You’ve got great ideas.
You’ve gained access to a terrific startup accelerator program that helped you with funding and introduced you to insightful mentors.
You’ve been networking in a sheltered environment and you’re better off than you ever were before.
So now what do you do?
Should professional networking still be an area of focus? (Hint: yes) If you have a million other things to do that take up your time and you’ve left the nursery of the accelerator program, what are the best ways to efficiently and effectively continue to build your professional network and establish key contacts that can aid your business in the future?
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your time spent networking:
Startup competitions are a great way to kick-start your business should you win and gain extra funding, but the process of participating can also be beneficial in and of itself. This is another way to meet potential mentors and business partners, and it is also terrific practice for concisely communicating your value proposition and vision for your business.
At the end of the day, whether you win the contests or not these are terrific networking opportunities and the types of activities you should be participating in after finishing your accelerator program.
Social media isn’t going anywhere and for startups in particular, it is important to generate some buzz around your brand. In addition to communicating something about your brand identity to potential customers or investors, it is important to start associating yourself with key influencers in the space you intend to operate.
These people have large followings on social media networks and if you can establish a relationship with them, they can help bring attention to your brand by re-tweeting or sharing your posts. LinkedIn has launched it’s own influencer program and there are a variety of services that exist for Twitter such as Followerwonk that are designed to help identify key influencers in your space.
Networking to Build your Team
Typically, you are going to be in a growth phase after completing your accelerator program and the decisions you make on who to hire as you build your team are essential. These people are likely going to become your managers as the team continues to grow so make sure you are bringing in people who share the vision and philosophies of the founders.
Networking can be a great tool in finding the right kind of people to join your team in these early stages who share your entrepreneurial spirit and goals. Often, this is a better way to find the people who will fit your burgeoning corporate culture than job postings.
Go to Networking Events
Startup Weekends are all about sharing ideas, forming teams and launching startups. These are great tools for entrepreneurs who have not yet developed their product and are perhaps in an earlier stage, but the networking opportunities they present can be invaluable for business leaders who have recently completed a startup accelerator as well.
Meetups are another terrific option. You can start your own meet-up group based on geographic location and area of interest or expertise, or you can join meet-up groups that feature the types of people you’d like to network with
These are opportunities to build professional relationships with similarly minded entrepreneurial professionals as well as more senior professionals that could become valuable advisors in the future.
The Need to Network Never Ends
The accelerator program was a great success and it’s time to apply what you’ve learned, invest the resources you’ve gained and take your business to the next level. Don’t overlook the ongoing need to network and continue making contacts that can be leveraged in the future as your business climbs higher and needs become more complex.
Lucas Olmedo is the CEO and Co-Founder of fligoo.com, a platform that uses a unique algorithm to find the perfect gift for any Facebook friend. With a background in finance and marketing, Lucas handles all of the business development and strategy for fligoo.
Image credit: CC by Joe Shlabotnik