How networking can give your start-up an edge

The East India Company gained a complete foothold in India after an initial foray in 1612, to ultimately pave the path for a gradual occupation by the British Empire by 1858. They did this through a web of collaborations with influential locals and befriended many royals to further their business interests. This is a living example from history of how networking can benefit people and businesses, particularly start-ups, to be able to smartly get closer to their goals in a swift and quick manner.

Things are no different now – it’s next to impossible for a start-up to survive on its own steam in today’s cut-throat marketplace without any external help. The odds are many. As a start-up you lack the deep pockets to attract the right talent to work for you, or the credibility to tempt someone into investing in your business or join you as a technical co-founder. Since you’re new and doing most of the things for the first time, there’s no way of knowing for sure whether what you’re doing is appropriate and in the right direction. You have the vision and the product but lack the resources to reach out to your customer base and do test runs necessary for fine tuning the vision. So, to find help, you too will have to set sail into the seas to network and reach out to new people and groups who can help take your start-up to the next level.

First and foremost, for business networking you need to have a focussed approach and know exactly where to network to get the best returns. Networking events and online networking can prove to be a great start for entrepreneurs to scale their business quickly. With effective networking, you are likely to get things moving faster and get better results than you would have expected otherwise. These networking events are great places to meet entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, bloggers, vendors, and other business enthusiasts who are looking for connections, opportunities, advice, inspiration and mentors; all of whom play a crucial role for a start-up.

To build a successful team or to find the support of a technical or creative partner, start-up events are great forums for you to meet like-minded people and develop a relationship of trust. Also, sharing ideas and experiences with other entrepreneurs during your interactions can give you great insights into your journey and can prove to be motivational and inspirational catalysts. Networking at these events allows the founders to know more about their market and the people involved in their field.

What is important to note is that the ‘real’ networking that yields results doesn’t end with the event or the meeting. It’s about building long-term relationships with the right people, rather than having a superficial one-time interaction, for networking to prove its worth. It helps develop a certain amount of trust in you and your work. Unless the other person is sure of your credibility, you may not be able to see any results from networking.

It is critical for a start-up to get visibility in the market. Talking to people and exchanging business cards on various networking platforms or through personal connections greatly improves your chances at growing your business.  It gives you an opportunity to build new clients, and get access to the necessary resources.

Being a part of social media as a means to network too needs to be an important part of a start-up’s growth strategy. Through participation in relevant discussions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other forums, you will be able to create awareness of your vision as well as get valuable feedback for beta testing of your product. Instagram is one such company that was able to effectively use the power of both online and offline networking to gain mass appeal.

Pitch for the long term by building your business on a solid foundation of networking, and gain a distinct advantage over your competition. The sustainable rapport that you build with the right people helps you meet investors and buyers early and raise money for your business. As Howard Lerman, CEO and co-founder of Yext, a company worth hundreds of millions puts it, “For sub-hundred million dollar acquisitions, it definitely matters who you know”. But, networking at the most relevant places, building the right relationships over a period of time, and then leveraging them at the right time is an art in itself and should been done with care.