Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Karma of Making Connections: When to Do So.
Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Karma of Making Connections: When to Do So.

I've seen a tendency and I've certainly been guilty of making connections and introductions for people, when there wasn't much of a connection there. There are potentially 3 of these so-called networkers which I try to avoid:

THE TENUOUS CONNECTOR: Forcing a Tenuous Connection in which the middleman didn't do any qualification homework.

Lots of times, I've been in meetings where a tenuous connection was made between the large domain area that you work on such as education platforms and a "friend" who represented an large software company looking to help making the connection between hardware, software and schools. Such a meeting tends to be a lot of "forcing" to make a connection and trying to understand everyone's role in the education transformative process. Typically, I feel that such a meeting though often worth a try, is essentially useless as the "introducer" made a tenuous connection and didn't do any pre-qualifying for the parties involved. What ends up happening is a rather awkward and potentially frustrating, if not time wasting effort.

Too many of these "introductions" will tend to suck up what valuable time you have to spend on your entrepreneurial effort.

Left to right: Jason (founder of Mia Cucina in Tien Mu and Neihu), Peter Kao and Aki Liao.
THE SPURIOUS NETWORKER: Another Time Waster, but sends you random connections.

The funniest one has got to be a contact who was likely taught at business school to be sure to maintain your network and make connections. Upon our arrival to Taiwan, this wannabe helpful contact sent us information about Tien Mu's Community Center (a resource for expats in Taiwan), not realizing that we had sent them the exact same resource merely 3 week before! In other words, they tried to help us make a connection, that had originated from us! Check your sources before making a recommendation! This is akin to being sure you're not re-gifting that "white elephant" gift you got from that crazy friend over the holidays to that same friend.

Left to right: Jonathan Shieh, David Kuo, Kimble Wan, Yi-Ching Chung, Ben Kuo and Even Chung.

THE UNVERIFIED CONNECTION: Recommending someone you've just met, but don't know.

Admittedly this is how Xceleration Labs started, a recommendation by Peter Kao, owner and operator of Sunmerry Bakeries, introduces Aki Liao to Jim Hsieh, corporate finance/deal maker of K-plus Capital, who had a friend working on something similar to Aki's IntraLinks history. That contact ended up being Even Chung of Patisco and Xceleration Labs' first client.

At first glance it may seem to be random connection, Aki Liao knows something about SaaS products from his days at IntraLinks in NYC and Even Chung is founder of a SaaS product in Taiwan, but unlike an unverified connection, the essential ingredients for the success of this connection have been:

1. Peter Kao has known and Aki Liao worked for Peter many years before. They are in fact first cousins.

2. Peter Kao and Jim Hsieh have had a long standing social and business relationship. Having even tried to consummate a couple of possible deals in the past.

3. Jim Hsieh and Even Chung are old friends and business contacts. Even's wife, Sam, working for Jim for many years. Jim has always kept an eye on Even's business over the years.

Thus, the introduction, though seemingly spurious, was one steeped in deep and solid connections. The most important is one where each connection had a solid trust connection.

KARMA: Not for Financial Gain

Sure, there's a time and place to make introductions and connect people, especially in entrepreneurial circles. But I've been managing myself to subscribe to the notion that:

A. I do NOT need to benefit financially from such an introduction, but rather to make the connection for Karmic reasons.

B. I only recommend people I have had a solid working relationship with and would recommend their work. Typically, the contact is someone I've known for at least a few years. Thus, a known entity. I'm often reminded by Xceleration partner in business and life, Tammy Liao, that you don't want to recommend the services or help of someone you yourself have never worked with or vetted.

One of Xceleration Labs' teams actually got one of these introductions through a third party, someone with seemingly big company credentials, looking for an opportunity to work in a startup. It turned out the recommendation had come from a recent "new" friend to Xceleration, who had never worked with the recommended third party. Said third party resource turned out to be disastrous on several levels in terms of work product and cultural fit, setting back the team's development time table. With 20-20 hindsight, it's obvious that such a connection should not have been made. . .

C. Be sure to pre-qualify both the potential problem being resolved and the solution set of skills of the contact you want to recommend. This takes work on the part of the intermediary, often times I have found lacking in well meaning middlemen.

D. If A-C have not been fulfilled, I won't bother to make the recommendation for fear of wasting a couple of hours of everyone's time, but worst yet, having financial arrangements made and the working relationship turns out to disastrous. Thus, impacting your own creditability.

E. This is more a corollary. Don't get attached that the two parties work together, give them space, and let things take their course. Be committed, not attached.

That said, I'm tracking two recent connections that I've made in which I believe both cases and the recommended resources will make an impactful presence. As the projects are in mid-progress, we will keep you posted as the projects become available for public comsumption.

In the meantime, it's nice that during one of these introduction meetings, both parties ended their comments with the desire that no matter what happens everyone's ultimate commitment is to our mutual friendships, over any potential business concerns. I concur!