How Influence Networks Can Help Startups

Whether it’s career success or social capital, having strong influence networks is important and beneficial. Especially in a very interconnected world, influence helps form strong connections for university students and professionals alike. Students with established networks in school can lead to career-defining opportunities later down the road while professionals are able to gain informational interviews, assistance when changing jobs, access to exclusive job openings, and access to helpful mentors. 

For businesses, investing in strong relationships comes with measurable benefits, such as an increase in revenue, product creation, and employee attractiveness. Nonetheless, there is a distinct difference in purpose between college influence networks and corporate influence networks. College networks have a primary focus of receiving fundraising. Corporate networks on the other hand have multiple goals, including gaining access to a large group of applicants, driving boomerang hires, boosting business development, connecting mentors and mentees, and creating a productive evangelist community. 

An influential person can create networks that still exist today. For example, Noam Chomsky, an Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT and Laureate Professor at the University of Arizona is influential in the fields of linguistics and political science. Martha Nuddbaum is an Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago who is a significantly influential voice of feminism and liberalism. 

Influence networks provide a level of camaraderie that can be beneficial outside of education, such as creating startups. In fact, investors are more willing to invest in startups founded by those who are from the same alma mater. A VC investments study over an almost 20-year period found that the founder and investor went to the same university or college in a third of investments. 

The connections founders have to early-stage investors through shared networks created in college as well as the size of the alumni network have shown to be more beneficial to startup financing than the quality of the school and shared geography. Alumni networks allow investors to gain more access to knowledgeable insight about startups. Founders who went to schools with large alumni networks are also able to gather more capital than other startups. 

However, even the best influence network can be wasted if an individual is unable to leverage it properly. It’s a good idea for students to start laying foundations during college so they are prepared to use their network after graduation. Students can leverage an influence network by giving life updates, finding volunteer opportunities that allow them to reconnect with classmates, and sharing professional advice during alumni events. When contacting an alum, it’s best to use either email or LinkedIn as well as provide a quick explanation of who you are, how you got the connection’s information, and why you would like to meet to schedule an “informational interview.” 

Today, colleges and corporations need to work on creating a strategy that allows them to maintain strong and engaged alumni networks. Institutions of higher education can begin creating such connections by highlighting the benefits of joining the network, designing mobile-friendly content, including resources for both local and international alumni, and sharing regular updates. They can also motivate alumni to stay in touch with each other by sharing campus news, evoking nostalgia, highlighting accomplishments of alumni members, and allowing more networking opportunities for new and old members. 

There’s no doubt that strong influence networks in both higher education and business are invaluable resources for the future. The earlier people can build good networking habits the better.

The Power of Influence Networks
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