How To Grow Your Network In The Startup World

Where do I start developing my network?

Lucas J. Pols
4 min readOct 4, 2017

How to grow

I was leading an incubator visit today with the entrepreneurship club at USC, and it dawned on me that I hadn’t written this article. The questions came up — Where do I start? How do I get access to these venture capitalists and incubators? How do I develop my network?

I’ll run you through the different options and what has worked for me. Though I used to work in small business consulting, the startup world is an entirely different beast. I had to start from scratch, redeveloping my networking skills in this new realm. This should give you a great perspective on how to do this. This isn’t my first time developing a network, so I can give you a good overview of what works and what doesn’t.

You have two different options depending on your scenario.

Developing the network:

Networking events

Some people are not a fan of networking events, and I understand why. The startup world is slightly different in this regard (compared to the small business community.) There is more skepticism and it is not as easy to establish a trusted relationship with someone that you meet randomly at an event. A lot of the time they are single serving friends there for a single interaction, which can be an absolute waste of time.

If you do it right, you can walk away with a new contact, but you genuinely need to have a connection with this person, and typically to accomplish this takes longer than the couple of minutes you spend talking with them. I find I have success building a real relationship when I spend twenty to thirty minutes talking to someone (and it is never about business.) This is why you can’t fake it. You can easily see if someone is faking it within this time frame.

The other challenge with networking events is that you never know the person’s level of expertise in their given field. You have no recommendation to go off of which can be troublesome, and it is the reason that I prefer the next method more even though it takes significantly more effort.

If you are going to pursue networking at an event make sure to read the article describing the best practices to avoid wasting your time. How to Network at an Event

Individual contacts

Start tapping your network. Set up meetings with people you know and take them out for coffee. Follow this guide You Scored A 1–1 Networking Meeting, Now What? on how to interact with someone during a one to one networking meeting and then, at the end of the meeting, ask if they can connect you with one or two other people. Current connections shouldn’t have a problem helping you out, and as soon as you do your first round of this, don’t stop. Every time you meet someone ask if there is anyone else you can talk with regarding whatever your goal is.

This method takes an enormous amount of time, but it is worth it. To give you an example I’ve met with four to eight people per week, every week, for the last six months. Because of this, I have been extremely fortunate to meet with some of the most knowledgeable and well-connected people in Los Angeles. It has opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed and has helped me shape my business in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

We also designed Spark xyz to give you this ability; if you see a venture that you are excited about or it is in a similar industry to yours, make sure to reach out and see if you can grab a coffee and start developing your network.

Getting access to venture capitalists and incubators

Cold e-mail

You can try, and I’ll wish you good luck, but I’ve never honestly heard of this working. VC’s and incubators are inundated with an insane amount of these requests and rarely take them. The reason — if you can’t hustle and figure out a way to them, there is a good chance you shouldn’t be starting a venture. Startups are entirely about hustle and grind; this is the first step in that process.

Tepid introduction from an event

This is tricky, and it will depend on the situation. I have had very little success doing this at a networking event, even at the more exclusive ones. The times that I have had success getting meetings is when is it a private talk through a university event. The reason that it worked was that I had a real reason for sitting down with them. My excuse for getting face time? This guide.

I was fortunate that my independent field study helped multiple facets of my venture. It gave me a reason to get in front of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and incubators without being intrusive. Keep in mind that it is a real reason and you will need to be creative to figure out a way to get in front of these people, as all of the listed people above have great B.S. meters.

Warm introduction from entrepreneur or a contact

There is a good chance that this is your best option. Successful entrepreneurs have contacts or have raised a round with the people that you are trying to meet with. The easiest way in is going to be a recommendation from them. Introductions are how investors operate, as they trust the people they know and their judgement, the same way you do with your contacts. Start networking with other entrepreneurs and building relationships so that when the day comes where you need help there will be someone there to help you.

Lucas is the founder of Spark xyz, platform management software for incubators, accelerators, Angel groups, and VC’s.



Lucas J. Pols

Chairman of the Board @ Spark xyz | President Tech Coast Angels