Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Right from the initial stages of running a startup, learning and networking play a crucial role in its success. Learning is a continuous process that never stops, even if you are a seasoned veteran. Usually, entrepreneurs tend to learn through experience, and often make mistakes early on in the life of the startups. For instance, it is an extremely common occurrence for the founders of an enterprise to not draft a founders agreement, leading to some uncomfortable disputes down the line, potentially hindering the opportunities for your startup to perform to the best of its abilities.
If you’re on good terms with a seasoned veteran who can act as a mentor for your startup or even fellow entrepreneurs who are in the trenches with you, the process is undoubtedly simplified to some extent. On the other hand, networking with people suitable for your startup can be particularly painful if you don’t know where to start. Head over to this guide on how to successfully start up for a complete list of tasks to tackle as you begin your entrepreneurial journey.
Advantages of networking for startups
As mentioned earlier, networking is a critical tool to help connect with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors and accelerate the learning process. However, that is not the only advantage your startup begets from networking. Some of the other significant benefits are:
Referrals: The referrals you gain from a fellow entrepreneur in an associate field are often the most cost-efficient, high quality leads that you’ll generate throughout the life of your startup.
Positive Influence: The people you choose to surround with has an undeniable mental effect on who you are, and what you aim to accomplish. Connecting with like-minded and positive folks tends to act as a stimulus in the growth of your startup, and will help you from becoming too frustrated with the problems faced in day to day life.
Brand Visibility: By networking, there’s also increased opportunities to significantly raise your brand visibility. One such opportunity comes in the form of industry symposiums or conferences where you’ll have access to several target customers in one single place. Proper networking at these events, directly boosts visibility in the eyes of your target clientele.
Increased Confidence: To put it unironically, networking helps you to network better. Yes, you read it right. Networking is an art, that you can only get good at via constant practice. For instance, as a technopreneur, if improved networking skills raises your confidence enough to land one extra client, you wouldn’t have landed otherwise, the process of networking will have significantly impacted your business.
How to network for startups
How to network for a startup is one of the most common questions that an entrepreneur might have. It is not entirely like maintaining personal relationships, which many of us have been doing for our entire lives. Networking with people purely for business purposes in order to help your learning process can be difficult at first. Have no qualms in accepting that you may need help and talk to the right people with an open mind. Some people even find it useful to take notes and keep an organised list of people they’ve talked with, to help keep track of their learning progress.
That being said, it is not the “how” which is important, but the fact that you do network. There is no right or wrong way to network with people, other than upholding basic human courtesies. The more networking you do, the better you network. So put your head down and start talking to people.
As mentioned earlier, it is not only “who to learn from”, but also the where that is a significant pain point. Usually, startups in their initial stages tend to partner with incubators/accelerators to help increase invaluable connects and guide them in the direction they might want to look at to increase networking opportunities. Apart from helping just with networking and learning, startups can benefit immensely from the many other benefits of accelerator/incubation programmes like The Founder’s Club.
Though an accelerator programme is your best bet, there are other options you can look at to identifying the right networking channel. The right networking channel highly depends on your niche, and it is upto the entrepreneurs to identify the method of networking that will suit them the best. A majority of the startups rely on the following channels for their networking needs:
Business meets/ Conventions
It’s also important to simplify your networking process. Collecting too many visiting cards? Download an app that digitises them and adds them to your address book instantly. Finding it difficult to dedicate time? There are several SaaS products to assist with superior calendar management.
Apart from fellow entrepreneurs who share similar experiences with you, it is important to identify a seasoned veteran who can help your business grow, both on the short and the long run. A mentor can provide immense knowledge and experience, directly translating to a startup’s growth and success.
Start by networking with industry leaders and experts, or even your business role model. For finding the perfect entity/person, consider the following points:
Familiarity with your industry
Ability to help with short-term problems
Suitability with your vision and mission
Necessary technical skills
Preferably someone from your field
The Circle: Founders Club is an initiative by The Circle aimed at accelerating a startup’s road to success by addressing significant pain points. It offers funds, networking opportunities, learning experiences, PR strategies marketing services among many others. Consider this, an acceleration programme on steroids backed by corporate and institutional support. Check out the Founders’ Club for more details.