Short-term: Stupid. Long-term: Obvious
Scroll or run?
On 31st December 2021 at around 11:40pm I deleted my LinkedIn account, and with it my 6,667 LinkedIn connections. A few times in the last month I’ve been tempted to go back, open an account and start connecting again. Deleting the largest online professional network may still turn out to be a bad idea but I’m willing to bet it’ll feel stupid in the short-term only to become an obviously good idea in the long-term.
One evening during December I was scrolling through LinkedIn and half an hour passed in the blink of an eye. I was having a lazy afternoon on holiday and thought to myself, is this OK? I thought, I can either carry on refreshing and scrolling through LinkedIn until dinner or I can go for a run — something I knew would do me an awful lot more good. It was on that dark, drizzly run around the lanes of a village in Northumberland that I decided I’d had enough of the virtue-signalling and humble-bragging on LinkedIn. I knew it had to go. On that run I also decided to take the plunge and enter the 2023 MdS. I may come to regret both but I knew that on the networking and running fronts I had to up my game.
I’ll write about the MdS another time, but why ditch LinkedIn? I’ve had a lot of value from it over the years, my network drives everything I do and some of those 6,667 connections are friends, fellow investors and the founders of my portfolio companies.
Regression toward the mean
The people I looked up to and admired in the nascent London startup scene of 2010 and 2011 all had a ‘500+’ connections count on LinkedIn. I was jealous of that. Before getting to 501 connections LinkedIn displays the precise number and back in mid-2011 I was really pleased with myself when I got to 500+.
Last year, though, it was as if connecting and posting on LinkedIn was ‘good enough’. If I’d done that, gone some likes then it was ‘work’ that I could tick off. But if work is finding the best startups to invest in and then trying to help them, was accepting all the random connections and doing some posts about my portfolio actually my best work? It didn’t feel like it. It felt like mediocrity when I ought to be focusing on one thing that could have 100x the impact rather than 100 things that each didn’t do much. Maybe it’s an 80/20 thing (see below) but it also felt like the vast majority of the content I read was mediocre too. I needed to take some bold action.
I did some analysis too — I looked through all the closest connections, the friends, the co-investors and the portfolio founders — they hadn’t come from LinkedIn. They’d found 9others, or we’d met in-person first, or we’d been introduced by a mutual contact. Yes, I was connected to those good people on LinkedIn but the origin of the connection was never LinkedIn. And those connections where the origin was LinkedIn? They always seemed to be the people who were trying to sell me something — they were a distraction; ‘takers’ who didn’t really want to connect at all.
Engineer your own serendipity
Would you ever take the plunge and join me? And if not LinkedIn then how do you connect with people? Without LinkedIn as a crutch to lean on but wanting to be ‘networked’ what could you do? Here are some ways to engineer serendipity, randomness and flukes:
Dig out several emails from, say, eight years ago and reply to them — offer some specific help, share a useful link or ask for their address and post them a good book. That’s what James Altucher did with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which led to this conversation on James’s podcast1.
Have 50 coffees with 50 people in February2. That’s what James Bishop did after he sold his first business in 2013. James’s biggest learning from meeting those 50 people (I was one of them) was that the really good stuff takes time3.
Invite a few people for dinner. I host meals with 9others of course but go to and host many more besides. A format I’ve heard of and like is where a core group of five people regularly go to dinner and the rule is that each time each one of the core five has to bring someone new4.
Notice anything all the above have in common? They’re small-scale and seem a bit obscure, they’re open to randomness and will be fun, and they have extremely low downside. They may be ‘non-scalable’ too but I bet you can see the obvious value if you think about doing the above over a lifetime then looking back at what happened.
In other news
I am thrilled that Richard Koch has written about myself and 9others in the recently released 4th edition of his best-selling book, The 80/20 Principle.
In Chapter 15, ‘Money’, Richard shares his Ten Commandments of Investment, one of which is ‘Invest in Venture Capital’. In that section he talks about Crowdfunding (not great for finding hidden stars), being an LP in a fund (good if you pick the right fund, but you’ll have a long wait for any ROI and will have to pay substantial fees), building trusted relationships with founders (above) and, as Richard mainly does, being an amateur VC on your own account (with a strong thesis, which for Richard is seeking Star Businesses).
I can confirm that my way is indeed hard to do and is lots of fun. Plus, I hope, it will be extremely lucrative. Again, it might not make sense short-term but definitely will long-term.
You can buy the 4th edition of The 80/20 Principle here.
Important: None of these posts are investment advice. If you are thinking about investing you should seek the advice of a suitably qualified independent advisor.
At worst you don’t get a reply.
Tip: Say, “I’ll buy you coffee” and not “Let’s grab coffee” as the former is generous, enticing and purposeful.
At worst you’re down a fiver and an hour.
At worst you get to go to dinner with a few people.