November 16, 2006
Counter Cliche: Connected at the Top
Fred hasn’t written an official VC Cliche of the Week for a while, but his post yesterday on Connectors is close enough — in it, he talks about how he likes to be a good Connector between people and thinks it’s a quality of great VCs.
First, we should give credit to Malcolm Gladwell for a great definition of Connectors in The Tipping Point. Gladwell not only defines Connectors as Fred has but also defines two other types of people who are critical in the social networking/buzz building arena: Mavens and Salesmen. I’d argue that a great VC has to have a bit of all three!
But in terms of entrepreneurs (the point of the counter cliche series), is being a Connector a prerequisite for success? I think the answer is nuanced, but it’s probably no. I’ve met great CEOs who are fairly introverted and whose brains don’t work in the Connector kind of way. And they can be great at developing product, even running operations. But if you’re an entrepreneur and not a Connector, you’d better have one or more of them on your management team (think sales or business development or marketing) to make up for that missing piece of the equation to make sure your company is connecting the dots outside the corporate walls. Otherwise, you’re sure to miss out on opportunities.
The one area where I would say that being a Connector is critical for an entrepreneur is internally within the company. If you’re going to lead the troops effectively, you do need to be able to make Connections between people within the company, especially as the business grows. And off-topic a bit (literally if not figuratively), you also need to be able to connect with your staff members on a personal level and make sure that people are connected to the company and its mission. I’m not sure these are things that an entrepreneur can delegate as long as he or she is CEO.