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ADTHINK Speaker Ulla Engeström on Building a New Network

Ulla Engeström, CEO of ThingLink, discusses how she has learned to categorize the four types of introductions in The Wall Street Journal article below. We are thrilled to welcome Ulla as a speaker for our upcoming event in the ADTHINK series. Stay tuned for further details so you can witness Ulla in action!

Ulla Engeström: Four Ways of Building a New Network

Juliana Harkki

I recently moved from Helsinki to Brooklyn for the purpose of setting up our sales and marketing operations in New York. Though I had previously lived in California for two years, my network of friends and colleagues in the US was small.

Running a tech company outside of Europe was something I had no experience with. In anticipation of the cross-Atlantic move, I had signed up eight U.S.-based angel investors and seven advisers with experience on consumer web, media, advertising, and funding. They, I planned, would now become my support network in New York.

As I eventually managed to get my WiFi operational, and the networking started, I learned to categorize the four types of introductions: 1) free and fun 2) free and focused 3) paid, but unwanted and 4) paid and focused.

Free and Fun

Meeting people without an agenda gives room for serendipity; you never know who you’ll meet next and how that may change your life. As a European female tech entrepreneur in the US, you have chances to be interesting and curious, or just ignored (depending who you already know, of course, and how well you communicate). When you run a company and have two small kids, you should choose your parties well. Your best chances for inspiring and just plainly delightful networking will be at small dinners organized by good friends or fellow entrepreneurs.

Free and focused

When I moved to New York, I often stayed with one of my two closest friends who are well-networked women in science and technology. Both of them have been amazingly helpful professionally and personally and have provided an intellectual peer network that can at any time be activated for a cause. All in all, in the first six months, these existing friendships turned out to be more valuable to my networking than most of my advisors together. I look for any opportunity to return a favor.

Paid, but unwanted

One of the biggest challenges for a startup entrepreneur is to stay focused. When you raise a seed round, a lot of people want to become your advisor, and typically these people like to recommend their friends as your advisors too. Good advisors can surely help you network, but what you don’t want is people, who for the excitement or responsibility of being part of a startup, fill your inbox with random introductions. As everything in business (and life) is about timing, business introductions from advisors who have not invested money in your company, rarely lead to anything useful. Even worse are people who make useless introductions and afterwards come and claim compensation for work that has added zero value to your business.

Paid and Focused

When you move to a new country it takes some time to figure out the things you really need help with and how to find the best people to help you.

So far the best value for money in terms of networking and growing a business has been at events like SXSW. Paying $5,000 for a booth and plane tickets and coming back with 10 customer leads worth of $100,000 monthly recurring revenue is healthier than giving out 0.25 points of equity for closing a $100,000 investment.

In the category of free and potentially fun I have not yet tried is joining networks of other female entrepreneurs. Now that 500 Startups just launched 500 Women, I will try that next.

Ms. Engeström is the CEO of ThingLink, an interactive image platform.

For link to WSJ article, click here