A primer on Networking in Silicon Valley 2023, collects material from articles I’ve written and briefings I’ve given over the last 16 years.
Networking in Silicon Valley 2023
“Connect on your similarities and benefit from your differences.”
Silicon Valley is a hub for innovation, technology, and investment, and there are plenty of opportunities to connect with like-minded people who can help you grow your business. One of the most important things you can do as a startup entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is to network.
Common goals that networking can enable you to achieve
- learning new information and insights, in particular, knowledge that’s not written down
- scouting – understanding people and groups
- forming teams and hiring employees and contractors
- joining teams or getting hired
- finding prospects
When networking, you can meet a wide range of people from various backgrounds, industries, and professions. Here are some examples of the types of people you might encounter when networking:
- Entrepreneurs: You’re likely to meet other entrepreneurs who are also looking to grow their businesses, exchange ideas, and explore potential collaborations.
- Investors: You may also meet investors interested in learning more about your business or looking for new investment opportunities.
- Industry experts: You might meet experts in your industry or field who can share their insights and knowledge and offer advice.
- Mentors: You may find mentors willing to share their experience and offer guidance and support as you navigate your business or career.
- Service providers: You might meet people who offer services that can help you with your business needs, such as marketing, legal, accounting, or IT services.
- Potential customers: You might also meet customers interested in your products or services who can offer valuable feedback.
- Influencers: You may come across influential people in your industry who can help you promote your business or provide valuable exposure.
Networking allows you to build surveillance networks: be on the lookout for how you can connect others to those you meet while networking, which is especially important for job seekers and entrepreneurs.
Two Type of Groups
When attending networking events, there are generally two types of groups you might interact with:
- Groups of peers are made up of individuals in the same industry or field as you or who share similar interests or goals. This type of group can be valuable for exchanging ideas, learning from others’ experiences, and building relationships that can lead to collaborations or partnerships.
- Groups with potential customers are made up of individuals who may be interested in your products or services. This type of group can be valuable for generating leads, building brand awareness, and making connections that can lead to sales or new business opportunities.
Joining both types of groups is essential, as they offer different kinds of benefits for your business. Groups of peers can help you stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices. Groups with potential customers can help you generate new leads and expand your customer base.
As you join groups, remember that the goal is to become a member in good standing of a group.
- regular attendance
- online opportunities / parallel conversations
There are several ways to find networking events in your area. Here are some tips:
- Search online directories: The easiest way to find networking events is to search online. Eventbrite and Meetup are popular platforms for finding local events and meetups related to your interests.
- Use search engines to look for events related to your industry or interests. You can also search on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, as many networking groups and events advertise their meetings and events on these platforms.
- Attend industry conferences: Industry conferences are a great way to meet like-minded professionals and potential customers. Look for conferences related to your industry or interests and attend them to make new connections.
Join professional industry groups and trade associations: Joining industry groups is a great way to stay connected with professionals in your industry. Many of these groups host regular events and meetings, which can be an excellent opportunity to network with peers.
- Visit co-working spaces: They often host events and workshops for their members, which can be a great way to meet other entrepreneurs and professionals. Some of our favorite Silicon Valley co-working spaces are Hacker Dojo, Mindrome, and upstairs at Red Rock Coffee.
- Ask for referrals: Ask your colleagues, friends, or family members if they know of any networking events or groups that might be relevant to you. Word-of-mouth referrals can be a great way to find high-quality events tailored to your needs.
Preparing for an Event
Preparing for a networking event is just as important as attending it. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Try to find out who will be attending the event beforehand. This can help you identify people you want to meet and research their backgrounds and interests.
- speaker / panelist
- attendee list
- event organization / key members
Follow up with Individuals
Following up with people you meet at networking events is an essential step in building relationships and expanding your network. Here are some tips to help you follow up effectively:
- email – mindset: act like a busy person, bottom line up front, keep it brief
- voicemail – be prepared to leave a crisp message
- second conversation: offer introductions; ask for introductions; written follow-up – what you learn
Social Capital Enables Social Navigation
Social capital is the value individuals or groups derive from their relationships with others. It is an essential asset for startup founders because it can help them access resources, information, and opportunities they might not otherwise be able to obtain. Social capital is built through relationships, requiring ongoing investment and cultivation to maintain and grow.
It is important to be authentic, respectful, and professional in all interactions and to invest time and effort into building meaningful relationships with others.
Reciprocity is a vital part of building social capital. By offering value and helping others, startups can build goodwill and trust, leading to new opportunities and collaborations.
Social capital is a valuable asset for startups, and building and maintaining relationships is integral to entrepreneurial success. By investing in relationships and proactively building social capital, startups can increase their chances of success and grow their businesses.
In conclusion, networking is essential for startup entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. By attending networking events, joining a co-working space, connecting with industry groups, using LinkedIn and social media, and building relationships, you can make valuable connections that can help you grow your business. Remember to be authentic, respectful, and professional, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and connect with new people
Appendix: Ford Harding On Networking
- Networking is helping people
- You must learn to recognize a lead for someone else when you hear it
- Networking is a sincere effort rather than keeping score
- Networking is a sense of urgency and obligation
- Networking is showing gratitude
- Networking is maintaining trust
- Networking requires you to spend some of your time selling other firm’s products and services.
- You must selective in who you partner with as these are a serious investment of time.
- Motivation is critical ingredient in effective networking.
Appendix: Resources for Networking Inside a Firm
Some may be reading this who are looking for work; here are some suggestions for resources for networking inside a firm. Many of those also offer insights useful for mapping expertise networks inside larger firms that startup founders may help manage selling to the enterprise.
Here five books that offer practical tips for knowledge work and understanding how to be effective in organizations:
- How To Be a Star at Work by Robert Kelly Practical strategies and career advice (really only for large firms)
- Becoming a Technical Leader by Gerald Weinberg Both about becoming a technical lead and a manager. I interviewed him in Jerry Weinberg Interview and included a list of his other books
- Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal Really about the future of work and how teams global teams connect and execute
- Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp Great insights into how to build influence in the teams that you are on and how to collaborate cross-functionally.
- Corporation Man by Anthony Jay I find his “hunting party” hypothesis very useful
Here are three websites / authors focused on technical management
- Michael Lopp (Rands in Repose) Lopp also has three good books
- Manager Tools
- Will Larson https://lethain.com/ offers some useful models for organizational design.
Networking Books and Articles
- “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg” by Malcolm Gladwell offers a profile of a very effective networker see
- “Rain Making” by Ford Harding
- Working Capital Vol. 1 It Takes More Than Money by Sean Murphy
- Working Capital Vol. 2: Assembling Your Team by Sean Murphy
Related Blog Posts
- A Practical Introduction to Social Capital for Bootstrappers
- Building, Borrowing, and Keeping Trust
- A Serious Conversation Can Change Your Life
- Three Things I’ve Learned About Networking
- Information That’s Not Written Down
- Knowledge That’s Not Written Down
- Cultivating Communities to Get More Customers
- Treat Social Capital With the Same Care as Cash
- Five Tips For Activating Your Network of Relationships
- P. T. Barnum’s Golden Rules For Making Money
- Ford Harding on Rules of Thumb for Networking
- Early Sales Efforts Foster Value Co-Creation
- Building a Business Requires Building Trust
- Honesty in Negotiations
- Preserving Trust And Demonstrating Expertise Unlocks Demanding Niche Markets
- Selling to a Business Requires Conversations that Build Trust
- Successful Bootstrappers Are Trustworthy Salespeople Committed to Customer Satisfaction
- Keeping Your Customers’ Trust
A Postscript on Social Media
It’s a mistake to confuse “followers” on Twitter or “connections” on LinkedIn or “subscribers” to the mailing list, or “likes” and “shares” with the actual connections. All of these have value: they are necessary but not sufficient. Networking is helping others through personal communications that deliver value. This value may be in the form of specific encouragement or practical advice. It may be an introduction that enables a conversation that creates value our leads to a mutually beneficial business relationship. But I see too many taking a “merit badge” approach where they want to “collect” connections without any real thought as to how they will help–beyond how the person could help them.
A Note on this primer: This content was created for a roundtable conversation for Stanford Management Science Masters Students in September of 2017 and includes content from Working Capital: It Takes More Than Money (2020) and Working Capital: Assembling Your Team (2023).
Image Credit: Trueffelpix licensed from 123RF.