I would rather have titled this “The importance and benefits of networking for everyone”. One of the most rewarding aspects of life is meeting people and sharing opportunities for learning, growth and success.
For entrepreneurs, it’s almost essential to acquire a network of good people, who’ll bring advice, connections and more to everything you do, whilst keeping you grounded and providing a pathway through the many setbacks you’ll encounter.
If you don’t think networking is important, then frankly, you’re not an entrepreneur. But let’s assume you fully agree with the sentiment; what’s the best way to go about breaking in to investor, customer and advisor networks?
My first comment is to be patient. It takes 5 minutes to find someone who’ll take your money, but a lifetime to build a network of people who trust, value and sincerely want to help you. Better to invest your time winning over a smaller number of people, than accumulating a large but shallow pool of contacts.
Avoid narcissists, pretenders, self-promoters and douches. The startup world is full of them. They fool a lot of people for some of the time, are often in the media, sometimes appear to have influence but almost always are fakes. I’m amazed at the number of startup “experts” who’ve never achieved any, let alone all, of the following:
- actually building a commercial business
- building products that won real customers, or
- closing an exit
Engage with people, you need to have something of value to offer. If you haven’t invented a killer product yet, then at least make a genuine effort to be interested in the people you meet, as they might know someone who’ll help you in the future. Ask questions and listen. It sounds obvious but it never ceases to amaze me how many people are bad listeners. If you meet an interesting person at an event, learn something about them and remember it – the next time you meet you’ll be accepted much more readily if you’ve remembered something about them.
Reading this back, it sounds like a dating advice, but I guess there’s not a huge gap between finding a life partner and finding people who’ll help your entrepreneurial journey. Except you need many more of the latter!
Volunteering is a great way to offer value. There are many startup communities run by volunteers and my experience is, they always welcome more help. By making a contribution to events, you’ll be valued by the immediate community and have a foundation to build your own entrepreneur network.
I can’t end this article without plugging a volunteer network, which I contribute to and which has helped me enormously. TiE (The indus Entrepreneur) is a worldwide entrepreneur network, with chapters in almost every city where technology is happening. You’ll find them online at tie.org
TiE run events for entrepreneurs almost every week, from mentoring sessions to pitch contests. You can attend for free, or pay a modest fee to become a member. You will meet successful people who want to give something back to the community, plus of course other entrepreneurs at all stages of their individual journeys. In fact, the Maestrano journey began for me at a TiE conference.
So good luck with your networking and I look forward to meeting you at a TiE event soon!
Ian Buddery is the founder of multiple companies including eServGlobal in 1991 (ASX:ESV). During his career he has successfully obtained Venture Capital and Angel funding, performed two IPOs, six acquisitions and one major trade sale. Ian holds a number of positions, including Executive Chairman of Maestrano. He is also President of the Asthma Foundation of NSW.