Building your Network from Zero - Justin's Journals P. 3

This is the third in a trilogy from from Justin’s Journal, teaching you how to find and meet investors. Last week, we covered some crucial steps in identifying the right type of investor, connecting with, and making first impressions. But is it possible to really build your network from zero? What can you do if you really have no connections?

May 1, 2018

How to meet investors when you really have no connections

I had zero startup connections when I first started fundraising, resulting in my firm belief that anyone can do it.

Having connections isn’t the requirement; its access to connections that matters, and this is something entirely within your control.

1. Lean on your friends (what I did)

The first thing to do is go lean on your friends who are entrepreneurs.

Every entrepreneur has friends who are entrepreneurs.

When I first showed up in Silicon Valley, I leaned on Adam Smith and Matt Brezina, the founders of Xobni, a YC-backed company. They were friends of mine I’d met in Boston, providing my access to the people I needed to meet.

They had raised a seed round from a lot of great angel investors, including Paul Buchheit and others.

We asked them for some intros to their investors and extended network. This got us in touch with Aydin Senkut (Felicis Ventures), and eventually Paul Buchheit (the creator of Gmail).

Those intros led to the initial funding for Justin TV, which eventually morphed into Twitch.

We didn’t have any investor connections, but our friends did — and that was how I got my start in the Valley.

2. Make new connections

Let’s say you just got here and don’t know anyone. No friends, no network, nada.

It’s still doable.

People are intimidated by the concept of “networking,” but meeting people is surprisingly simple.

You can come to the Bay Area and meet entrepreneurs very easily.

Sure, you might not be able to meet Steve Huffman from Reddit or Patrick Collison from Stripe on day one. But, you can meet somebody who’s raised seed money, Series A, maybe even more — in a relatively short period of time.

Meet people at networking dinners and conferences. If it isn’t these folks, then I guarantee they know other people who are founders or angel investors.

You can meet founders/angels and their extended network. Founders and investors have a diversity of friends and partners — including people who personally aren’t founders or investors. You can often get an intro to a founder and investor through one of the senior employees at their companies.

I’ve talked to friends of my employees about startup investment opportunities.

Another idea: lean on people doing an accelerator like Y Combinator or 500 Startups. You either know someone going through the program, or can meet someone who knows someone at any event I described above.

3. Go through an accelerator or bootcamp

You can talk to friends at Y Combinator, 500 Startups, or another accelerator . . . or you can try and get your startup in.

This is a phenomenal way to get access to networks.

It’s like seed fundraising on easy mode.

Based on the strong network you inherit, you have access to practically anyone in Silicon Valley (using the framework from the previous section).

Remember that meeting investors comes down to warm intros from people who the investor trusts. YC provides everything you could want in that respect.

It’s also great credentialing and a brand stamp on you as well. This type of endorsement almost certainly leads to a valuation bump compared to the Silicon Valley average.

Or you can use a fundraising bootcamp. This provides startups with the credible intro you need to talk to investors, but also helps you maximize your opportunity with that intro.

You learn how to:

  • structure a narrative

  • get investor intros

  • talk to investors

  • determine what kind of metrics you might need to raise your next round.

Bootcamps help you secure intros (the “warm lead” you need).

There are plenty of well-connected people who do bootcamps, and this is an excellent complement (or even standalone method) for meeting investors and getting intros.

In Conclusion

Meeting investors can seem daunting, but its is like anything in the startup world: apply first principles thinking and boil it down to the core idea (getting a warm introduction). If you put in the work and follow this process you will give your startup a chance.