Networking Prostitution

Last month I wrote about some guy that people pay thousands of dollars per month to get access to his “network.” He had reached out to me because he (incorrectly) thought I worked at Newsweek and wanted to connect one of his clients. Obviously this guy isn’t someone you want to be paying to introduce you to people.

Someone I know recently sent me a Facebook message about this very topic. I didn’t respond to the first message (I don’t check FB messages religiously) and he sent a follow up:

This guy isn’t the same buffoon that messaged me about Newsweek. He’s a young entrepreneur trying to figure out if he can make money on the side connecting people to investors.

The answer is no.

Not directly anyway. There are still people out there trying to act as finders for investors, asking for a percentage of the amount raised or some other fee. These aren’t the kinds of people that we or any other investors we know want to interact with, and we ignore them.

There are so many legitimate ways an entrepreneur can get attention from investors. It all starts with knowing at least one person already in the ecosystem, and all of us take cold calls and emails all the time. Show up in Silicon Valley and you’ll make friends quickly, sans a fee. And there are so many channels for first time entrepreneurs to get in front of the right people – Y Combinator and the other incubators, AngelList, etc. If you’re the real deal, someone will bite with just a little bit of persistence.

Showing up in Silicon Valley with a paid networker is like going to a holiday party with a prostitute. People are going to figure it out, and the people you want to be hanging out with are going to shun you. Because you’re with a hooker.

That doesn’t mean you can’t leverage your network, though. That’s the main point of networking. Bringing quality deals to an investor is valuable, and in some cases you can probably talk your way into advisor shares in the startup (people don’t see this as prostitution, for whatever reason). And a young startup just getting attention in Silicon Valley may want to hire you as a consultant outright, either now or later, to help with general marketing and PR.

And of course if you happen to be really, really good at finding and picking quality startups, your track record can get you a job at a VC or angel fund. Or you may even be able to get investors in your own fund directly.

Good luck out there.

17 thoughts on “Networking Prostitution

  1. tle9 says:

    “in good faith”
    Good luck there.

  2. Great post Michael. Got some laughs out of me–the analogy of bringing a prostitute to a holiday party was spot on, and entrepreneurs don’t think others will notice. Or worse, they have false confidence that their hooker will make them look better and lead to meaningful introductions, when in actuality it’s quite the contrary.

  3. I am an online Cam4 model and this guy obviously is in the wrong state of mind. He cannot and will not make money connecting people with or for investors. If he took the time to research this, he would have realized how futile his very question was. Giving the guy credit for trying, but still, research is vital.

  4. Old principals still apply in new economies. Get to know people, make friends, be genuine and those people will introduce you to someone can help you. People listen to the friends who they trust. Warm introductions trump just about everything, at least with getting a initial meeting

  5. Now, how thin is the line between a “paid networker” and an I-bank… same service & fee structure, right?

  6. Completely agree with you, Mike. Incidentally, we wrote a blog post about this a few months back (The Power of Weak Ties: http://blog.meeteor.com/the-power-of-weak-ties/)

    It’s a numbers game, really. Think about all of the people you’ve met over your lifetime….Of those, let’s say you’re the average Facebook & LinkedIn user and have 130 friends + 60 connections, so 190 people total.

    If each of those people is also an average person, then he/she will also have 190 connections each, which puts your second degree network at 36,100 people. Simply stated, that means that if you need something, chances are SOMEONE in your network can help you get there, or get you closer to your goal. Venture Capitalists? Check. Developers? Check.

  7. Andres B says:

    Love the new form of spam by Allan. It’s time for Akismet/Automattic to polish their filters. BTW, I be a russian virgin expectating to finding the correct gentlement.

  8. Charley Lingerfelt says:

    In Los Angeles we called them “agents”

  9. rlinger says:

    In Los Angeles, we called them “Agents”

  10. Ignoring how that Paid Guy went about this work (blindly trying to connect people he knew to his clients), what he’s doing should not be seen so bad.
    Large number of VCs emphasize value of networking, that’s how you get funded in the Valley (for as much as I know). That’s how you get jobs in the TECH industry. That’s what a lot of other startup incubators are doing (not the ones in YC league) — this person is trying to balance his morals and ambitions of earning money, IMO.
    Bad ideas would teach a lot more than when you take a ‘common-path-to-success’.

  11. Great post, Mike. I agree. So was my http://ArringtonPleaseHire.me website a good way to get your/investors attention? Thoughts on it?

  12. As an entrepreneur I strongly disagree with what you are saying here. If all the broker did was hook you up with investors, than he is like a hooker, but the brokers I have met do far more than that. They introduce you to a world you are not experienced in (and believe me, it is a complicated world with great many pitfalls), they help build your pitch and presentation and they help with the negotiations later on.
    The business of brokering deals (be it in real-estate, cars or even advertising) has always been able to add value to the chain and should not be disregarded this way.
    I refer you to a great book by Malcolm Gladwell, called “The Tipping
    point”, in which he refers to “Mavens”, “Salespeople” and “Connectors”. The “Connectors” are the brokers (networkers) you talk about and he refers to them not as prostitutes, rather as enables for companies or ideas to spread and for business to succeed.

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