Mike Carusi T’93 on Best Networking Practices

Eight steps toward mastering an essential skill.

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As a general partner at the health care venture capital firm Advanced Technology Ventures, Mike Carusi T’93 trades on information. When he wants to discover the next new thing, or figure out if a startup company’s revolutionary heart stent really is revolutionary, he taps into his network. Here Carusi shares networking tips gleaned during his two decades of meeting people and making deals.

It’s OK to network. Some people hear networking and think “slimy” or “cheesy.” I define it as trying to continue to meet and get to know as many people as possible. And also learning from them. What are they interested in? What areas are intriguing? What strategies are they pursuing?

Not just a foot in the door. Part of networking is how you get a job, but in a lot of professions, networking is a critical success factor in keeping your job and performing well. Especially in venture capital.

Make a connection. Sometimes it’s cold calling. Usually you look for linkages to get introductions, and there’s a whole technique to how you do that. A lot of this is done using the Internet, Facebook, LinkedIn. But I’m old school, so I still tend to pick up the phone, send an email, or have coffee.

Find the right person. Make sure you’re reaching out to the right people. I work in health care venture capital, but I often get calls from people interested in IT venture capital. Well, I’m not really the right person.

Do your homework. Before you have a meeting, you need to have an agenda. It may not be written down. What is it you want to talk about? What do you want to learn? What do you want to get out of it? What are the next steps?

Baby steps. The goal of the first meeting might just be to get to a second meeting that’s longer and in person. It doesn’t need to be a lofty goal. It’s a process; don’t rush it.

Be curious. Ask lots of questions, and listen. Sometimes there’s a tendency to want to talk. There’s a time and place for that. But if your agenda is to get information, there should be a lot of questioning and listening.

What can you offer? Try to think if there’s anything you can offer in return. Sharing what you’re learning that is interesting, sharing different points of view you’ve heard. I will be more engaged because you’re giving me something. It’s a two-way street.