The black hole of networking

By Scott Bailey
The Brief
Time is of the essence for start-ups, yet way too many entrepreneurs waste it as they navigate a near-bottomless pool of useless contacts. It pays to know who your connections should be.

Every day I see fresh-faced, bright-eyed entrepreneurs racing the clock. They need to grow and they need to grow quickly. So they give 100% of themselves to the networking-event circuit, shaking the hands—then pressing cards into them—of a thousand potential sponsors. Maybe, just maybe, one of those hands will be attached to the right influencer, and maybe, just maybe, whatever introductions that influencer might make will be game-changing ones. By throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, though, these seemingly focused entrepreneurs are actually losing months of potential growth. Pouring all that energy into meeting so many of the wrong people means likely missing opportunities with the right ones. This is a case where time really is money.

And entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who fall prey to the networking churn. Venture capitalists, connectors at large corporations, even government representatives find themselves in much the same ineffective spot. For all of them, the solution is the same: When the clock is ticking, information can keep things moving smoothly. Who are the right potential partners? What might drive them to engage? Being able to narrow the field to those most closely aligned to the mission is like finding a hidden short cut to a pot of gold. That’s why curators of social capital, platforms like Relationship Science, LinkedIn and others that separate wheat from chaff, are so important. There’s a bonus to such narrowing too: All that not-wasted time can be much better spent nurturing useful connections, who likely have even more to give.

Granted, I may be biased, given that I work for a start-up accelerator program. But I have seen hundreds of entrepreneurs benefit from forming meaningful relationships with the right partners more quickly. By shrinking down the time it takes to reach potential partners we speed up the formation of relationships. You’d have a hard time convincing us, or our alumni, that it’s not the best way to cultivate the startup renaissance.

The Takeaway: Keep your eye on the prize. If you’re a young start-up, before any next networking event, research attendees to find those whose interests most closely align with yours. Spend your precious time pursuing those connections.


Scott Bailey is the Senior Director of Partnerships at MassChallenge, a global startup incubator that has helped create over 3,900 jobs and raise over $470 million in outside funding since 2010. This is his first piece for RelSci.

RelSci is a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage for legal, nonprofit, corporate and financial organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers.

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