Ron Conway Prunes His Network Like A Bonzai Tree -- So Should You

Bonzai Tree

Photo: EricaJoy

Ben Horowitz, one of the partners at über VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and previously the founder of Opsware, which was acquired by HP for $1.5 billion, has a great post up explaining just why Ron Conway is such a valuable investor to have on your team.The reason is that Ron runs “the most important business network in technology.”

Ben starts by relating the story of how, after the dotcom bust, Ron basically saved the life of Tellme, a startup that went on to get acquired for $800 million and become a Harvard Business School case study, by getting them an overnight sales meeting with a Fortune 50 CEO.

And how does Ron do that, you might ask?

Ben goes through several obvious steps: having a “redonkulous” work ethic, not being narrowly self-interested, but the key dimension is this: Ron prunes and maintains his network like a bonzai tree. You can’t be in Ron’s network if you’re not reliable, and if you can’t deliver on what you promise. “If you behave below Ron’s standards … you will not be allowed to participate. As a result, Ron’s social network is a fantastic place to conduct business. Everyone is courteous, timely, and straightforward. Ron gets rid of the friction and enables his business partners to focus on what’s important.”

We love this. Oftentimes, people judge their network by numbers: how many people you’ve met, how many you have on your Rolodex, how many business cards you’ve collected. But the true strength of a network is not quantitative, it’s qualitative. It’s useless if you know everyone, but they just vaguely know who you are. Ron’s not afraid to cut out people who don’t contribute to the network in a meaningful way.

Your writer was delighted when a startup founder introduced him to someone else as “a facilitator.” I view networking as helping people as much as I can, and not worrying about reaping the dividends, because I want people to know I can be trusted and reliable. That’s how you build a network that’s not just wide, but deep.

In any case, you should really read Ben’s post in its entirety, it’s quite humbling.

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