You got to network to fundraise

Networking is also part of the job of a founder

Have you ever been to an event or conference where someone you know introduces you to someone you don’t know out of the blue? They just appear with this person and go straight into greetings and exchanging backgrounds. Their reasoning is that this is a person that I absolutely must get to know.

I call this type of person the “blindsider”. The word has two means, the first to have a poor view and the second to hit or surprise unexpectedly. It is always a negative connotation. In this context, a blindsider is someone who makes introductions without first asking, thus surprising at least one party to the intro.

Now to be fair, during parties or business functions, these intros are more of the social norm. That is one of the reasons to attend events in the first place, to meet other relevant and interesting people. Then in the process of meeting, sometime down the road those interactions lead to some useful outcome.

What Generative AI thinks VC and startup networking is like.

Now the blindsider is not a terrible person. They come with good intentions and sometimes the random connections end up being valuable. Then there are those blind introductions that become a time vortex, the person sucks away your minutes and hours and you are left dazed from the interaction wondering what year it is 🌪😅

I am making this sound all negative, but I truly enjoy networking. Some of the best opportunities and greatest friendships emerged from chance encounters. That is what makes networking so magical, the serendipity of meeting amazing people that you would never encounter otherwise!

This joy for networking did not come naturally though. I am an introvert. Growing up, I was the typical computer nerd that was more comfortable typing into a keyboard than talking to a human.

You might be wondering if I’m for real. In this newsletter, I am sharing events where I’m always out with people, taking selfies, and smiling like I am having the time of my life. This was all part of an intentional change I made when I transitioned from developer to sales and then to startup founder. I had to learn to come out of my shell and be less awkward in social settings.

Many people in the public eye, more than you would expect, are introverts. While they may be out in public, they would rather spend time alone and often need to recharge in private after events. Same goes for many startup founders, and especially for those founders that are more technically oriented. They would rather spend time building things than meeting people and going to events.

This of course can pose challenges when you start to fundraise for your startup. First, you most likely do not have a large network. Second, you probably have not spent time building a public persona. Third, you hate both networking and personal brand building, so you avoid both hoping that you can still be effective at fundraising.

Spoiler alert, that is not a winning approach. As amazing as your idea, market, team, product, and traction might be, you got to get in front of people in order for them to buy your product or invest in your company. That means you have to do the hard work of networking.

Networking is part of the founder’s job when fundraising.

Can you do this virtually? Sure, as COVID showed us, but now that things are back to normal, most people prefer to be in person, particularly investors. Can you outsource the networking? Some founders do this, but investors do not want to meet proxies. For them, it is a red flag that the founder is not doing the work of fundraising.

Because avoiding the tedious task of networking is not an option, your only option is to get a lot better and more confident in networking. Luckily, we addressed this topic in an earlier post on general tips for networking and deciding what events to attend. Now we want to go the next step and share tactics that you can use to build your network for the purposes of fundraising.

Here are ten steps towards amplifying your networking to drive better fundraising outcomes, starting with the easiest and most tactical steps to those that are more strategic and time consuming:

  1. Build Your Online Presence: This is about creating domain credibility through content you share whether on your website or social media. LinkedIn is a must for your professional social profile, but GitHub, Twitter, etc. are also useful depending on your audience. For more tips, review our “Personal branding for startup founders” post.

  2. Focus on Building Relationships: Networking can be very transactional, so follow up with the contacts you make, be helpful, and share interesting content with them. Often a small favor you do for someone can lead to bigger opportunities for you later on (but be careful of being “quid pro quo”, you should want to genuinely help others).

  3. Use Online Platforms: We are big fans of LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms to connect with and engage potential investors and industry professionals. Have a regular engagement cadence with the investors you want to meet by commenting on their posts. Fred Wilson of USV often interacted with founders that commented on his AVC posts, so this strategy does work.

  4. Attend Industry Events: Even if you're an introvert, attending events, and conferences can be invaluable. Pick the most relevant events and focus on quality rather than quantity of interactions. Set a goal to connect with a few people at each event.

  5. Seek Warm Intros: Ask people in your network for introductions to investors they know, but make it easy for the person helping you. Craft a concise and clear message that is easy to forward to the investor. And be persistent but polite, people in your network are doing a favor and they may not have the closest connection with the investor you wish to meet.

  6. Reach Out Cold: Warm intros are best, but not always feasible. However cold outreach can be effective if the message is 1) targeted to the right person, 2) shows genuine personalized touch, and 3) concise and compelling enough to take action. Michael Seibel of Y Combinator shares a good approach to cold emails to investors (or social DM).

  7. Leverage Virtual Networking: While virtual events have faded in popularity, there are still plenty of webinars, online forums, and virtual networking events, some of which we participate in. These can be less intimidating for introverts yet still provide ways to connect with investors.

  8. Practice Active Listening: A Greek philosopher once said,We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” When you meet with investors, focus on what they are saying and show genuine interest in their perspectives and insights. This goes a long way towards building and earning trust with investors.

  9. Join a Startup Accelerator: Even if you have strong product and market momentum, accelerator programs can greatly expand your professional network by tapping into their as resources of mentors, investors, corporates, and fellow entrepreneurs. Many successful serial entrepreneurs join accelerators for this very reason.

  10. Find a Compatible Co-Founder: If networking is still a struggle, consider adding a co-founder who excels in networking (but also obviously has skills in other areas). They can then take the lead in networking and investor relations while you focus on other aspects of the business such as product and engineering.

What has been your experience building and leveraging your network for fundraising? Do you think the tactics above work or do you have other methods that have been more effective for you?

Can big companies truly innovate quickly? When it comes to Amazon, the answer is a definitive yes. We often talk about how it’s always Day 1 at Amazon, meaning putting the customer at the center of all that we do and being constantly curious, nimble, and experimental.

The past couple of weeks have been quite active in the AWS in terms of innovation. Here are just some of our recent major announcements:

That does not include all of the numerous other AWS feature announcements covering APIs, database, business apps like Connect, Serverless, and many others.

As our culture, we tend to be humble about our work and do not fill this newsletter up with lots of AWS updates. We let our customers and results speak for themselves. We would rather focus on diving deep, inventing & simplifying on behalf of customers, and delivering results.

But this intense customer focus also enabled us to release in record time an incredible breadth of new Generative AI services: Amazon Bedrock, Amazon Q, Amazon Titan, and AWS CodeWhisperer. We also have dedicated AI chip sets for training and inference called Trainium and Inferentia, as well as instances using NVIDIA's highest performing H100 Tensor Core GPUs.

It’s still Day 1 at AWS here in the HK office!

If you ever have questions about announcements from AWS, we are always here to help you understand how they could help your startup. Because as we like to say, it’s still Day 1!

Happy International Women’s Day! We want to acknowledge and celebrate all the incredible stories of women entrepreneurs and investors around the globe today. Basil shared his own story of how women influenced and shaped his journey on becoming an ally to women, in particular his incredibly accomplished mother Ambassador Azza Nassar, read more in his LinkedIn post.

This week was a quiet one as we both focused on putting together some awesome new content that we plan to announce soon. In other news, Mark is always gearing up for another swing through SE Asia, here is the schedule and definitely reach out if you want to meet:

  • Singapore: Wed, Mar 20

  • Bangkok: Thu, Mar 21 - Fri, Mar 22

  • Saigon: Mon, Mar 25 - Tue, Mar 26

  • Singapore: Wed, Mar 27

  • Kuala Lumpur: Thu, Mar 28 - Fri, Mar 29

While in Bangkok, Mark will be a judge for the FACE event which brings together the best and brightest of the Thailand startup ecosystem to meet, build relationships, and share what they are building. You can apply here to join (note the event is curated and focused on founders, investors, and executives).

Join me in Bangkok for FACE on March 21st!

We also just shared our global AWS Summit schedule and you can now register (all events are free):

  • Paris at Palais des Congrès on April 3

  • Amsterdam at RAI on April 9

  • Sydney at International Convention & Exhibition Centre on April 10

  • London at ExCel on April 24

  • Berlin at Station Berlin on May 15

  • Milan at Mico on May 23

  • Dubai at Dubai World Trade Center on May 29

  • Stockholm at Stockholmsmässan on June 4

  • Madrid at IFEMA on June 5

  • Tel Aviv at Tel Aviv Expo on June 26

  • Washington DC at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on June 26

There are other AWS Summit locations including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Shanghai, Singapore, and other cities to be announced soon. Plus, we also are hosting AWS Public Sector Symposiums in the following cities:

  • Brussels at Brussels Expo Convention Center on March 12

  • Canberra at The National Convention Centre Canberra on August 7

  • Ottawa at Shaw Centre on October 9

Let us know if you will be joining us for any of the Summits and Symposiums and see you then!