Here’s how networking the right way can help grow your startup

“Entrepreneurship is all about creating opportunities where none exist. Networking allows an entrepreneur to explore the uncharted path,” says Vineet ToshniwalFounder and CEO of BizzO.

If one were to list down the essential skills a successful entrepreneur must possess, networking would definitely make it to the top five.

Essentially, networking is the process of interacting with people in order to establish social contacts, exchange information, or develop a professional relationship.

Social gatherings—say a meet of the startup community or a formal dinner—provide aspiring and established entrepreneurs networking opportunities that can be leveraged to meet a potential investor, a future employee, a possible partner, and even future brand collaborators.

“Building long relations term is probably one of the most important things that a founder can do for themselves and their companies,” says Akshay ChaturvediFounder and CEO of Leverage Edu. These relationships can be built with seasoned entrepreneurs, peers, industry and sub-sector experts, users, and so on.

However, networking does not come easy to everyone. Breaking the ice and initiating a conversation with a stranger can cause many to sweat. To be eventually good at networking, one has to be patient, persistent, and confident. With this in mind, Entrepreneurship 101 spoke to startup founders on how to network successfully.

Why is networking so important?

From a business perspective, each interaction with a stakeholder opens up the possibility for entrepreneurs to later connect regarding possible partnerships, collaborations, or even investments and sales. Networking with mentors and peers allows one to tap into a pool of ideas where they can not only develop new products and services, but also cooperate with existing ones, believes Vineet.

Akshay says that his entrepreneurial journey so far is entirely built on relationships he has cultivated at different stages of his life. More than half of the leadership team at Leverage Edu are friends from Akshay’s earlier days. “The chemistry helps us be both transparent and intense with each other without egos,” he adds.

In fact, almost all the external funds that Leverage Edu has raised so far is a result of long term relationships.

“In my first angel round, I had three professors, four ISB alumni, all my [former]bosses, and half a dozen friends…My first VC round, led by Blume (Ventures) and DSG (Ventures), had me meeting Karthik Reddy because of my ex-boss Vir Kashyap, and Deepak Shahdadpuri because of Vishal Gondal. In fact, the fruits of our Series B round, led by Kaizenvest Private Equity, were laid when I met Sandeep Aneja over a casual breakfast in Singapore over three-years ago,” Akshay reveals.

similarly, Smit Kant RaturiCo-founder of ValetEZ, found partners for his first venture among former colleagues, and his present co-founder Prashant Chandrasekaran was also his batchmate at Oxford.

Pranav Bajaj, Co-founder of Medulance, says, “Networking exposes young minds to new schools of thoughts, new ideologies, poking their minds with new questions.” He adds that networking has helped him meet mentors, advisors, clients, vendors and some “lifelong friends”.

Additionally, he reveals how he once met the co-founder of one of the country’s largest telecom company and kept in touch with him throughout the growth of Medulance. “We were able to pilot a new product with his organisation,” he adds, which went on to become Medulance’s flagship product with a subscriber base of over 10 million employees across 60-plus organisations.

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