Global Themes

On Globalization & Venture Capital

“Networking” – Transactional or Relationship-building?

Seth Levine put out a post last week on networking on his blog which made me a little uneasy.

Then I came across this post by Andrew referring to another post by Dharmesh Shah and realised why…

In his post Dharmesh wrote:

But, sometimes, it’s good to just be human and have a genuine conversation with other people.  … You don’t need to always be closing.  Sometimes, it’s enough just to “always be”.

I agree whole-heartedly. Some of my most useful (and happy relationships) are with people whom I met “accidentally” – or at least serendipitously.

Andrew referred to Dharmesh’s post and wrote about his own approach to networking:

My approach to networking is to focus on what I can do for the other person. In some cases there isn’t anything I can do for the other person but everybody could use a hand somewhere and most people seem to appreciate the effort regardless of the results. I find that I build trust and get to know people better by trying to help them.

Taking the longer term approach of building trust and good will by helping others is what has allowed me to build relationships where by others are genuinely willing to help me.

Again, I tend to agree with Andrew here. A short-sighted “what-can-you-do-for-me?” (or its variant, “what-can-I-do-for-you?”) is probably not the best way to start a long-term relationship
To be fair, Seth’s post was more in the spirit of keeping meetings to the point and crisp (no argument with that) but he does refer to “those pesky “networking” introductions . . .”!
As an aside, is there a cultural angle to this? At the risk of sounding controversial (and/or arrogant), I think this self-centred and here-and-now approach may be one reason why US entrepreneurs or professionals often find it difficult to do business (and build networks) in Asia where cultures tend to emphasize the “social” side of the relationships more than their commercial or transactional aspects.

July 24th, 2006 Posted by | Miscellaneous | 2 comments


  1. Shantanu, I would agree with Seth Levine’s ‘grumble’ broadly. If the meeting is an actual social meeting, then it is okay to expect ‘just being’ as Dharmesh puts it. If the meeting is for work (if you remember our first conversation), it has to be focused, have a set agenda and a follow-through and then the relationship results anyway depending on how both parties saw the interaction. But if the meeting is by chance, we can also focus on ‘just being’ so long as that ‘being’ is not obnoxious destroying any chance of a positive interaction in the future. Esp for advice-seeking meetings, if I am seeking advice, I should be focused enough to know what I am trying to achieve. Such prep also reflects respect for the other person I think. This may also be cultural and personality-driven (a broad generalisation that but there is ample material about deal-driven and relationship-driven cultures). I say this as I know you and Dharmesh broadly to the same extent and some similarities are uncanny and probably only attributable to the common cultural backgrounds..

    Comment by S Yogendra | July 27, 2006

  2. Interesting comment Shefaly..and I find it hard to fault it..At the same time, there should be space for “chance” interactions…and remember that there are people (and cultures) that find it hard to “open up” without having some common ground.

    Comment by Shantanu | July 30, 2006

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