Asking for Introductions

I get asked to make many introductions. I’ve noticed a trend lately, which is that more and more of them go something like this:

Hey David, can you introduce me to investors that you think might be interested in my company?

To me, this is the lazyweb version of asking for introductions, and it has many associated problems which will prevent you from reaching your goal of having valuable introductions. This is something we teach aggressively at Techstars. I’ll explain.

First, it flips the social dynamic. Let’s take a specific example. Let’s say that I answer your original LazyWeb question above with “Why yes, Jeff Clavier is someone who comes to mind.”

You are now very likely to reach out to Jeff Clavier and say “David Cohen told me I should talk to you.” Now I’ve created an *obligation* for Jeff. Because of his relationship of me, he may feel that he almost has to take this introduction. While you might think that’s good for you, it’s not and it’s also not so good for Jeff or me. Further, in this situation Jeff is going to ask the inevitable question of whether or not I’m investing in your company – and if the answer is no, the introduction now has no power at all. In fact, it may have negative power.

Now contrast this with you asking me for an introduction to Jeff Clavier. You asking me allows me to reach out to Jeff (I never do blind introductions that are not double opt in) and explain to him that YOU thought of HIM for a specific reason, and are requesting that I introduce you to him. In this case, I’m merely facilitating an introduction that you requested. Socially, it’s pretty much expected of me that I would do this, and doing it as a double-opt in literally has no “cost” in terms of social currency associated with it. And, as a bonus, in the case where I’m not an investor this doesn’t hurt you because you’ve asked for the introduction regardless, for a specific reason relating to Jeff and not me (e.g. you love his experience with Fitbit, and you think that’s relevant to you).

Hopefully this example makes sense. It’s easy to overlook the other side of the introduction equation. The only introductions that truly work are those that are win-win-win, so it’s best to set that dynamic up with a) specific asks to specific people, and b) a specific reason why you want to be connected to them.

file under: Blog, Startups