After hearing positive reviews of a presentation by the social technology consulting firm that SVB hired to educate the Venture Capital CFOs at our annual conference this summer, we felt compelled to learn more about the business. Dave Gowel, a West Point educated Army Ranger who served in Iraq, taught at MIT and then started two companies, is the CEO of Rockefeller Consulting Technology Integration (or RockTech; www.rocktech.com). We had the pleasure of interviewing Dave to learn what it is about social technology that excited so many Venture Capital CFOs at our conference and what advice he has for entrepreneurs in general.
SVB: How does RockTech clarify the "social media noise" that exists in business today?
DG: We actually started this process with my first company, Clearly Creative, a firm that integrates traditional and emerging forms of communications, both online and in the real world. It was there that our team was able to use different technologies for clients in various industries, giving us insights into the best (and worst) practices in social technology use for professionals. We recognized there were greatly misunderstood and underutilized social technologies that needed a combination of training, consulting and software integration for truly effective professional use.
The first technology we identified as most useful for our clients is LinkedIn and we commonly help "quiet the noise" with tailored services as simple as an on-site LinkedIn workshop. This "noise" is the result of the hundreds (if not thousands) of social media-like options available to help project your personal and corporate brand, while protecting them as well. The world has seen social technologies come and go, so which one should you (and your company) invest time into figuring out? So far, it's clear to us that LinkedIn is one that is worth the investment.
SVB: Why do you only consult on LinkedIn when there are other sites with many more users such as Facebook and Twitter?
DG: We are an unbiased third party that identifies the best tool for our clients' needs and we tailor our software and services to them. We currently see LinkedIn as being the most misunderstood and underutilized social technology that also provides the most value to our clients, when it's effectively integrated.
SVB: What were the most useful lessons our VC CFOs learned from RockTech?
DG: That was a great group. I'd say the most consistent feedback we received from those sessions included:
1) The understanding of how LinkedIn could be used in a private, secure and time efficient manner to initiate and deepen relationships with LPs.
2) How CFOs could utilize LinkedIn in a passive way to use (not abuse) their own networks in order to help their GPs increase deal flow, assist in due diligence and provide faster access to top talent.
3) How a non-tech savvy and time-constrained executive could comfortably project appropriate, non-harassing messaging to their networks.
4) The understanding that social technologies are not replacing traditional methods of networking, but merely augmenting them. The ability to inspire confidence and trust in a client, partner, or employee through strong real-world interpersonal skills will never be replaced. It is the number of those quality offline interactions that are increased by effective use of social technology.
SVB: What are the key benefits of LinkedIn for your non-VC clients, such as tech, life sciences and wine business leaders)?
DG: Warm lead generation, shortened sales cycles, talent acquisition and expeditious due diligence on clients, partners and prospective employees. Knowing how to use LinkedIn effectively at the individual and collective levels helps businesses in all industries and revenues to use the untapped social capital from their employees' networks in numerous ways.
To bring this to a tangible level, I'll give you a link to perform an advanced search of your target market. Let's assume you are trying to generate warm business development leads for your company. You can click on this link* and try performing this search yourself by putting in relevant information in the fields below (examples included):
Location: change "Anywhere" to "Located In or near", then input your target zip code.
Industries: place a check mark next to "Computer Software" and "Biotechnology"
Sort By: (at the bottom left) change "Relevance" to "Relationship"
Views: change "Basic" to "Expanded"
Find a person in your search results that is of interest to you with a "2" next to their name and click on the "X shared connections" link to see who can introduce you to that target contact.
The results you receive from this search will be strong or weak based on the quality (and quantity) of your connections in your network. A strong network will yield a list of potentially warm leads based on relationships you already have, allowing you to directly stimulate word of mouth to your target market much easier than ever before.
SVB: Many professionals are wary of social media because of concerns about privacy and security of their information and that of their contacts. How do you mitigate those concerns?
DG: We've found privacy and security concerns to be the biggest barrier to entry and effective use of these technologies by successful professionals so that's where we normally start our training. I'll list several key concerns we hear time and again and I will even give you the hyperlinks to change each of these settings in LinkedIn for interested readers:
1) Connections Browse: You can block your connections from being seen by your network, while still allowing LinkedIn to be useful for you and only the people you trust (Click here and select "No, hide my connections" if you want to block your connections).
2) Custom Spam Filtering: You are able to limit harassing sales or marketing "cold call" emails in the form of LinkedIn invitations, InMails and messages (Click here to limit invitations from people you don't know; Click here to limit InMails and other messages from reaching your inbox).
3) Anonymous Browsing: When you view someone else's profile on LinkedIn, they are given some information about you, but you can control what (if anything) is seen by them (Click here and choose the level of visibility you want to share).
*If clicking on these links, you may need to log into LinkedIn upon your first attempt.
For more information on Dave Gowel, you can go to www.linkedin.com/in/davidgowel
For more information on RockTech, you can go to www.rocktech.com; contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 401-3348
The views expressed by the interviewee do not reflect the views of SVB Financial Group, or Silicon Valley Bank, or any of their affiliates. This material, including without limitation the statistical information herein, is provided for informational purposes only. The material is based in part upon information from third-party sources that we believe to be reliable, but which has not been independently verified by us and, as such, we do not represent that the information is accurate or complete. The information should not be viewed as tax, investment, legal or other advice nor is it to be relied on in making an investment or other decisions. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment decision. Nothing relating to the material should be construed as a solicitation or offer, or recommendation, to acquire or dispose of any investment or to engage in any other transaction.