Network Network Network!
So I preach about this quite a lot, but I really do believe that networking is an incredibly valuable thing to do, for pretty much every aspect of a startup.
I’m not just talking about going to things like Silicon Drinkabout which are brilliant for getting an interest within the tech scene, I’m talking about using networking as an incredibly powerful asset for the entire life-cycle of starting a company, from getting legal and financial advice, to marketing your product and even raising investment.
Last week I went along to an event called Startup Stories, run by Gradpreneur, an awesome company that helps inspire young people to go into business, and provides them with a support network to help them make it happen. The event cost £10 to go to, that’s all! I know that most startups in London follow an incredibly lean strategy, but paying a few quid to go to these events is worth so much more.
To put it in perspective, I went to this event which had c.40 attendees, every single person in the room was either a founder, or looking to start something, the room varied massively in age and background, from current students thinking about the next big thing, to older people there to help educate the younger generation. There was 4 speakers on a panel for just over an hour, they included experienced business consultants Wempy (Wardour and Oxford), big student targeted startup founders James (Studentbeans) & Nitzan (Flat Club), and an up and coming pre-launch social entrepreneur John (Hireducated).
I was fairly sceptical before going to the event, thinking I would be surrounded just by students looking to startup, and no real networking opportunities beyond gaining early adopters. I could not have been more wrong, and learnt a big lesson about going in to things more open minded. I spoke to most people at the event, as it was a small event I even got to network with all the speakers, gaining valuable marketing insights and potential future collaborations. I did indeed network with the student/fresh graduates population at the event, and without question, they all thought Sorted was great and wanted to sign up. The most valuable relationship forged that night was with a guy called Sean, who owns The Founders Hive, which is essentially a more consultative approach to an AIN. Sean really likedSorted and offered us a spot to showcase our beta product in front of a room full of angel investors, venture capitalists AND early adopters…..for FREE! Networking really is an amazing thing.
So…..for 10 quid I got a shed load of marketing advice, I forged relationships with big hitting student companies that could provide a valuable collaboration in the near future, and I got my business a pitching spot to showcase our product in front of potential users and investors. Not bad hey! I am going to a couple of these things a week, that’s not much of my time, but what can be achieved in 2 hours at one of these events, could take months to forge back in the office.
Here’s my top tips for networking effectively:
1) Stand out from the crowd – this can be done in a number of different ways, having snazzy business cards, going casual to a suited event etc.
2) Be confident, polite and LISTEN – Articulate yourself well, introduce who you are briefly, then ask the other person what they do, ask them questions around it, let them talk, listen and respond. When they ask what you do, they are far more likely to engage.
3) If the person isn’t relevant, get rid of them – At the end of the day, you are there to build valuable relationships, if something isn’t going well, politely excuse yourself, hell give them a card and tell them you need to speak to joe bloggs over there. Just get out of there and move on, without being rude.
4) Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up – Meet an interesting person? The second you get home, add them on Twitter & LinkedIn, send them a quick message saying it was great to meet them and to stay in touch. It’s not stalkerish at all, it shows that you are keen and you respect them, which can only be a positive when you call them wanting something shortly.
This blog was written by James Pursey a Graduate entrepreneur and co-founder/cmo of Sorted a great way to buy and sell in your local community.
You can find the original blog at http://jamesstartsup.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/network-network-network/