JD Vance, the author of the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy, and the new voice of the rust belt, has become a household name due to his impressive individual success stories. Vance is a product of the poverty that has taken hold of the working class in middle America. Despite this, he rose from a volatile and misguided youth to earn a Yale Law School degree, and now brings venture capital to America's heartland, alongside some of the biggest names in technology, like Palantir Technologies and Auris Health.
What Vance demonstrates is the importance of tapping every resource available to reach success. Throughout his book, he discusses the vital role people in his life, from family members and friends, to colleagues and professors, played in shaping his success; including his law professor Amy Chua's encouragement and help in turning his life story into a national bestselling memoir.
There are many keys to success: grit, luck, timing, talent, passion. And like Vance, successful entrepreneurs also rely heavily on their relationships. This has been true for me -- the team at Techstars have been instrumental in helping me forge great new connections, including to Vance, who is now a fellow investor at the Rise of the Rest fund.
It's all about who you know.
Entrepreneurs know that business is often not about what you know, but who you know. Still, many either forget to leverage their full scope of resources, or leave them untapped after the company progresses past the initial startup stage.
It is during a startup's early days that founders are the most likely to reach out to their network for support. They are motivated to ask for introductions to investors, explore potential partners and seek recommendations for candidates. This is critical, and often the catalyst for getting funding and finding people that are the perfect fit to take on leadership positions within the company. Founders will usually initiate a similar flurry of networking activity during growth and hiring spurts, or when they are seeking a subsequent round of funding.
But leveraging all your resources, at every stage of the business, is equally important. We encourage our Techstars companies to find numerous mentors -- that bring expertise from a wide range of businesses and backgrounds-- and nurture those relationships into mutually-beneficial connections that can be relied upon for the long haul. Many have transformed their startups as a result of the sound advice and guidance their mentors provided, ultimately helping them reach important benchmarks and achieve the goals they needed to keep moving forward.
Go to networking events in your city.
Many people dread networking events, but if you choose the right ones, they too can be a meaningful resource. Most cities with growing tech communities have industry associations that host events on emerging issues and give entrepreneurs a chance to learn from others in their industry, meet potential partners, get up to speed on competitors and gain face-time with investors.
They also organize events for job-seekers that give companies a chance to connect with candidates in a casual format. Likewise, universities can be a great (and often untapped) resource. Alumni associations, and the business schools, engineering colleges or computer science programs at your alma mater can be a great place to find fresh talent entering the market, which will be critical to fueling growth.
Get to know investors.
Investors are also an important resource that want to hear from founders at times other than board meetings and when they are looking for more money. Leverage investors as advisors that are there with you in the trenches. They believe in your business and want to help you succeed.
There really is nothing that rivals the power of relationships. Remember that resources aren't limited to your friends and close colleagues, and look beyond that immediate network for others that may be invested in your success. Social media and career networking sites have given us the power to bring all of our connections together in a single place, and whether you are just starting a company or continuing to grow beyond your 10-year-anniversary, be strategic about those connections and how you leverage them to grow your venture.