Who will boost your startup most: friends or aquaintances?

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When planning to build a business, it may be wise to think through how you use your personal network in receiving social, emotional and material support. Should you rely on your pre-existing networks or construct new ones? Are friends and family the best support, or is it better to turn to acquaintances and strangers?


According to the American sociologists Howard E. Aldrich and Martin Ruef, the more diverse your personal network is, the better. It is important to talk to people who can give you different types of knowledge, and who will interpret the information that you give them in various ways.

It is easy to turn to friends and family for advice, but the people in your inner circle may not give you the broad perspective that you need. Therefore, it can be good to consult people that you barely know, and strive to be exposed to different views.

However, friends and family are essential in the initial phase of forming a business. Strong ties with people represent trust, predictability and healthy conversations. Such relationships are reliable, but it takes great effort in creating and sustaining them, as these are not governed by short-term calculations of self-interest, but of a balance in mutual commitments in all areas of life. The American sociologist Claude S. Fisher has studied friendship and found that most people have 5 to 20 strong ties in their personal networks. Creating too many strong ties may be problematic and result in role conflicts, but a small number of close individuals preserve a certain stability.

When a startup has grown strong, contact with strangers become more important. At this point, the entrepreneur may find it easier to get in contact with people outside his or her personal network, and there are often more specific favours and services that are required in this phase, in contrast to a more general need for advice and support.

Weak ties with people are more superficial and less reliable than relationships with friends and family, but the advantage is that these ties require little emotional investment. One will always have more weak ties than strong ties, and the type of information you need in different situations are likely to be found in this web, especially if you have pursued diversity.

Absorbing knowledge and seeking help is essential for establishing a robust organization and creating innovation. And for that, the very best is a network mix of strong and weak ties, along with people that you barely even know.

Miriam Øyna

Miriam is Incubate’s innovation columnist. In her free time, she is dancing ballet, eats marzipan and comments on other people’s language. She is a typical eternal student, with a Bachelor degree in Journalism, a Master degree in Society, Science and Technology and has now embraced Business Economics.

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