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🔎 7 Ways Founders Can Become Insanely Well-Connected

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Good Morning, this is Napkin Notes: the only newsletter Lindsay Lohan opens on a Friday. Let’s just say, if you like listening to My First Million and the All-In-Podcast, you’ve come to the right place. Today’s menu is a doozie.

Bring up a chair and join us:

  • 🗞 News Round-up

  • 💸 A VC’s Playbook for Becoming Insanely Well-Connected

  • 🤫 September Startup Ideas to Build

  • 🐦 Memes of the week

📰 Startup News: OpenAI’s hosting a developer conference on Nov 6th. China banned iPhone use for government officials at work. Thousands were stranded at Burning Man after a storm. AI startup Hugging Face raises $235M at a $4.5B valuation. Capital raised in 2023 is about to hit a 7-year low. And we’re all still missing summer. Lucky for you, we put together the perfect pick-me-up.

A deep dive on how to make you the most connected founder on the planet 🌎

Cue the lights, Jessie.

🤝 How to Become Insanely Well-Connected

Founders and investors live very different lives. But one common thing they share is that both of their jobs revolve around people.

  • Meeting with them

  • Partnering with them

  • Hiring, Firing and Backing them

It all comes down to decade-long relationships that last the test of time.

So in the spirit of “back to school” September, I thought it was only fitting to break down how one of the top VCs recommends making friends in the startup world.

Because even if we’re not going “back to school” we should all still be looking to brush up our relationship-building game. Before we dig into Chris Fralic’s playbook, here’s why you should trust him:

  • 📝 He’s been a Partner at First Round since 2006 and in 2019 shifted to Board Partner

  • 🤝 He was one of the first people to Spot Uber and got First Round into being their first institutional investor. Even accepted pitches from founders in Uber Pools back in 2016

  • 💸 Several of his investments have gone public like Roblox, Warby Parker, and Double Verify. And some of his investments have been acquired like Ring (Amazon), Hotel Tonight (AirBnB), Flurry (Yahoo!), Invite Media (Google), Demdex (Adobe), etc

  • ⏰ Chris has over 35 years of technology industry experience, with significant Internet business development roles since 1996. More on his background here.

But the bottom line? He’s established himself as a high-value investor to founders. And since you’re too busy to read his blog posts, we summed up 7 of his favourite tips to building a world-class network.

35 years ago, Chris was a young chap slinging software at Oracle curiuos about the world of VC.

Today, Chris is a heavy hitter VC that’s almost as hard to book a meeting with as Taylor Swift post-Eras Tour announcement. *Not the bestttt comparison, but you get the point.

He’s busy.

But even due to the demands of his schedule, he still replies to 10,000 emails/year (~30/day) and loves sharing tips along the way.

So as you read his frameworks, imagine your dream meeting (VC, Co-founder, top customer) sitting across the table from you. Action his advice as if one of your multi-decade relationships depends on it.

(Because it kinda does)

☕️ 7 Ways to Build a World-Class Network:

  1. Show genuine appreciation: your energy is one of the few things you can control when meeting someone. Make it memorable. Make it personable. Don’t copy/paste relationship building.

  2. Listen with intent: ask follow-up questions that build off of what they’ve shared in your conversation to prove you’re 110% engaged. Use cues and body language to show they’re the most important meeting of your year.

  3. Use humility markers: acknowledge your human imperfections and share stories of things that haven’t gone well when applicable. Nobody’s a superhero. We’re all working on things. Share commonalities and faults to build rapport before you ask for something in return.

  4. Offer unvarnished honesty: after establishing rapport, candid and honest answers are the best way to respect someone’s time. Be up front and have their best intentions in mind.

  5. Offer a blue-sky brainstorm: being a sounding board or helpful resource can go a long way. Ask if a brainstorm or white board session mentally could be of value to the problem you’re chatting about.

  6. Finish your chat expecting you’ll see them again: The world is damn small, so ensure every convo you have may happen again in 1, 5, or 20 years. Be in their corner even if you don’t invest, join their team or buy their product.

  7. Don’t fake it till you make it, do the leg work: use CRM tools, social media and mutual contacts to make the most of your chat. Show you’ve done the homework better than anyone they’ve met that month.

☑️ Other do’s and don’ts:

  • ✅ Always have a dream contact list ready: you never know when someone will be in a position to help intro. Future investors, technical hires and business buyers should always be a click away.

  • ✅ Ensure every ask is a “low-lift” request: make SCFE (self-contained forwardable emails) that are dead easy for busy people to forward.

  • ❌ Never introduce people without a double opt-in permission from both sides: people should always be given the heads up

  • ✅ Follow up and act on your words: 90% of people don’t, Chris says. So if you’re gonna offer an intro, a list or an interview, send an email follow-up within 48 hours of the chat.

  • ✅ Be easy to contact/research: make yourself very easy to connect with. Add your # to your signature and have a couple hyperlinks that prove you’re worth a chat.

  • ✅ Include “no need to respond” into emails when it’s applicable. It’s a powerful/subtle way to let people know you’d like to update them but there’s no pressure to reply if they’re nut-zo busy.

  • ✅ Make a CRM system for follow-ups: could be your own calendar or a Gmail widget, but have something. Chris uses Clearbit.

  • ✅ Measure your response rates: The next time you have a hiring, funding or sales ask to your network, evaluate what % reply and help. If it’s below 30% you may want to switch up your wording or assess how much you’re asking vs giving in your network.

One final thought to leave you with from Chris:

Hope this back-to-school relationship building 101 deep dive was helpful. Liked Chris’ points? Nerd out on his full interview here.

Loved the tips? Go follow Chris on X.

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Reply and let us know which one’s your fav.

💚 The Kernal Fam

P.S. Building a startup is hard. Keep at it. You’re kicking ass and you inspire us to keep building.

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