LinkedIn or Locked Out

Paul Allen (founder of Infobases, and, not the Microsoft one) kicks off a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article, Working the Net, demonstrates the level that tools like LinkedIn have risen to for some people:

Paul Allen, managing partner of business incubator Infobase Ventures in Provo, Utah, likes to help entrepreneurs with advice on business plans and raising capital. But as a frequent lecturer at business schools and conferences, he recently found himself inundated with requests. So he made a new rule: If you’re not a member of the LinkedIn network with a minimum of 10 connections and two endorsements on the site, don’t even bother calling him. “The most important thing for an entrepreneur is not necessarily what they know, but who they know,” says Allen.

If you’re not linked in, you’re locked out. These tools are no longer a curiosity — they are quickly becoming “how business is done”. Entrepreneurs are using them to connect with investors, strategic partners, board members, prospective customers and potential employees — the entire spectrum. According to the article, two key advantages are:

  1. Accelerating the speed at which companies can get to the decision-maker
  2. “Leveling the field by replacing costly middlemen small businesses can ill afford”

Paul Allen posted about it in his blog, prompting a reply from Naina Redhu (great blog on business networking out of India — new to me, and I look forward to reading it) disagreeing:

RE: endorsements

Endorsements at least, are not a means to measure a person’s worth. Colleagues, clients and people we know who will not say anything negative about us write all our endorsements.

RE: connections

I also do not understand why anyone would “only” want to connect with someone who has a large number of connections. If a person is well networked it means that he / she is a good conversationalist, has the time to personally keep in touch with all his connections and makes an effort to do so and maybe he / she is “good with people”. The number of professionals on our personal networks only adds “snobbery” value when someone we do not know views the same.

Naina does, though, acknowledge the need some people have to use sites like LinkedIn as a filter:

I can understand why Paul Allen, who is a busy man, needs to critically view each person who approaches him for connecting on the LinkedIn network or for VC funding. Fact is, all of us are busy professionals and need to set some boundaries about our networking practices. Each person has different rules, different best practices and different approaches to how they handle business networking and using one example as a general sentiment is biased.

Naina’s post continues with some excellent insights — I highly encourage you to take a read and add your comments.