Entrepreneur bootcamps and startup accelerators can offer incredible value by helping people launch companies and raise funding. However, when participants graduate from these programs, there’s often a misguided expectation that they are now entirely set up for success. Why is that?
When teenagers move out of their childhood home it doesn’t signify the end of any parental guidance (though they might like to think so). And when students graduate from college their education doesn’t suddenly stop.
This month, we’re discussing why taking a “strength in numbers” approach to building companies might just be the right one. By continuing to lean on numerous people — networks, mentors and investors — throughout their career, founders have a much better chance of building profitable, scalable businesses. Believe us — we know.
Link Ventures, Cogo Labs and all our affiliated companies remain in frequent contact, most on a daily basis. By design, the close geographic proximity between companies (almost all within a quarter mile) makes the spontaneous exchange of information and ideas, more natural, more likely and certainly, more enjoyable. Many of the executive team members also sit on other portfolio company boards, checking in frequently and learning from one another’s experiences in real time. This tight-knit internal structure creates a multitude of wise advisors, an extensive rolodex, a deep database of resources and a trusted support system. The energy we save not re-inventing the wheel each time, instead gets direct input into our work… where we like it.
Our approach to network expansion, connection maintenance and community building can benefit entire companies and individual entrepreneurs alike. Here are a few reflections to give you an idea of the “Link-verse” community convergence (or Co-vergence as Cogo likes to call it).
Ted Chan, CEO, CareDash:
“I went to MIT Sloan with Mira Wilczek (CEO and President of Cogo Labs and Senior Partner at Link). We bonded during the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program there and have kept in close touch ever since. She’s now one of my company’s board members and remains a trusted, personal advisor.
Having peers you can talk to about anything in your business, especially the uncertainties, is so important. The feedback you’ll get from your colleagues is usually brutally honest, because you all genuinely want to help one another. Even if you’re simply told, “Don’t do that!” — which is often the most important advice — listen to the people you trust, learn from what they’ve gone through, and never stop talking to them.”
Matt Albrecht, Co-Founder, Uplift:
“It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening around us. Between networking at industry conferences, locally, and through the normal course of business, I try to cultivate connections and learnings which can be applied to Uplift Financial and Cogo.
Maintaining those relationships can be challenging when you’re heads down trying to build a business, so I try to schedule monthly checkups with friends and advisors. Conferences can be a great excuse to reconnect with former colleagues. In fact, my college roommate, who now runs a high-growth marketing company, makes time to run with me in Central Park before a marketing conference we both attend each year.”
Charlotte Alimanestianu, Account Manager, CareDash:
“I first learned about CareDash from a fellow Bowdoin graduate, and ultimately accepted my job because of this connection. It’s these mutual connections and interpersonal commonalities that can help connect you.
I’d also urge people to be fearless when it comes to networking. I used to worry about being an inconvenience, but networking is so common and most people will jump at the opportunity to connect. In fact, as a woman working in a predominantly male industry, I’ve found other women in tech are particularly willing and eager to find the time.”
For some, a strength in numbers approach means leveraging other people’s source code and giving back to helpful communities:
Connor Taylor, Senior Software Engineer, Cogo Labs:
“We recently launched our first official open source GitHub repository at Cogo, which is particularly exciting for me because the open source community is a big part of what has allowed me to get where I am in my career today. I wouldn’t have had the resources required to learn all the things I have without open source, and definitely not as effectively. It’s so valuable to be able to learn directly from the source code.”
Others leverage social media to cultivate new connections and maintain meaningful, professional relationships:
Sean Fenlon, CEO, Abovo 42:
“LinkedIn has become an unstoppable force in the professional networking space, so I think it’s a shame when people don’t take full advantage of it. In order to best leverage LinkedIn, I take great care in the accuracy, appearance, and general tone of my profile. I only send invitations to people I know personally and only accept invitations from people I’ve actually met. I save my more social contacts for Facebook or Instagram, and several times a year, I’ll review all my contacts for relevancy and to reinforce my knowledge of who they are, where they are, and what they’re doing.
I’m also a big proponent of the mentor/mentee relationship. For instance, by closely following the advice of Dave Blundin (founder and Managing Partner at Link) and the Cogo Labs playbook, my young startup generated excellent revenue in its first year with the founding team of five. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with Dave has already proved to be invaluable, especially as my company continues to grow.”
There’s certainly no one right way to network or ask for help. But clearly, leveraging the knowledge and support of trusted colleagues, mentors and investors can lead to stronger companies and happier, more successful entrepreneurs.
We’re curious, what does your strength in numbers approach look like? And, what resources have you found most valuable in and around Boston? We’d love to hear from you!