The Asshole Rule of Networking
I’m a connector.
The connector is a main role in any networking setup, in any circle. The connector is a middle person, somebody who curates connections making introductions and meetings easier to happen.
As a connector curation is my game. My skill is the ability to highlight excellence. My reputation is one of the main pillars of my raison d’être as a connector.
Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash
I find teams with a great idea and after some due diligence, I connect them to the people who may invest in them. Most often said due diligence is based on spending time with them and asking the right questions, setting little traps here and there to discover their thinking, their motivation, their drive, and even the risk they are willing to take.
Often this also requires a healthy dose of gut feeling. My inbox is usually rather crowded. Not just with pitches but often also with questions because teams I believe in, when required, I help prepare for a meeting with a VC. Help them with their pitch, both elevator and actual pitch. In fact, often I may already run them through a grilling myself.
As a connector I evaluate you constantly. I grill you at any moment we interact. Because as a connector my reputation is my main asset.
When I introduce an asshole to a contact in my Rolodex, de facto, I become an asshole too. Not merely by proxy, but also by association because I’m the human router who made the connection happen.
Say you are a unabashed hustler, looking to change the world with your badass startup. You reach out to me and ask to get introduced to some investor in the Valley. I agree, loop you two together, and then … you go on to make an enormous ass of yourself. You are rude and demanding; you haven’t done your research; you waste the person’s time. However, because this introduction was brokered by me, you’re not the only one that looks bad; I look bad.
[Source: Justin Hall, VC Golden Gate Ventures]
In the above situation, to you, this may not be too big a deal but to me it damages my relationship with the person who I introduced you to. It damages an already existing relationship by virtue of wasting someone’s time and risks makiing them too look bad (or at the very least wonder why they deserve that).
In the world of networking nothing comes easily. Most things require time, just like any other relationship. To benefit the bonus that my emails are opened and read by the person you wish to be hooked up with, I have worked for years to cultivate that relationship. A relationship based on the trust in my ability to highlight excellence.
That’s what you want from me. That’s what you want from the connector, from your human router. Hence, I will take my time before I decide to put you in contact with somebody. I will do my own due diligence before hooking you up.
Is that what you expect from me?
You should because you know that my asset is to highlight excellence. To curate what I discover and share. After all I’m not a commission based sales person with a monthly minimum quota. I am free to discover and highlight what I want and that’s what you know I do.
This is not as simple as it sounds. Obviously, first and foremost it requires an advanced understanding of the niche we operate in. More often than not a degree of understanding higher than the one of those who expect me to hook them up. Which is also why, with time, I ended up in the role of the connector.
As the person trusted to curate.
The person who can add value trusts me and my ability to forward only that what, and those, they may actually care about and are ready to possibly invest in. Somehow I almost operate as their PA in that sense.
I’m not a hustler, I’m a curator.
My reputation matters to me, and should to you as well. If your hustle is good, I will sense that. If your hustle, and your offering, is weak, you are more likely to want me to introduce you and may even request such explicitly.
Usually, asking (too soon) for an introduction to somebody will slow down everything. It may even put me on my guard and, depending on how busy or not I am, I will judge your initial pitch to me more strict. Because I like to take my time and get to know what YOU are all about.
Because my reputation matters to me.
I don’t want to be thought of as an asshole because I introduced an asshole to somebody with limited time but a high desireability within our niche. Because time is money and attention is at a premium.
Photo bob John Salvino on Unsplash
I know how to open doors. Doors you want me to open for you. I probably even know better than you which door you would like most to be opened for your project. I’m your human router, I balance the load and select the best possible trajectory in my eyes.
I will, or won’t, connect you based on how impressive you are to me. I want to discover excellence and drive before I introduce you. I will not de facto accept your awesome and fast track your request.
Because my reputation matters to me and I don’t want to be taught off as an asshole for introducing an asshole.
When I have discovered awesomeness in you, and your project/idea, I will decide who is your best possible match in my book. That may or may not be the person you want me to hook you up to. The latter which during our flirtations you already have shared with me. But I will ask you if you agree with me introducing you to that person.
As a connector, a human router, I’m an onion. I consist of layers. Each further layer brings you closer to the wanted, the desired introduction. But removing the next layer isn’t necessarily a de facto outcome. With each new layer I discover more who you are and what your project is about.
In worst possible outcome, you fail to unlock the next layer and that may even result in tears because whether you or your project suck.
Finding and highlighting excellence is my game. A game I am rather good at.
I’m a connector and my reputation matters. My reputation is my main asset. I will not connect assholes to those who have more value than I do because I’m not an asshole.
Nor want I to be considered as one for connecting the wrong person.
If you are an Asshole, and I introduce you to someone on your behalf, by association, I too become an Asshole.
Welcome to the Asshole Rule of Networking.