Action Item: How to create a network from scratch

Ali Hamed of CoVenture shares his tools for getting to the people who can make a difference

Welcome back to Action Items a series in which we condense and extend each of our interviews into actionable bullet points — only for paid subscribers. 

This week we’re doing something new: we’re distilling down a never before released conversation I had with Ali Hamed, partner and co-founder of asset management firm CoVenture

Ali started his career in 2014, but instead of going the traditional finance route and working his way up the food chain he decided to strike out on his own. Today, his fund manages hundreds of millions of dollars—investing in startups and emerging assets like crypto and exotic credit (think financing TikTok creators.)

One of the tools Ali used to start so quickly on his own is his ability to network. He began fresh out of school without knowing anyone, so he had to bootstrap his network from scratch—meeting founders, partners, and potential LPs along the way.

Much like Peter Boyce, he’s made finding the right people and connecting them together a huge part of his early success—and he agreed to share with us the tools he uses to do that.

Today’s Action Item is 3 minutes and 30 seconds of actionable reading.

Let’s dive in! 

👉 Question for members

Are you using a new productivity tool or system this week? Reply to this email and tell me what it is in a sentence! 

📙 Ali wrote research reports to get investors to pay attention

When Ali first left school he needed a way to break into the world of venture capital. Along with a friend, Brian Harwitt, he wrote research reports to get attention. 

  • “What we would do is build these research reports about certain industries and send them to venture capitalists who had portfolio companies in that industry.”
  • You can see an example of a research report he wrote here.

About one out of 100 would respond, but that one response would turn into a valuable relationship.

This shows a classic principle of networking: if you can be valuable to people you’re trying to meet, you’re more likely to get a response. You have to give to get.

🥃 He made himself the man in the middle

In order to cement his relationships, Ali began to introduce people in his network to each other by suggesting that the three of them get drinks together.

It was a way for him to get a seat at the table with people who wouldn’t ordinarily spend time with him:

  • “They’re both big shots, and neither of them really want to get drinks with me. But they did want to get drinks with each other, and wouldn’t mind if I was there too.”

By introducing powerful people, Ali could put himself in the middle of conversations that he wouldn’t ordinarily be a part of.

📧  His networking secret weapon: a forwardable email

Once Ali had a basic network, he started to use his existing connections to help him meet new people. His superpower for getting introductions? An easily forwardable email. 

Here are the components that Ali’s emails always include when he asks someone for an introduction:

  1. Start a new email thread to specifically ask for the introduction.
  2. Thank your contact for your last interaction.
  3. Name the person you’d like them to send the email to and why you want to meet them. Do not mention that you discussed this in advance, or say that your contact suggested it, even if they did. 
  4. Share a little bit about who you are—no matter how smart your contact is, you’re better at describing your own work.
  5. Make it clear the request is coming for you and you are just asking your contact to pass the email along.
  6. Thank them.

An email in this format makes it more likely that you’ll successfully get an introduction because:

  • It doesn’t require the forwarder to expend much social capital on your behalf
  • It doesn’t require the forwarder to do any thinking
  • It will explain to the person you want to meet who you are and why it’s worthwhile to meet with you in your own words, rather than in the words of someone else

Emailing in this way means more intros to more interesting people, and therefore more opportunities.

🕐 🕣🕒  Three Available Times

One last component of Ali’s email system is to always offer three specific time windows for his contact to meet. He’ll even offer up to 10 for a busy person.

Doing this makes it easy for them to react to your suggestions, instead creating more back and forth by offering vague availability.

“I will make it so easy to figure out a timeslot,” Ali says. 

 🐬 Sonar Learning

Now that his network is more mature, Ali primarily uses his networking skills to help him learn about new spaces and refine his ideas.

It’s a process he calls sonar learning: he uses an idea as an excuse to meet new people, and refine the concept as he has more conversations. That way, over time he’ll progressively expand his network and decide whether an idea is worth pursuing.

“A lot of it is just volume—telling an unrefined idea someone and hearing what they say back,” he said.

📣 Key Takeaway

Even the people who seem out of reach are often only an email away.

If you can work up the courage to try, you might be surprised who will respond to you—especially if you send them an email that actually offers them something useful.

Who do you want to talk to today?

This article was co-written by Dan Shipper and Annaliese Griffin

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