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Startup networking events: are they important?

At the center of pretty much every startup community there are key networking events. As a startup, it can get pretty exhausting going to all of them and deciding which one is important can be like a game of crystal ball gazing.

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If you are in tech, these events do tend to be quite useful as a great place to meet possible collaborators and to gain insight into the industry. However as a young startup, is this the best use of your time? Shouldn’t you be busy actually building the product and getting ready to launch rather putting in face time that may or not help the company?

The basic idea behind a startup networking event is to help people connect. They can help a developer to meet a designer or business person or a marketer. It gives startups opportunities to see what other people are working on and understand the competition, maybe even give them the extra drive they need to kickstart their company. That’s great. A networking event is at its core about expanding your network because when it comes to starting in a business, though what you know is great, who you know might just be better.

According to Julie Meyer, founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital and BBC online Dragon, networking events are very important:

“Networking events and online networking are a crucial tool in every entrepreneur’s quest to scale their business quickly. The more people you meet and talk to about the business, the faster you will get feedback to hone your proposition, meet potential investors and reach customers, both directly and through word of mouth. It’s also a great way to find new talent to build your team.”

Well if she says so, it must be essential to your business and you should go to every single networking event out there, or not.

What does your startup need and where are you with the business?

The importance and usefulness of a networking event depends on the entrepreneur and the startup. As haphazard as it may seem to just pitch up at an event, it takes a little bit of work and effort to get something out it. Does your company need to find people to collaborate with? If yes, then head to an event for the specific resources you are looking for.

Are you looking for beta testers or just some feedback on your product/idea? Then go hand out with people in the community and talk about what you are doing. Are you looking for investors? This is tricky because some investors might want to avoid going to too many networking events. There is however a chance you might meet one or someone who can give you an introduction. In the startup world, an introduction is everything.

There is such a thing as too much networking. The event hoppers. Unless you are a journalist sniffing out a story or an event organizer, a single startup really has no business being at every single networking event one community has to offer. Unless your product is built and launched and you are simple spreading the message, being at every startup networking event can get in the way of actually building a product/business. If your company has all the pieces of the puzzle in place except for the actual product that needs launching, networking events should be the last thing on your mind.

Networking events are crucial to a startup and the entrepreneurs involved but if you are not getting anything or adding any value to the event, don’t go. It’s a colossal waste of time if your main purpose is the free food and drink.

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