In this next blog post in a series of reflections on “the Founders Dilemmas” I will focus on building social and financial capital. Wasserman brings attention to a point that I was very encouraged by. He advises that “People who wait to become founders can use their pre-founding career experiences to prepare for the extreme challenges of founding.” I currently work a 9-5 in the insurance industry and have done so since college. When I initially read this quote, I was excited, but I am glad that I kept reading as there is more to this antidote. Not all experience is valuable, and some can even be counterproductive. Although every business venture involves property and casualty insurance, I am not planning on starting an insurance agency so my background leaves some holes in “capitals” that I will need to successfully start a business.
Let us take a deeper look at Social capital. When searching for a definitive definition for “social capital” I could not find one. However, when I look at the bare bones of the numerous definitions it seems that they all refer to social capital as resources and the impact these resources have on each other. The first resource that usually comes to mind is money and financial resources however we will delve into financial capital later in this post. I want to focus on networking and social relationships. It seems that professional networking is being highlighted now more than ever. There is even a whole social media platform dedicated to this such as LinkedIn. I am invited to more and more happy hours with the mere purpose of connecting individuals so that they can mutually benefit each other and their respective businesses. Although I use the term networking there is a new term surfacing that I was previously unaware of, “Super Connector.” There is an argument that “networkers” are short term thinkers with selfish motives whilst the super connectors are long term thinkers that are emotionally invested and connected to others. Me personally I am glad that there are terms to distinguish the two. There have been many times I have walked away from a “networking” event where I felt that I was in the midst of a pyramid scheme and never made any real connections. It has become apparent in my research that a serious founder is looking to connect with others, their ideas, and values to accomplish something. A successful founder is a “super Connector”.
Connecting with others can lead to another important form of capital, financial capital. Money is needed to form any successful business. You need money to secure the goods and services. Most founders do not have this capital readily available or at startup; but by forming relationships and gaining the before mentioned social capital it is much easier to secure investors. These two forms of capitals go hand in hand but I think it is important to note that you don’t have to have financial capital to start obtaining social capital. In short, money is not needed to start “real” professional relationships.