The start-up cosmos is large and yet many founders feel alone at first. Especially at the beginning, you are faced with countless new tasks, unpredictable questions, or even a new industry. Once the initial sensory overload has been overcome, it is worth pausing and looking around the scene. After all, all founders have to take their first uncertain steps and it is all the more logical to learn from those who have already done so. But where can you meet like-minded people, idea sharers, fellow sufferers, and potential business partners?
Network & Contacts
Networking is a key component for your start-up success. Good business contacts open doors for the future of your business idea. You might also leave a good impression on potential financiers. But how do I do “real networking”? It is important not to rush to every event, but to select only those events and functions that deliver added value and to take the time to prepare for the right events accordingly. After all, not every event has the right audience. Also, it is important not only at events but also in personal conversations to get the most essential info across in a short time. It is important to make yourself and the idea interesting, exciting, entertaining! You should give your counterpart a reason why she or he should learn more about you.
Most people don’t like to be bombarded with information. Networking should not be a monologue, but a conversation in which a lot of listening is involved. For a good conversation structure, you can follow the 70-20-10 rule:
70% of the time: offer help
Most of the time one should demonstrate that potential partners and customers can count on them and offer your support. Provide useful contacts, make a helpful phone call, or offer tips – you make sure that the contacts in your network benefit from you. The goal is to build trust. By asking for help early on, you can be mistaken for being greedy or inconsiderate, and in the worst case, scare off your partner. Therefore, you should be the source of trust yourself first. It is also possible to involve others at events, listening to people and engaging them in conversation as opportunities arise.
20% of the time: communicate your idea
After you have proven yourself to be a useful contact for others, it is time to put yourself out there as a person. Be careful, this does not mean representing yourself as a show-off, but
rather the project you are working on or how you would like to improve the working atmosphere in the company or similar things.
10% of the time: asking for help
After you have built trust, gained sympathy, and communicated your ideas, you can ask your network for advice or help with problems.
Consulting & Coaching
Online, at events, and in networks, founders can make their first contacts easily and without complications. Another decisive advantage is that these spheres are often home to financially and substantively strong partners who are happy to invest in innovative ideas. Of course, they are primarily looking for the one business idea that will ultimately bring in a lot of money. But many strategic investors are also looking for new fields and founders who are simply convincing. Unlike classic venture capital or business angels, they do not just want to help the founders achieve quick success with a lot of money. They advise and support professionally as well as financially over a long time and thus ensure a more sustainable scaling of the start-up. So if you prefer to grow steadily, but with a lot of know-how at your side, you should rather turn to a strategic consultant. Therefore, one should make sure to have entrepreneurs in one’s network who have already made it to where one wants to go. Because these entrepreneurs were also once founders and know the situation from their own experience. However, they are already one step ahead and it is precisely from them that you can learn a thing or two.
Since most start-ups crave funding and exchange with experts at the beginning, participation in founder competitions is recommended. The own development starts already with the application. This is because extensive idea sketches, initial building blocks for a business plan, or other details are often required, forcing someone to formulate the project as concretely and convincingly as possible. Especially at the beginning of a start-up, this can help to get structure and clarity for the idea. Also, participating in a start-up competition allows direct contact with professionals, mentors, and the jury, all of whom are experts in their respective fields. Through the exchange, one can take away a lot of valuable know-how, especially since the participants more often receive direct feedback on their idea. Depending on the stage of the company, the competitions themselves are also designed to further develop the participants’ idea or business plan and take it to the next level. This means that in addition to the prospect of winning great prizes, you can also pick up some free coaching. Some contests also provide teams with personal mentors to work on the concept together. Participants also get access to contacts that wouldn’t be as easy to come by under normal circumstances, such as potential partners. Many start-up competitions also offer exclusive events for (former) participants or alumni networks. Another advantage of start-up competitions is the press coverage. Visibility is the factor that founders have to fight hard for. However, during and after participating in a founder competition, all eyes are on the teams. This guarantees the attention of media, potential first customers, cooperation partners as well as investors. The competition’s seal of approval can also be of great importance: Depending on how well-known and prestigious the competition is, a competition title increases the start-up’s reputation and can also act as a door opener.
It is important to take the time to select a competition and check to what extent you can benefit from the supporting program of the corresponding start-up competition. Not every one of the many competitions will advance someone in the same way. However, with such a wide range, there is certainly something for everyone. But above all, it is important to be true to yourself, to dare to take the step toward self-employment, and to never lose patience.