A good friend of mine, who was in the middle of raising a round of financing for his nascent startup, asked me a few weeks ago for an introduction to one of my LinkedIn connections.
Embarrassingly, I couldn’t remember having actually met his prospective investor, let alone how we ended up being connected on LinkedIn. Making matters worse, ancillary indicators such as his photo, mutual connections, and his track record were of no help in jogging my memory.
This should never happen. Period.
How had I ended up in this predicament? The root cause wasn’t hard to diagnose. Like many others, I hadn’t always been very thoughtful about my LinkedIn network. It had grown out-of-control and now it was a hodgepodge mix of strong, weak, and non existent connections. Receiving a LinkedIn request, even from those you don’t really know, has become so commonplace that it’s been suggested as a universal caption for all New Yorker cartoons.
So I decided to do something about it.
I systematically went through all of my LinkedIn contacts and wrote a 2+ sentence context about each one into a spreadsheet, something along the lines of the circumstances of how we knew each other, what they were working on, etc. If I couldn’t do that, I’d remove them as a connection. Conversely, if I believed that they couldn’t write 2+ sentences about me, I’d remove them as a connection as well.
For example, I removed Airbnb head honcho Brian Chesky. Why? It turns out Brian and I briefly met at YC’s startup school way back in 2010, but there is no way he remembers that. I barely do! The reality is there is no prize or tangible benefit for accumulating well-known entrepreneurs and investors. As my friend Stefano writes when he embarked on a similar endeavor, these connections might even be hurting you. Bottom line: LinkedIn connections aren’t pokemon, no need to collect them all.
It took me a little while, but by the end of my purge I had culled 20% of my connections, or just over 300 people. Now even though my network is significantly smaller, I’m already seeing some noticeable, positive differences. Recommended connections, update emails, etc are more relevant and interesting than they used to be. From a human point of view, anyone asking for an introduction from me or to me, will be assured that they are going through a real connection and not have to slog through dead end after dead end.
Overall, the product just works better, which shouldn’t be surprising. After all, when it comes to LinkedIn, the product is essentially your network.
Ironically, just as I was in the middle of writing this post, I attended a wedding where who else was I seated next to at the reception, but the prospective investor my friend had wanted the introduction to many weeks prior. We ended up having a long conversation about investing, my friend’s startup, amongst other topics.
I sent him a LinkedIn request the next day.