The secret to building a business network? Poker

Andrew Bachman says playing poker helped him build a business network.
Andrew Bachman says playing poker helped him build a business network. –David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

In Tuesday’s story about a new breed of fit tech entrepreneurs, I introduced you to Andrew Bachman, who cofounded an online marketing company as a Babson undergrad, sold it two years ago for $60 million, and is now on his third start-up. You might be wondering how Bachman, who’s still only 30, became so successful so young.

The answer (OK, not the whole answer, but part of it) is pretty surprising, and I just have to share it: poker.

Bachman told me the card game helped him meet business people who later invested in his companies. Here’s his account:

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“I graduated from Babson in ’06, and you gotta remember that back in those days the World Series of Poker had just gotten on television, and that was really hot,’’ Bachman said. “Everyone was playing poker. My friends and I were always playing hold ’em in our dorm room. I used to go downtown and play card games, and you’d play some games where you’d be hanging out with scummy, gross people, but then you’d meet someone there who could get you into a game where you’d be playing with hedge funders and lawyers and brain surgeons. I started going to those games and hanging out with those guys, and they helped me build my network. A lot of those guys became future investors in businesses of mine.’’

Now, poker may not belong in the business plan for everyone. Bachman is gifted schmoozer who managed to turn dealing hands at the card table into shaking hands at the negotiating table. I’m not sure how many people can pull that off.

But there is a takeaway for others, he suggested: Always be on the lookout for networking opportunities, even in unexpected situations.

“It’s really my belief in return on time,’’ Bachman said. “If I’m going to play card games, I’m going to make sure I get the most out of it.’’

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