How do you reach that valuation? When’s the last time a longstanding connection resulted in something tangible? When’s the last time you connected two friends/associates proactively? Most importantly: when’s the last time you asked for something?

Here is a common misconception with networking (ie. the use of your network):

  • Person A has problem.
  • Person A connects with person B who has the solution.
  • The End (and both live happily ever after).

These are ‘Quick Wins’. Of course quick wins should be employed wherever possible, and every person can identify a ‘quick win’ where a simple connection lead to a simple solution. The issue is not that these examples exist, but they are but a fraction of the use of your network or its capabilities.

Ultimately, the correct use of your network requires a lot of time and effort, for two underlying issues as to why total dependency on the ‘quick win’ approach isn’t effective.

1. Re-engagement & Better engagement

Person A connects with Person B who solves/fails to solve Problem C. The End.

‘The End’. How true is that for the majority of your connections?

Take LinkedIn. The epicentre of online networking. Yet the majority of our connections remain dormant, rarely contacted again after an initial spike in activity. How many times did you reconnect (eg. through messaging) with those across the platform? If persistence is key to making connections, then commitment is crucial to utilising that connection. Making a connection for it only to add to your 500+ contacts does nothing.

There are easy tools to encourage this form of re-connecting. Networking apps such as Networkr and Shapr are trying to promote more frequent re-engagement on LinkedIn via Tinder-style swipes.

Re-engagement should also be tailored so you understand just who in your network forms part of your ‘inner circle’. For your high profile contacts, monthly communication should form a regular part of your emails. If you had to cull your LinkedIn contacts to 20 people, who would they be? Nurture and protect those relationships. As expert VC and networking Chris Fralic says: ‘Keep your ‘dream contact list’ at the ready’.

Harnessing the true potential of your network comes from re-engaging in the right way: understanding better your network/contacts’ objectives, interests, needs and wants, and especially important: how they develop over time.

As expert networker Keith Ferrazzi suggested: ‘The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity’. Ultimately, it takes time to build trust and nurture those relationships, and the more you give, the more you get back.

Be proactive. Recently, a friend of mine conducted a social experiment on Facebook. He put his status as ‘For the next 4 hours I’m willing to help anyone on anything that I can, big or small’. Regardless of the banal requests (‘walk the dog?’) and the philosophical (‘the meaning of life?’) he started a number of conversations where they simply addressed their needs, rather than checking in. A lot of these requests came from unlikely sources such as friends so ask yourself: how well do you really know your contacts and their pain points?

2. Complexity

The second underlying reason why ‘Quick Wins’ are only a small percentage of your network is the complexity in which most problems arise.

Most ‘quick wins’ can be found online in our hyper-connected age. Looking for funding? Stalk investors on LinkedIn. Looking for jobs/recruitment? Check out angel.co. Meet other startups? Social media is paramount.

The issue is that a lot of the time, people do not have clearly defined problems and corresponding solutions. In other words, they don’t know what they need exactly, nor what they want, so there’s nothing to ask. It is a self-defeating process, especially when you combine it with the mindset of wanting a solution instantaneously.

But plainly this isn’t how the world works. For entrepreneurs, it takes enough time for them to truly understand their own business (and pain points), let alone a 20 min coffee/Skype resulting in a clear outcome with a newcomer.

Only by multiple back-and-forth emails, calls, coffees and various offerings, counter-offerings etc do we really reach the point where parties can align to create something truly unique and impactful. Sometimes it even needs a change in personnel, circumstance, mindset or simply approach can finally break the deadlock.

Difficult problems to do not (normally) have easy solutions. Do not look for the Quick Win every time.

How to use your Network

Using your network means using it regularly, constructively and proactively, allocating time to both solving your problems and those of your contacts.

At Seedstars, the strength is in our network. But we are still trying to harnass the full power of our best asset.

This year we are changing this by setting up an Online Community for stakeholders to connect and engage in a meaningful way on a complex yet focussed issues, providing content and the platform for more regular connections over time.

We’ve just completed our Seedstars Summit, where our Global winner was Acudeen, a Filipino startup providing liquidity to SMEs through invoice factoring. Most interestingly however was that Mesfix, from Colombia, and InvoicePaid, from Nigeria, also attended the Summit and shared a similar vision and product. That’s 3 invoice factoring startups across 3 continents. Let’s see where leveraging their combined network takes them…!

Interested in using our network?

Seedstars Singapore is taking place on May 25th as part of CommunicAsia at Marina Bay Sands. 8 startups will be selected to pitch in front of an audience of 150 people and jury of 5 investors, with support coming from SGInnovate, Osborne Clarke and Merck.

Startups, apply to be part of the largest growing global network of entrepreneurs and startups in high growth and emerging markets.

We are interested in startups that are:

  • Less than 2 years old
  • Less than 500K USD investment
  • In tech with ability to scale.

Click on the website above and use the exclusive code: SSW_Singapore_2017 to apply, exclusive to the network of NUS Enterprises.

Nick Feneck is the Regional Manager for Asia at Seedstars World. Connecting startups, investors, mentors, corporates and ecosystem enablers from 70+ emerging markets is in our DNA.

Contact him at nick@seedstarsworld.com


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