Mastering The Art of Networking

Simply put, networking is an art of building relationships. It can be with anybody for any purpose. For an early stage startup, you as an entrepreneur would need to network with a lot of people like investors, mentors and the market. But, you also need to work on your product/service. In such times, networking will seem unnecessary. Yet, as you will see, networking is essential for your startup to succeed. Again, with so many options available, it can be difficult to select the best method of networking.

In this article, learn why networking is important, where to network and how to network. Eventually, you will learn how to master the valuable art of networking.

Why networking is important?

In a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit back in 2016, networking is vital for 78% of startups to succeed. So if you are working on a startup, networking is not a good-to-have activity, but a must. Not only networking will help you in your professional life, but you can build relationships that can last lifetime.

Here are some reasons as to why you should consider networking:

  • You can find your mentor

Wish there were someone who has passed all the difficulties of building a startup you are having? A mentor is the perfect person for you. Your mentor can give you essential advice on how to move on with your startup. He/she can also help you find potential investors and customers.

Networking is the key to finding your mentor. The only way someone will guide you to success is if you reach him/her. By being an effective networker, you can find your guru. Bill Gates met Warren Buffett in a family gathering. After that meeting Buffet became Gates mentor, the former giving the latter useful advice on prioritization and time management.

  • You can meet potential investors

Funding is important for your startup. According to a poll, 29% of startups fail for insufficient funding. You need funding to develop your product/service, sell it to customers and maintain operations.

Investors are busy people. They come upon a lot of potential startup pitches. The only way you can attract their attention is by making your company look exceptional. And only skillful networking can help you with that.

  • You can build up your team

In this modern world, doing stuffs by yourself is impossible. Startups are not exception. They are basically a team of few people who have this bold vision of changing the world. The only way to succeed is for all the members of the team to work cohesively with each other and with the same goal.

Finding people with the same vision as you is difficult. Here is where networking saves the day. By reaching out to potential people and acquainting with similar minded people, you can gather people to buy your idea and work with you.

  • You can find customers

There are thousands and thousands of businesses around the globe, all trying to capture the attention of customers. And cliche advertisements won’t help you attract customers. What you need is networking- building valuable relationships with your customers. You expose your business to potential customers through networking which in turn can influence him/her and others to buy your product/service.

  • You can connect with fellow startups

Who else can empathize with you more than someone going through the same phase you are going? Only another startup founder can. He/she is probably facing the same problems as you. Sharing problems with each other, you can solve their problems and yours as well. Moreover, they can provide you with valuable advice as well.

Where to network?

In a digital world where we are ever connected, networking is literally in the tip of your fingers. However, online networking is not enough. To master the art of networking, you need to network both online and offline. Here are some places where you can start networking.

  • LinkedIn: A request from a stranger on Facebook is creepy. You don’t want to appear as a stalker to someone you want help from. That’s where LinkedIn comes. As it is more professional, the person whom you want to network with will be able to trust you more than he/she can do it on Facebook.

However, it can also be creepy to accept a request from LinkedIn as well. So at first, you must build up your profile. That way you will let people know who you are. Second, you just can’t send a connection request. That is weird as well.

When you send a request for connection to someone on LinkedIn, you also have the option to send a note. Use that well. Tell that person why do you want to connect with him/her. It can be for asking for advice or anything. But do mention it.

Another thing is that mere getting accepted to a connection doesn’t mean you have networked well. You must follow up. Try to set up a face-to-face meeting. This will develop trust.

  • Networking events: Networking events offer a wide range of opportunities to network. Not only can you meet experts but also you can meet peers and sometimes co-founders. UBER co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp met at a tech conference in Paris. From there the idea of the ride sharing app grew. A lot of networking activities take place now a days. Just search on Facebook and you will find plenty. There is also a separate filter for networking events in Facebook Events. So searching for networking events has never been easier.

Most networking events consist of experts delivering speeches. Some may include group activities as well. However, passive participation won’t guarantee success. You must actively search for peers with interest similar to yours. Connect with them and follow up soon. The same thing goes when connecting with the experts. Go to them, talk a bit about yourself and your business, hand them your business card and request for a follow up.

  • Co-working spaces: Co-working spaces allow you to work on rented space. There will be other entrepreneurs as well who will be working on that space. Thus, co-working spaces give you ample scope to network. You can get help from fellow entrepreneurs and give help as well. You can also build good relationships.

There are a lot of co-working spaces out there. YY Goshti provides co-working spaces for startups with flexible timings and affordable packages. You can try out other coworking spaces including Inhouse, hubdhaka, Bonik Coworking SpaceMoar, Office Suites, YY Goshti Space and HIVE.

  • Trade associations: Trade associations help you bond with people engaged in your trade. Hence, you can meet people who have experience plus people who are just starting up just like you. So a trade association can be a vital source of networking.

Trade associations often hold gatherings and other events frequently or at certain intervals. Try to participate in these events. Just like networking events, you must be an active networker. Constantly seek out people whom you think who can help you. Approach them, tell them about your business, give them your business card and follow up.

  • Facebook groups: Facebook groups allow you to access a community of similar minded people. There are a lot of Facebook groups now a days catering to specific needs. These groups can provide you with advice, help you find raw materials and even help you to find team members.

Facebook groups made for start-ups in Bangladesh include Desperately Seeking Entrepreneurs, Desperately Seeking -Dhaka (DSD) and Ashen Babosha Kori.

Tips for networking:

Networking can be your make or break situation. You can either make a valuable connection or you can screw right up. Networking through Facebook groups and coworking spaces can be easier as it is often informal. However, when networking for mentors or investors, you really need to level up your skill. To master the art of networking, here are some tips that you should follow:

  • Plan

Before heading out to give a connection request to someone on LinkedIn or going to a networking event or any other cases, PLAN. Is the person right to ask? Is this the event I should be going? As an entrepreneur, it might be hard to maintain balance between your work and networking. So plan carefully on whether you should network with that person or not. Before giving a connection request, think on what to write as an introductory note. Before deciding to go to an event, think if you should go or not. Plan on what you wish to achieve. Or if you want to coldmail, plan on how to craft your mail to attract the person.

  • Know about the person

It is very important to know about the person you wish to connect with. Learn about the person, his/her work history, achievements and experience. Try to know about his/her interest and if there is any that matches with you. It will help you start off conversation in a friendly manner. Try to find out if both of you have a mutual connection. That can help you get acquainted with the person easily. Try to see if you can help him/her in any way. For example: Before interviewing Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey read a lot of her works before. Oprah was fascinated by Angelou and the latter became Oprah’s mentor afterwards.

  • Give before you take

According to master networker Heidi Rozen, who has been an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and an executive at Apple, “Successful Networkers are givers.” Don’t think of networking as just business transactions- but opportunities for developing human relationships. So try to offer something of value to the person you wish to network before asking something in return. If after learning about the person, you find something he/she needs that you can provide- do it. That person will be glad to reciprocate with similar actions.

  • Be specific

Make the person know what you want properly. Also make the person know you properly as well. He/she won’t help someone whom he/she doesn’t know anything about. Introduce yourself well, describe about your business and what it does. At times, you can provide work portfolios to the person so he/she can understand your business well. Your queries and requests must be unambiguous too. So he/she can properly help you out.

  • Follow up

After the meeting is over, follow up. Most of the “How to Networking” articles you come online will tell you to meet at a coffee place or have a lunch or something. That is great but for someone who is constantly being asked for coffee or lunch, it might be impossible to maintain your request.

Instead of the usual coffee dates, you can write an email to that person after a few days. Thank him/her for the time given and you can share articles he/she might find useful. You can also mention further questions at this stage as well. You can also ask for a second meetup if that person comes to town again.

  • Connect both online and offline

Though Facebook and LinkedIn may ease the networking process for us all, they aren’t enough. Similarly networking events are a one time affairs and you need to connect frequently. Thus, you need both online and offline media. Don’t think one is the substitute for another. In fact, both of them are complementary to each other. So use both of them wisely.

Networking is an art. An art that takes a lot of preparation and skills. You cannot succeed always but if you do, you will thank your networking skills for helping your startup to grow. So work carefully on your networking skills and do write to us if you have succeeded using any of the tips mentioned above. Happy networking!

Writer: Farhan Uddin Ahmed

Mastering The Art Of Pitching

Pitching-a single action that can determine the future of an entrepreneur’s lifelong work. Mastering the art of pitching is the key to making your dream business idea come to life.

In a startup, pitching follows the Pareto’s Principle-80% of results come from 20% of efforts . A founder gets only a few minutes to present his/her ideas to investors. But the results can lead to a make or break situation. You get the funding and guidance needed to succeed or you don’t get anything at all.

Thus, pitching for your social business startup is extremely important. In this article, we will share 10 steps to master the art of pitching and get your startup to the place you want it to be.

  • Start with a story

We all are familiar with the saying, “First impression lasts forever.” Thus, the first few seconds are important for you, as the entrepreneur, to impress your potential investors. And what better way than telling a story? Research shows the brains of both the speaker and the audience (your investors in this case) sync up when the speaker tells a story.

But more importantly, telling a story will show to your audience about your passion and determination towards your project. It shows what the product or service you are building means to you and your team.

Creating a story for a social business is easier than other types of businesses. This is because social businesses are created out of an idea to change society for good. And this idea often comes from an experience a founder encounters. So create the human touch with your investors first by starting with a story.

Back in 2009, Professor Yunus started his commencement speech at Wharton School of Business in the following way:

When I finished school, got my PhD, I had no idea whether my life would someday be of any use to anyone else’s. But in the mid-seventies, I was back in newborn Bangladesh, and out of frustration with the terrible economic situation in Bangladesh I decided to see if I could make myself useful to one poor person a day in the village next door to the university campus where I was teaching.

When I went into the villages, I could not miss seeing the ruthlessness of moneylenders in the village. First I lent the money to replace the loan sharks.  Then I went to the local bank to request them to lend money to the poor. They refused. After months of deadlock I persuaded them by offering myself as a guarantor.  This is how microcredit was born in 1976.

See how Professor Yunus started with a story? You too can start with a story about how you came up with the business idea.

  • Create a one sentence soundbite

In news, you might see how tweets by celebrities, sportsmen, politicians or even CEOs can create a storm. This is because, the short phrases written by those people seem to be remembered by all and influence them as well.

Investors are like twitter users. They will encounter a lot of pitching by other companies as well on the same day you pitch. So probably they will forget about most of the companies.

As a social entrepreneur, you will be more worried as investors also would not like the idea of giving away the profits. Here, your business comes to the rescue. But what you think is a radical idea may not be the same for your investors. Have a sound bite that explains your business in one sentence to the investors.

For example: Shishir Water goes by the line, “MAKING WATER PART OF OUR LIFE”. This simple but effective soundbite helps investors to remember the purpose and motive of Shishir Water’s social business.

  • Create short and simple slides

Have you ever seen Steve Jobs giving presentations? In case you have not, I suggest you do. Though there might be a presentation file displayed on the back, everyone focused on what he had to say.

One of the mistakes, anyone of us giving presentations commit is to concentrate on slides more than the speech. A slide is important, no doubt. But it is not the most important thing.

However, you might need to use slides to complement what you say. You don’t need to be a doctorate in designing but a simple template will do the trick. Avoid making slides wordy and avoid making a lot of slides. Here you can follow a rule known as 10/20/30.

The 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint is simple: A pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Why it works? First of all, humans can’t comprehend more than 10 concepts at a time. Second, after twenty minutes of an uninterrupted session, human attention decreases largely. And finally, font less than thirty points can make the slides unreadable for audience at the back

  • Visualize your numbers

How many of us have liked math classes when we were at school? Very few. That is because we take numbers as abstract signs bearing few context.

Investors are no different. So when you have to show finances or statistics, show them in a way that even a child can understand. Remember, Steve Jobs bringing out a Macbook from an envelope? He could have easily said the Macbook is 5cm thick. But instead, he showed to the audience how thin 5cm really is. By this way, everyone could understand the slickness of the Macbook.

Similarly, in your pitch visualize your finance and statistics. Use bars and charts to show numbers. In this way, investors can grasp an idea about the feasibility of your business.

  • Go through the seven points

You might have a lot of things to say about your social business or nothing at all. So how can you go through all about your business in a short amount of time? Follow these seven points and it will cover almost everything about your startup.

  • The Problem: What problem of society do you wish to eradicate through your business? Why is it a problem? The problem Shishir Water wants to solve is the lack of pure drinking water in Bangladesh.
  • The Solution: What does your business do to solve the problem? For example: Shishir Water decided to solve the water crisis problem in rural Bangladesh through “Clean drinking water in a jar for consumption at affordable price, produced in a energy efficient way.”
  • The Method: How does your business solve the problem? Here, show the process by which your product/service will solve the problem. Shishir Water uses UV LED lighting to purify surface water. It sets up community based plants through franchisees and delivers the jars to disadvantaged communities.
  • The Model: What is your business model? What is your production target? How are you managing the finances? The business model will help investors understand whether you have a feasible plan for your business. Shishir Water’s business model consisted of its production target (6000 litres per month), monthly revenue and franchisee fee.
  • The Competition: Who are your existing competitors? If there aren’t any in your particular field, choose from a related industry. During pitching, show how your business serves customers better than the competitors. Shishir Water’s main competitors are subsidised water production systems and existing bottled water companies. What sets Shishir Water apart is that it supplies clean water using advanced energy efficient technology with a smart monitoring system.
  • The Strategy: How are you going to reach your target customer? This is mainly about the marketing of your product/service. Shishir Water reaches vulnerable communities through raising awareness among people and through direct sales.
  • The Team: Who’s your team? Co-founders? Here, you can talk about your team and their experiences.
  • The Progress: How far have you progressed? Have you reached milestones? Here, you can show the number of customers reached and how people have benefitted from your business. Shishir Water has reached more than 2 thousand people and has created jobs for 8 people.

This by no means is a comprehensive list on how to master the art of pitching. However, differentiating yourself from a bunch of companies saying the same thing can really help make the difference. So next time you pitch for your company, please do follow these steps. And if it works (or it worked before), do mention it in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Next Venture Corp (P1), Social Business Youth Alliance/ Prito Reza Productions (P2), Shishir Water (P3).

Writer: Farhan Uddin

Meet Latest Batch of Startups at YY Goshti

After a rigorous national search, team YY Goshti has welcomed eight emerging social businesses in its six month long incubation program. These startups are solving critical social issues in the field of agriculture, craftsmanship, youth employment, waste management and urban safety. Here is the complete list-

 

YOUNIFI: YOUNIFI is a platform for connecting youth and positive impact organizations to develop skills. It helps young individuals to develop their skills through voluntary activities which will help them to apply these in their professional lives.

Roomerio.com: roomerio.com helps users find and connect with their potential roommates. It provides a platform for people to rent out their rooms or to rent one as per their needs. The revenue model is subscription based.

Travel Bangladesh: Travel Bangladesh is a travel information portal and service provider. It is a platform that provides information about each and every place of Bangladesh and generates revenue through tours, advertisements and other services.

 

Self Protect: Self Protect App is an application designed to support users to connect and provide safety. It allows the user to contact with the concerned authorities in case of any crime. Revenue is generated through advertisements and service subscription fees.

GARBAGEMAN: Garbageman is a platform that aims to convert waste into resources. It collect waste and processes them into compost fertilizers that are sold to customers. Revenue comes through selling compost and fees.

Jute Monarchy: Jute Monarchy makes Innovative and diversified jute products. The aim is to create employment opportunities for unskilled and less skilled persons. It promotes Bangladeshi art and craft in its signature products produced for mostly foreigners.

Nagarkrishi: Nagarik Krishi’ provides eco-friendly gardening solution by utilizing a website/ app platform. Urban centers are polluted and citizens are staying away from farming activities. To improve this situation, it makes people conscious about gardening, planting tree, and green revolution by providing online and offline training.

Shoyong: Shoyong aims to bring variations on spinning and weaving by automation and changing on twist, color combination and fabric design. It provide export quality tribal fabrics with unique designs by empowering disadvantaged Bangladeshis living in Chittagong hill tracks.

We are bringing in our tried and tested Entrepreneurship Development Protocol that has supported 30+ social entrepreneurs in Bangladesh since 2016 to help these startups grow with support from EMK Center, PUM Netherlands and our generous mentors.

Writer: Kaniz Ahmed

Global Social Business Summit 2017 – YY Goshti and Its Takeaways

The 8th Global Social Business Summit 2017 took place in Paris from November 4th – 9th. This edition represented an important step for the social business community as they welcomed new participants with different backgrounds to increase the impact and expand their movement. The GSBS is the worldwide leading forum for social business, non-loss, non-dividend companies with a social goal. It serves to spread awareness about social business, foster discussion and collaboration between practitioners and stakeholders, as well as present and conceives best practices. The annual event is organized by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and his Creative Advisor Hans Reitz and gathers experts from the private sector, civil society, governments, and academia over a few days of meetings, forums, and workshops. The GSBS is a platform where they can create their own space of inspiration and determination, create new value in the face of generational and structural shifts and leverage far-reaching advances in science and technology for the communities.

 

Every Year a delegation from SBYA Global and YY Goshti attend the GSBS and broaden their outlook on social business, sustainable development goals, Professor Muhammad Yunus’s vision of poverty free world and problem-solving in an effective way. This year for the 8th edition of the GSBS, YY Goshti had a breath-taking experience as all participants discovered new inspiring platforms for problem-solving. This year’s GSBS focused on the global challenges – plastic pollution, food and its value chain, refugee solidarity, culture, education and the role of cities as well as the Olympic Games and the role of health.

GSBS 2017 gathered renowned and inspirational speakers from social businesses, the business world, the political scene, as well as entrepreneurs, scientists, and academics to deliver high-quality content. The GSBS Social Business Young Challengers’ and Young Pioneers’ Meeting took place two days prior to the main event on 4th and 5th November. It is a pre-meeting for students and young professionals up to the age of 35 years to discuss the concept of social business, network and develop own social business ideas. The Young Challengers and Young Pioneers had the opportunity to challenge the experts during GSBS with their questions and comments. The meeting started off with a brief introduction to social business and presentation of successful social business case studies. Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, the CEO of YY Goshti, shared his journey of starting from scratch by building a non-profit organization and ending up establishing a social business incubator for having real-life impact and working with entrepreneurs closely helping them with resources. He also mentioned about how this journey helped him with a better understanding of social business, its importance, and its potential to change people’s lives in different ways. He expressed his firm belief that more and more people should come forward to contribute to this community so that together they can make a better world for the future generation. Later Nishat Farzana Sinthy from YY Goshti and Khalid Hossain Anik from SBYA Global presented “Shishir Water” and “Photopreneurs” respectively, two of the social businesses they work in successfully in “Inspiration Session”.

YY Goshti also had a presence in the Social Business Academia Conference initiated and promoted by Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus. It has been held to review the theoretical and practical implications and potentials of the concept. The purpose of the conference was to create a networking opportunity for academicians, researchers, practitioners, and development activists to discuss recent insights on Social Business. YY Goshti considers GSBS 2017 as a platform to connect with companies, entrepreneurs, civil society and academia in order to leverage the opportunities. A positive change in our world shall be driven by fostering co-operation between practitioners and stakeholders, as well as through sharing and developing best practices at the GSBS.