Importance of Connections – The Unexpected Outcome

One of my favorite aspects of both my jobs (VC and Cornell) is making connections with people.  Real, in person connections that last.  I also find that using the connections is satisfying.  But perhaps the biggest reward is when using a connection results in something very unexpected.  Here is an example (and I am keeping names fictitious as this deal is not done yet).

Our fund recently gave a term sheet to a company in what I would call the technology enabled B2C retail space.  Company makes a custom made product that you wear, but the “making” is highly tech focused, specialized and personalized.  The company is quirky in that regard.  Quirky is a good attribute.  It also has the potential to get very big.

So I got permission from the founder of the company (let’s call her Suzie) to share the deal with one of my VC friends at Fund X (let’s call my friend Joe).  I have known Joe for a long time.  Both of us are Cornellians and our Cornell lives intersect professionally.  Anyway, Joe looked at the company’s materials and decided they were strong enough to share with a few other people that he knew had interest in the space.  One of those people is one of the most well-known female angel investors in NYC (let’s call her Jane).  I had no clue that Joe knew Jane.  I thought “Long Shot, but it certainly cannot hurt.”

So Jane gets the material from Joe, meets with Suzie (the company founder), loves what she sees, but more importantly really likes Suzie.  Suzie feeds Jane more information, and we talk about how to “on board” Jane and get her involved in the company as an investor an advisor.

Three weeks later, after a few more meetings between Suzie and Jane, my partner and I get an email from Jane that starts with “Okay…just finished speaking with [Jane]. SHE IS INVESTING!!”

What joy!  Suzie did the hard work, which makes me incredibly happy and validates Suzie’s abilities (always nice to know prior to investment – we have not invested yet).  Jane is known to be an incredibly helpful investor (lots of connections, passion, etc.).  And Suzie is so excited and motivated.  She wrote in the same email “[Jane] really gets what we are doing and believes its a game changer.  Okay…now I need to go jump for joy and burn off some of this extra energy!!”

Back to my point – this whole unexpected outcome resulted from my initial outreach to Joe.  I trusted Suzie enough to introduce her to Joe.  Joe trusted me enough to take the meeting with Suzie and then introduce Suzie to Jane.  Suzie got Jane on board.  And all without LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…..whatever…..

Use your personal connections carefully, but use them……the old-fashioned way.

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3 thoughts on “Importance of Connections – The Unexpected Outcome

  1. Kudos to you Zach! As you know, making it easier for the right people to get connected is something pretty top of mind for me these days. Ease of connectivity for 1st time entrepreneurs is probably the biggest difference between startup challenged Upstate versus hot startup hubs like SV, NYC and even smaller communities like Boulder & Austin.

    While everyone has the potential to make introductions, people who have deep networks with other decision makers have the means and opportunity for the highest impact.

    And with every successful introduction you make, you are also strengthening the relationship you have with each of the individuals involved.

    Scaling up the volume and quality of introductions is THE path for Upstate to create both more startups and jobs to retain our best and brightest talent.

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