Business Development

The Network is the Business

by Emmet Keeffe

Emmet B. Keeffe III is a Venture Partner at Insight Venture Partners and Founder of Insight IGNITE, a program that partners with global organizations to accelerate Digital transformation by delivering insights and technologies that are core to the Digital journey. Insight Venture Partners is the leading software growth equity firm with $18 billion raised since inception.

In this blog post, Emmet identifies why it’s essential for C-level IT leaders to develop their personal networks long before retirement.

A Common Goal Among C-Level IT Leaders: Retire Early to Consult, Advise and Sit on Boards

In 2005, I founded a thought leadership and networking program for C-level IT leaders and I’ve since hosted several thousand technology leaders at global events. In my conversations with them, I’ve noticed a common theme: many aspire to retire early to consult, advise, and sit on boards, whether at young VC-backed technology companies, mid-stage PE-owned businesses or large public companies.

To do this, executives should develop their advisor or board resumes long before retirement so that they can provide the kind of value that growing companies find worthwhile.

Mid-stage and large private or public companies value technology leaders who are experts in leading large organisations, cutting costs, managing risks and accelerating digital transformation. Founding executives at VC-funded startups are focused on growth and unlocking revenue acceleration. They seek advisors who can help them scale, navigate the competitive landscape, provide support on product strategy, messaging and positioning, pricing, channel strategies—and most importantly, help open doors at large global companies.

Board members who are well connected, who can make introductions to industry experts who can opine on the value of the company’s solution to enterprise needs, or potential buyers, are highly valued by entrepreneurs. Hence, technology leaders who have invested time and energy into building their professional networks, are the most sought after for advisory roles and board seats.

Developing a Strong Personal Network Takes Time

Although a truism, it’s fair to say that a strong network isn’t something that can be built overnight.  Business networks are trust based, built on years of interactions in formal and information settings. They rely on community references and personal equity to be effective, which take time to yield fruit. Reciprocity is a key component of being a valued community member and willingness to help others without needing a reciprocal favor is one step better.

Insight IGNITE Can Jumpstart Your Personal Network

Insight Venture Partners has built a program that enables IT professionals to expand their professional network. Insight IGNITE provides a variety of thought leadership and networking events around the world, broadly focusing on the theme of technology trends, innovation, security and digital transformation.

At Insight IGNITE Innovation Roundtables, C-level IT leaders from large global companies convene to learn, network with peers and engage with emerging software market leaders. The roundtables usually span two or three days, overlap with large sporting events and take place in interesting global locations. This environment allows participants to return home with ten or more strong personal relationships, formed through the protracted time they’ve spent getting to know other participants and understanding their businesses. 

As an entrée to the advisory world and for access to innovation, IGNITE offers executives who are interested in contributing as advisors, the opportunity to sit on Growth Advisory Boards. Advisory Board members leverage their years of experience and network to deliver go-to-market related insights and open doors for Insight’s portfolio companies. These boards usually comprise sixteen IT leaders who meet twice a year with the company’s executive team; they offer another excellent opportunity to build and develop relationships for the future. 

It's Never Too Late to Start Networking

In the past 15 years through founding a software company myself, and more recently, working in the venture capital/ private equity industry, I have developed more than 6,000 personal relationships and met more than 10,000 IT leaders. I can quickly determine if a technology leader has a strong personal network by simply viewing how many relationships we share on LinkedIn. If it’s only a handful, my advice to that executive is to invest in growing their network to ensure success in the future.

Networking Requires Committment

Developing and maintaining relationships that may have future value, doesn’t necessarily come naturally for many people. It requires a meaningful allocation of time each year, discipline, commitment to meeting people, perhaps joining a group of people that will make additional introductions.  Insight IGNITE can serve as a starting point for IT leaders interested in further developing their professional network.

We offer unique opportunities to network through our Insight IGNITE Innovation Roundtable Series and Growth Advisory Boards. To learn more, please contact Emmet B. Keeffe III, Founder, Insight IGNITE at

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Emmet Keeffe

Venture Partner, Founder IGNITE

Emmet B. Keeffe III is a Venture Partner at Insight Venture Partners and joined the firm in 2014. He is passionate about accelerating Digital transformation at large global companies by driving the awareness and adoption of transformative enterprise software by global IT organizations. Emmet is…

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