Charlotte, NC isn’t exactly a venture capital hot spot. But that’s where I found myself.
For those of you that don’t know, Charlotte is banking town. It seems like 70% of the people you meet work at Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or do something within real estate. If you do something outside of the norm, people look at you funny.
Working in Charlotte was the same as working in VC in other smaller cities; It’s hard to find other people in town working on the same problems, deal flow is limited, and there’s a stigma about you that will make bigger name investors not take you seriously.
So that’s what I was working against.
A year into my first job as an analyst, I decided to make a switch by doing things differently. This post details how I built my venture network from scratch to hundreds of investors I can rely on.
My first job was a fintech-only fund, and I was the only employee on the team below the two GPs.
I was doing outreach all day, going to conferences all over the Southeast, and I was hopping on a flight to NY every other week to find people and companies to talk to.
Doing all of this was a grind, but these things worked.
There was only one problem, and that was that I was my network was limited to where I could be physically.
Around the same time, I was reading about leverage and how other people were building it for themselves. I became obsessed with this idea of sharing things on the internet and helping others at scale.
So I thought of a different way to turn knowledge into networking opportunities.
Starting Confluence was the best thing I’ve ever done for building a venture network.
The goal with starting Confluence with Tyler was to 1) deliver outsized value 2) to the people we want to talk to 3) for free. That was the equation.
We knew the problems these people faced because we dealt with the same ones. So we built a solution to those problems, and used that solution as a lead magnet to form a community.
Building a community from scratch works for a couple of reasons.
For one, it gives you a reason to talk to every community member that comes in the door. I’ve met people that I otherwise would have no chance of meeting with just because they want to learn more about Confluence.
Also, creating a community means you’re able to act as the facilitator of relationships. Every time that somebody connects through that community, you build more brand equity. This should compound on itself if you are doing things right as the community lead.
We’re three years in, and we’ve met thousands of investors through this approach.
Pro tip: Check out our Community Builder Playbook to get everything we’ve learned starting, scaling, and monetizing an online community
Today, I work as an LP investing into venture capital funds. Confluence members are my primary source of deal flow, and the connections I’ve made over the past three years have and will continue to pay dividends in this job.
Early on in my career, a friend told me that VC gets easier with age. He was right, but only if you reap what you sow.
I’d argue that building a network of people that can vouch for you is one of the most meaningful things you can do early on in your career. Provide tons of value for free, deliver on favors, introduce people, or do whatever feels natural.
This game runs on luck, and you have a lot more luck the stronger your rolodex.