The first step of building your network of referrals

Referral implies recommendation. We will only refer opportunities to someone that we endorse and recommend. While we know referral and recommendation about ourselves are important to our career or business, have we done the same to the people we trust?

Imagine, when we have resigned from our job, we would usually request a reference letter from our employer. But have we ever thought of writing a reference letter for our employer? If the answer is no, why? Obviously, it’s because we are not told to do so. And it looks weird to do so as no one else is doing such thing.

But people on Amazon, Taobao or Airbnb are doing this. The sellers and buyers on these platforms are rating and commenting about each other. It’s because these platforms know the importance of this rating system to their success, and hence they have spent considerable effort to design, promote and educate their platform which incentivise the users to provide rating.

If we want to build a network of referral, we need to act proactively to promote the giver mindset. Users need to see the visualized and quantified aspects of how the recommendations and referrals they have made are contributing to the community and how this contributions would become their self-actualization.

FRN - Referral Community
Start your network of referrals by making recommendations

Making quality referrals may need some skills. But making recommendations is rather easy. There are various kinds of connections you can write recommendations for regardless to your level of experiences. So, start to build your network of referral by making recommendations about other people who you want them to succeed.

FRN - Referral Community

The Giver Mindset on Forbole

In Forbole Referral Network (“FRN”), givers are the people who are eager to help others to succeed. In the developers world, we have already seen the great development in free and open-source software, or FOSS community. We also see platform like Unsplash for people to share photos according to Creative Commons CC0. They are all generous givers.

In terms of business or career, we can also become a giver. But why should we become a giver in the first place? It is a simple maths. As a community, if we help each other to succeed, collectively all of us will have a higher successful rate. When A helps B to succeed, B will become more successful such that she has more resources to help C to succeed. Then C will be able to help A to become more successful.

Imagine a small community of three small businesses: an accountant, a designer and an insurance agent. Obviously they can become each other’s clients: the accountant and designer buy insurance from the agent, the agent and designer seek accounting services from the accountant, and the accountant and the agent seek marketing design services from the designer:

FRN - Referral Community

This is nice. But this is not big. What if each of them refer two business opportunities to one another from sources outside of this small community?

FRN - Referral Community

What if the new 6 people are each from different background and become part of this community?

FRN - Referral Community

So now this is a community of 9 people who actively refer suitable opportunities to each other. It just like each of them are now having a sales team of 8 people with business acumen and a strong giver mindset. One of our missions at FRN is to grow both the quantities and qualities of this community of givers such that the sole proprietors, small businesses and early-stage startups can rely on word-of-mouth referrals to obtain sales lead and tractions.

20180320 BNI 1

Forbole helps BNI members to do better referrals

(中文版本看此) Our co-founder Kwun Yeung has presented our minimum viable product on weekly BNI meeting.

20180320 BNI 2

In fact, as a referral social network based on blockchain, one of our motivations is to help people to do better referrals. Let’s start with our name Forbole, which is a portmanteau of English “for” and Chinese “Bó Lè” (“伯樂”). Bó Lè was the legendary inventor of equine physiognomy, which is a technique to “judge a horse’s qualities from appearance”. In Modern Standard Chinese, Bó Lè figuratively means “good judge of (especially hidden) talent” (

I am a beneficiary of the power of referral. I always want to do better referrals for others, no matter this is a sales lead or a career opportunity.

I am a true believer in “Givers Gain” mindset, which is coined by Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of a famous business networking organization BNI. After over 30 years of expansion, BNI is now an organization with over 220,000 members in 70+ regions worldwide. In fact, I have known about BNI and Givers Gain since I started my digital marketing business in 2009, as my partner Kwun Yeung has been a BNI member since that time. I have also tried to start a new BNI chapter in 2015 in Qianhai, Shenzhen.

One of the most amazing parts of BNI is its well designed and structured agenda in their weekly meeting (yeah, the famous 7am weekly breakfast meeting). One of the sections is for members to announce their endorsements, recommendations and business referrals for other members. Due to our own experience in BNI, we would like to improve this section and help BNI members to do better by recording all these contributions made by members on our blockchain.

We have observed for years. People tend to focus more on the number of referrals, not the quality of referrals. This mindset will ruin the intention of why we need a referral networking environment in the first place. From time to time, people won’t care about the conversion of the referrals they have made. Low quality referrals are killing the members’ business by wasting their time, which is nonrenewable.

Not to mention there are people using Givers Gain as a sword to blame others. Some even abuse this concept and seek free services or other benefits from members who really care about Givers Gain.

While Forbole is not exclusive for BNI members, we believe we provide some extra values for BNI members to perform better:

  • Forbole will calculate a “contribution score” for individual user based on his/her overall contributions (those endorsements, recommendations and referrals made for other members). This provides a higher visibility of how people are doing referrals: members really need to provide high quality referral for others that can convert, instead of a mere contact method which is not much better than a cold call.
  • Forbole helps non-BNI members to understand better the power of BNI and hence have more interest to visit or even join BNI.
  • Forbole helps existing BNI members to get back in touch with ex-BNI members and guests (the non-members who have visited BNI meetings as guests).
  • Forbole helps existing BNI members to explore a wider and deeper “friends of member” relationship.

We hope that Forbole can help more people to practice and strengthen the Givers Gain mindset. We also aim to help BNI members to acquire more suitable members to their BNI chapters.

Wayne Chang UMass Commencement 2016 Change the World

Wayne Chang

(中文版本) When I was searching for angel investors, I saw the story of Wayne Chang. I promise you, his story was inspiring. Visit wiki to know more about that. Below is the speech given by Wayne at University of Massachusetts Amherst Commencement Ceremony in 2016:

“that boy didn’t know that him giving me that toy would change my life forever. But to him I’m eternally grateful. We’re all just blocks of emotion waiting for some to listen and pay attention to how we’re feeling. Know that everything you do for someone else, no matter how small, has the potential to transform their life like that boy did for me.”
Wayne Chang

I visited his website to check if there was any official procedure to send him our pitch deck. Then I saw this:

“After looking back at all the startups and ventures I’ve been involved in, the best ones were referred by a mutual connection.

Because of this, if you would like to make contact, please find someone that we both know and have them refer you.


Wayne Chang”

Hey, highlighting “mutual connection” is not my idea. See the original:

Wayne Chang Mutual Connection

Am I disappointed? Absolutely no. “the best ones were referred by a mutual connection.”. Which quote can be more encouraging than this one? This message gives me strength: We need a place to make more friends-of-friends referrals happen.

“Make your own rules. Hack the system and Change the world.”
Wayne Chang

And this is also the reason why Forbole has been founded.



Terence Lam
Co-Founder of
Forbole, a blockchain startup