Practical Networking for Future Founders

I have a lot to learn about building a company before I can start dishing out useful advice. Let me be clear about that upfront. With that disclaimer, I've noticed that some of the decisions and habits I've had in my career thus far have had a tangible impact on my new venture.

I've always had an aversion to the concept of networking. It brings to mind stuffy rooms full of suits swapping awkward introductions and business cards. Now I'm seeing so many of the people I had small interactions with coming out of the woodwork to support me in big ways. It has me rethinking some of my opinions on networking and reflecting on what I did right and what I've done wrong.

Work at interesting places

I appreciate that this can be a luxury, but prioritizing interesting companies over other considerations turned out to be a big win for me. Interesting places attract interesting people, and there is no substitute for surrounding yourself with interesting people.

Be good at your job

I've had some wins and misses here. I think most of my coworkers would agree that I was an asset when I worked at Robinhood. I'm not sure all of my prior employers would agree. There were times where I was immature and times where I didn't care enough about the work I was doing and let it show just a little too much.

People from Robinhood have been some of the most helpful resources in starting my company. I don't even feel comfortable reaching out to some of the people at previous jobs, because I know I didn't do enough to earn their respect as a colleague and professional.

Add your coworkers on LinkedIn

When you finally leave to start your company, you're going to realize you don't know how to get in touch with most of the people you used to see on a regular basis. Maybe some of them will save your email address and you'll have the phone numbers of those you were closest to, but the vast majority will now require a cold call just to say hi.

You'll probably post some updates on LinkedIn. You'd be surprised how powerful it can be for someone who liked working with you, even if you only interacted a few times (see "be good at your job"), to see that you're doing something cool.

Tactically I recommend just adding a few of your coworkers each day from the people LinkedIn suggests. You'll probably be there for a while, so you don't need to send out hundreds of invites in a single inspired sprint.

Be nice to cool vendors

Full disclosure, I'm a vendor now so I'm biased.

In all seriousness though, I've had some pretty amazing support from people I had one sales call with and never bought their product, or passed them on to a more relevant person.

Be nice, be helpful, and add them on LinkedIn. This is especially key when they are founders doing sales, but don't let that stop you from being nice to everyone.