I'm not a very outgoing person. I feel uncomfortable around new people and don't naturally reach out to others. But I have found networking to be very useful in the startup space. The most obvious use would be for making business connections, finding a great dev, etc. I really haven't gotten much results in that space from networking yet. But what has worked for me is learning about best practices. There are tons of tools out there. Lot's of experiences that others have had with their companies. Tons of information to digest. A quick way to learn this is to network and find the people with the most relevant information. In some of the industries I've worked in in the past, there were those where everything was considered a trade secret. So you couldn't ask someone outside your company for advice, tips, feedback, etc. But I have found the startup community to be very open, collaborative and helpful (at least in San Diego). So, how do I go about networking?
First place I go is Meetup.com. Meetup has evolved from its early days where people met up around their niche interests. Here's an interesting fact, in 2005, I ran the Chihuahua meetup in Seattle. Today on Meetup, their are still plenty of groups around personal interests. In addition to those, there are lots of 'professional' ones. Many companies set up a meetup around a topic, say WordPress training, that is related to their business, say web hosting. So these Meetup organizers are sharing information as one of their marketing efforts. These Meetups are really 'classes' where you pay a nominal fee to attend and learn. There's also many Meetups around startups. In San Diego, there's a couple of people organizing them and getting lot's of good traction. Tonight I went to Brant Cooper's Tech Founders meetup. The event sold out with 200 attendees! There were demos from six awesome companies, good Chicago style pizza, draft beer and enthusiastic people. I'll be presenting my company pitch at another meetup this coming Monday. There are plenty of Meetups around plenty of topics.Linked In
Another networking tool I use is Linked In. In my research, I'll find an interesting company that I want to learn more about. I'll find some key employees on Linked In and ask them to coffee. I've gotten a lot of good responses from these people who are essentially strangers but willing to sit down with me share their knowledge.If I can get out there and network, most of you can too. So give it a try!