It’s a question that I get almost every day from my coaching clients and readers.
“How do I connect with startup founders?”
“How can I be seen as an authority in my field by industry influencers?”
“What can I do to be seen as a leader in my expertise by startup leaders in Switzerland?”
In this blog post, I will show you 3 very effective ways how you can get noticed by startup founders and other influencers in Switzerland.
Why Startup Founders Are Significantly Different From Corporate CEOs
Many people also come to me for advice on how to connect with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I’m not saying this is impossible but it’s way more of a long shot than connecting with a startup founder.
Why? Because a Fortune 500 CEO is usually at one company for 2 years, collects the millions and moves on to the next “to be saved” corporation to raise the stock price.
Many of these CEOs don’t care much about the company, except for the stock price. They launch short-terms strategies, re-organize some people out of the company and solve the issues that are most visible to the shareholders but not the issues at the source.
A startup founder on the other hand, is the company. He started the whole thing for a reason, usually because of a bigger cause. He has a vision where he wants the company to go. I’m not talking about an exit strategy, I’m talking about achieving a bigger goal like Urban Farmers in Basel or Entwine Media in Zurich.
Startup founders care about the business, obviously, because it’s theirs. If you genuinely want to connect with them, it’s much easier to do that than connect with corporate CEOs.
If you care about the same things as the startup founder does, if you share similar values, connecting becomes obvious for both of you.
Providing Massive Value
This has to be at the core of everything. Every time you reach out to somebody, not matter if this is a person you don’t know yet or somebody who you already know, you have to create value to keep building the relationship.
I think the term “mutually beneficial relationship” describes this perfectly. It’s a two way street. Forget about what you want, think about what the other person wants and you will make things work.
People always ask me what they can do to create value. There are plenty of ways to do so. Don’t just think about your knowledge or skills, go further. You have everything you need to provide value within you, no matter if you are in business for 20 years or just graduated.
To provide you with a few examples to start with, you have an opinion and you can provide feedback. To do that, you simply need an opinion and that is not something you get from attending business school or being in business for 20 years.
Quite the contrary, your opinion and creativity usually gets drilled out of you thanks to the current education system that is still trying to graduate factory workers.
What do you belief in? What do you stand for? What do you truly care about at the core of your heart?
1. Help the Startup Founder Achieve His Goals
One major way to get on the radar of a startup founder in Switzerland is to help him achieve his goals. This requires a bit of ground work of course. You need to get to know as much about the person and business as possible. Go buy his book, read his blog, Twitter feed or look him up at Pinterest to find out about his artistic site.
Just recently, a small business owner I know shared her Pinterest site where she builds amazing dollhouses in her spare time.
Google the founder and his startup, search for speeches on Youtube, search for him on Medium, inhale his profile on LinkedIn with all its details and ask yourself some basic questions.
What does he stand for? What does he belief in? What are his core interests? What are his passions? What are his goals?
Once you have an idea about what the startup founder is up to, you can identify areas where you can help.
Leaving an Insightful Blog Comment
Sometimes, it’s as simple as leaving a comment on his blog to give him an insight based on your experience.
Maybe the startup founder has written about a topic that resonates with you. Leave a public comment on his blog, share your thoughts and if possible your experience.
Especially if he is not a very popular blogger yet, leaving a comment will certainly be noticed by him.
Share Your Detailed Experience
Other times it can be sending him a detailed email about your experience from the past where you where facing a similar challenge and how you solved it.
Let’s say you found out that the startup is in a major funding phase. If you have written business plans before or have experience in financing, you can offer your best practices in an email to make sure he gets the funding.
Or if the startup is looking to expand to emerging markets and you speak fluent Portuguese, email the founder about what you believe the potential of the emerging markets in Brazil is. Paulo did exactly this and was quickly seen as an authority in his expertise and hired into a fast growing SME in Zurich.
Maybe you know that in the current phase of the startup, there are many technological challenges and you have dealt with them before.
Share your best practices, offer your help.
Offer Your Opinion and Feedback
Share your opinion or feedback with the founder. Maybe you completely agree with something he mentions in his book or speech or you disagree with a point.
Share your opinion or feedback in comments, an email or on LinkedIn. Leverage what the amazing technology of today has to offer and reach out.
Last summer, I was working with a coaching client from Argentina with a financial background who was looking to break into the startup scene in Switzerland.
She attended the Startup Weekend in Zurich. One of the speakers, who is also a startup founder and investor, fascinated her deeply since he spoke about a topic she also truly cares about.
After the speech, she went to him and gave him her opinion about the topic and they started a passionate discussion. During the short chat, he saw that she was very smart and a natural leader.
A few days later, the startup founder invited her for coffee. They talked about going into partnership with his current startup and also to do some consulting work for him.
At that time, he invested in several startups that were in the funding phase and he needed somebody to review and assess the financial part of the business plans to increase the chances to get funding or to raise the potential amount of the funding.
Express Your Sincere Interest
Maybe you want to know more about a topic the startup founder is passionate about but did not go into details in a publication.
Send an email or LinkedIn message and express your sincere interest in a topic he mentioned. Ask specific questions that interest you and be amazed by the generosity of people when you share somebody’s passion.
2. Start Blogging and Share it Where the Startup Founders Hang Out
This is an extremely effective way to get noticed. You don’t even have to have your own website, you can share your ideas and thoughts on Medium.
Use your articles to send to contacts you make. Send it to people you think could truly benefit from the content. Share the articles in LinkedIn groups where the startup founders you want to reach hang out.
Two people I know who do this fairly regularly are Gary Vaynerchuk and Andy Brandt. Gary blogs about social media but also other topics that he is passionate about. Andy blogs about startups, his opinion on the startup scene in Switzerland and related topics he is passionate about.
If you have not started publishing yet, I urge you to do so.
It will, in a big way, help you attract the opportunities you seek. You will be thanking me big times in 6 months when you are rubbing elbows with startup founders and other influencers you admire.
What to Blog About
I recently wrote a blog post about this here.
Share your opinion, how you see the world, your expertise and niche, best practices and anything else that matters to you and is of value to the people you want to impact. Ask yourself what the startup founders you want to connect with care about and then find the intersection between that and what matters to you.
This is how I have built my blog and business. I write about topics that are at the intersection of what I deeply care about and what I know has a positive and helpful impact in people’s lives who want to create a career on their own terms.
3. Say Thank You Over and Over Again
Many of my coaching clients have used this approach to get noticed by influencers. I have used it myself plenty of times to get noticed by the people I admire and to simply sincerely say thank you.
When I published my eBook, I sent a copy to all people I thanked in the acknowledgement section and got responses from people I would never have thought would reply, one of them being Seth Godin.
By saying thank you, you do something that is extremely neglected in today’s business world. It has become so rare that it’s of massive value.
One of my coaching clients in 2013 used this approach to get on the radar of a social entrepreneur who also owned the number one LinkedIn group in the niche.
She sent him an email saying thank you. This was a thank you from the heart since she truly believes in the same cause he does.
An interesting conversation was started and eventually he offered her to take over the LinkedIn group because he was not able to keep up with managing it. She received an amazing opportunity to brand herself as an authority in her field through the LinkedIn group and the local events that were hosted in Geneva through that group.
Whenever you see a blog post from the founder, a twitter or LinkedIn update that sincerely interests and maybe impacts you, say thank you.
Whatever you do to get noticed by startup founders and other influencers, remember that the core is providing value.
To make sure you communicate with the startup founders in the most effective way, work through the Communication Excellence Workbook here.