I am not a “born networker”.
I am not the loudest person in the room, nor someone who naturally draws the attention of others at a party or event.
Put simply, I sucked at networking. In fact, my Rolodex of contacts in the Australian startup ecosystem sat at literally zero two years ago.
Now it sits at well above one hundred.
No, not just a hundred emails of people who barely know me. But a hundred plus people who I touch base with, engage with and can reach out to ask a question, get some advice or share a thought.
But I didn’t develop these contacts from attending parties, or spamming an email list. I did it with what I believe is the one and only way to become a truly great networker….
I provided valuable freely to others without any expectation of return.
That is to say, I was someone who was genuinely interested in who they are, what they had to say and how I may be able to help, no matter how small that “help may be”.
In you are familiar with me, and some of my other projects, then you would know that I write the daily Startup Soda newsletter. I have written this newsletter for 2+ years, 100% free of charge and share it freely with the Australian startup ecosystem.
This newsletter is one way I provide value to others. And the return has been immense.
Just off the top of my head, this newsletter has led to personal connects with at least 30+ startup founders, dozens of media contacts, 5+ angel investors, numerous event organisers, a couple of VC firms and a huge number of other startup fans, community partners and general supporters.
And all of that really own scratches the surface of the list. With ~1,000 email subscribers I am sure there are bunch of other interesting people I will continue to meet over the coming years.
But I don’t believe in stopping there.
One of the introductions from Startup Soda was to an early stage founder in Sydney. In turn, he introduced me to a guy called Jared at The University of Sydney, who in turn invited me to Mentor as part of the Startup Genesis program.
I have done that for over 18 months now and mentored three different teams. For the last two semesters both teams have made it to the final pitch night, and one of them took out the top prize.
This is just another way that I try to assist and give back.
And mentoring at Genesis in turn led to other valuable introductions. For example, I was invited to present by Stephen Zhang to a class of business students at the University and also found myself mentoring High School students for Generation Entrepreneur.
Coming full circle to highlight the value of this approach, what I have highlighted above is a small part of what I do.
Every time I meet someone new or get invited to an event, I am not looking to get something out of it for me. I’m trying to work out how I can offer value to those I meet.
This may be a bit of a foreign concept in the fast paced world of startups. Everyone wants to see instant results, and if someone can’t help you now its easy to move on and ignore them. But I don’t view my career in years, or even a decade.
I view my career as a lifelong commitment to the Australian startup ecosystem. What I do now, the people I meet, the value I provide, is not to benefit me tomorrow, next week or next year. I am completely comfortable with the fact that it may not even benefit me at all.
But if I consistently provide value to other people, then I know deep down at some point that value will be returned to me.
I have already seen this happen numerous times already, and it’s only been just 2 short years since kicking all of this off. So if you are looking for a great way to network as a startup founder don’t focus on what you need. Focus on what you can provide.
If you start a relationship with a genuine willingness to help then that connection will be forged around something of value and is much more likely to last the test of time.
Also published on Medium.