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Networking for Startups: The Five W's

Posted on Sep 06, 2012 by  | 0 Comments

By Claire Corbin

Networking is a funny beast. 

It’s expensive. Maybe not financially (although the price of conferences doesn’t look like falling anytime soon) but in relation to something that will always be far more valuable – your own personal time.

So, with no guarantee of success, how can new entrepreneurs justify spending time networking? 

  • The “why” part

What value is there in increasing the size of your network? George Bickerstaff’s presentation on the Global Innovators’ Blogspot sums it up perfectly:-

1. Linear business models are ineffective.

2. Networks amplify exponentially.

3. Networked groups result in super-amplification.

Put simply, the bigger the network, the greater your impact.

  • The “who” part

Despite appearances, little has changed through the years: people still do business with people. Connections count. If you’re wondering who the best people are to speak to, take a look at this great post by Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz a couple of days ago introducing the ‘Help Me Help You Dinner’

  • The “when” part

You’re consumed by your new venture, wrapped up in writing elevator pitches to blow investors’ socks off and as excited as any new parent would be by the birth of your baby enterprise. How could you possibly find time to network? You’re too busy being an entrepreneur, aren’t you?

I’m going to leave the answer to THE entrepreneur, Richard Branson:-

“However you go about making connections, from the very first moment you begin to realise that your idea is worth pursuing, the first step on the road to success is building a network”.Check out his article in the Entrepreneur Magazine “How to Network: Hint Early and Often” - the clue’s in the title!

  • The “where” part

This is a story of two halves.

For the first half, I’ll defer to Mr Branson again:-

“Just think: LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all provide opportunities for you to meet and interact with fellow entrepreneurs, experts in the field and innovative newcomers”. 

So, with a smart phone in your pocket you have a whole battalion of experts and advisers to go into battle with. How could you lose? Easy – by failing to connect with them. 

Insularity is not an option anymore. Connections are necessary to succeed in modern business and networked groups on the above platforms can be particularly effective.

The second half of the story? Most of the sources in this blog have come via my networks on Twitter and LinkedIn. My job in writing this for you has been inspired, made easier, more efficient and, hopefully, more effective through my online networking. Perhaps you’re reading this as a result of a LinkedIn, Twitter or G+ post? If so, my network now extends to you too.

But however tech-savvy you are, it’s just as important to actually meet the people behind the monitors. I also rely on my interpersonal network - the army beyond my smart phone, if you like. It’s important to find time to develop the networks that are most relevant to your own niche but being based in Edinburgh, here are a few networking hubs to start looking at if you’re unsure of where to start:-

  • 1.Start by signing up for StartupDigest Scotland, a weekly email curated by Michael Hayes (@_mdhayes) which highlights all relevant upcoming startup events in the country. 
  • 2.Get along to the E-Club at Edinburgh University as often as possible. It attracts a mix of academics, student entrepreneurs and colleagues from the wider community who share a common goal of fostering the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • 3.Startup Café was one of the original hubs for startup news in Edinburgh. Slightly quieter these days but they still host a link to the useful Open Tech Calendar.
  • 4.If you’re a developer or programmer, popping along to the monthlyTechMeetup in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen is close-to-mandatory.
  • 5.The Rookie Oven meetups are similar in some ways to TechMeetup but newer, based on the West Coast and growing rapidly, driven by the tireless Michael Hayes.
  • 6.The Scottish Institute for Enterprise is the national organisation for promoting and supporting enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland's universities and gives students and graduates access to a unique support network, business advisors and online resources to help get a taste for enterprise, and the confidence to take an idea to market. It has an active events calendar.
  • 7.Last but by no means least, Informatics Ventures is ambitiously trying to nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem where positive attitudes, skills and networks thrive. Their events are highly recommended.
  • The “how” part (with a dash of the rest for good measure)

I recently heard Heidi Roizen speaking at the E-Club on this very subject and Dug Campbell’s blog post summarises her 10 point guide to building a business network brilliantly.

In summary:-

Why? Amplification

Who? You

When? Yesterday

Where? Everywhere

How? Reciprocate

Me? I hope to meet you soon!

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