Do Startups Now Need a Chief Networking Officer?
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Open any social media platform and every day a new pop-up about an upcoming event gains your attention. The event with its fancy banners and eminent speakers list attracts your attention and off you go looking for the right connections you can make if you do manage to attend it.
With the booming start-up ecosystem, more and more events on entrepreneurship are cropping up on an everyday-basis. While a lot of them ensure learning, some of them are simply not as productive as a founder thinks it to be. But the founder ends up spending an entire day at the event, letting go of some important emails that needed his/her attention.
Considering the rise in popularity of events, there’s a possibility of a new role in the start-ups hierarchy – that of a Chief Networking Officer.
We spoke to start-up founders as they shared their thoughts on hiring a networking officer and how they select the events that one should go to.
Hire a Hustler
For any start-up founder, it’s necessary to realise the importance of events. While there’s always something happening around the corner, one needs to recognise the potential of these events too. Akshay Chaturvedi, founder of LeverageEdu, has just returned to the national capital after attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. “As a founder, you need to be selective about which events you want to attend. Either you want to have a one-on-one interaction with a delegate at the event or you want to learn from the sessions. Founders also need to always have their learning mode on,” he said.
He also believes in the concept of influencing the influencer, where the founder needs to be present at big events to make sure the big names of the industry know about his startup.
Chaturvedi is a common face at many events across the country, but even at his start-up he has already hired a Lead Evangelist, whose job profile entails attending events that could bring them leads. He believes that to ensure your company’s visibility at such conferences, you need to hire a hustler who does the job. “There are about 15 per cent of events that I attend, whereas the rest are attended by the lead evangelist,”
Stage of the Company Decides Your Attendance
When a company is at an early stage, it is important for the founder or co-founder to represent the company so there’s better understanding of the product in the market. As you are still refining your pitch, you’ll only get to know better once you meet industry experts, believes Vineel Reddy Pindi, founder of Collab House. While he has attended events in the past which didn’t turn out to be productive, Reddy Pindi is now clear about the events he attends.
Once a strong messaging is ready and the founders are aware of their growth path, companies can definitely hire someone who takes over attending events on a day-to-day basis. “Most experienced entrepreneurs are not present at every event and are instead focusing on making the product better. They realise that these events are just add-ons. However, when you are at an early stage, only you can pitch your product best to the target audience,” he said.
To Be or Not to Be
There’s a thin line between the right and wrong events and founders need to be able to recognize it. Events can also be a distraction where the founder ends up wasting his/her time with no valuable addition, whereas he/she could have spent the time working on the product. The trick lies in prioritizing events believe most founders. Reddy Pindi compares it to a supermarket. “If you have no idea why you are going there, you will end up being lost. But if you have a list in hand and know what you want, you save time and energy,” he said.
While many large conferences or pitch events require the founder’s presence, many others could also be handled by a marketing representative or a networking person. Vinay Dora, founder of Crowd Product, who has attended over 200 events shares another alternative to the same. “If a founder feels hiring one person for solely networking is not affordable, they can even hire someone from the community who attends numerous events and can add value. So, one person can actually do the work for multiple start-ups,” he said.