I heard Thornton May speak about ten years ago—he is a Futurist and Executive Director of the IT Leadership Academy— who explained that while sales and marketing is vital, and the product is key, the piece to a business that has to be really solid is one’s network. Now after participating in two events over the past six weeks supported/produced by the C100, the major conclusion I have come to is that the C100 are network builders of epic proportions. This group is comprised solely of individuals who, after building themselves an amazing business career and an impressive rolodex, are now giving back by volunteering for events that accelerate the mission statements of entrepreneurs.
With a proper network in place you can source capital, expand operations, and gather brilliant Intel—all pieces that can send your business to the stars. Take the experience you’ve gathered in the boardroom and apply it to the real world through events held by the C100 and the A100 (Alberta’s provincial version).
Opportunities include 48 Hours in the Valley and Accelerate Alberta - the two I’ve been recently a part of—each welcoming a solid array of experienced investors and masters of great wisdom to the podium.
During the Accelerate Alberta event, Boris Wertz (W Media Ventures, GrowLab, C100) explained to me that the network is one of the first considerations he uses to determine if there will be an investment on his part into your company. “I look at engagement stats ... are users there … and is there a network effect happening.” A network effect is where word of mouth is now a main source of distribution and/or product adoption into the consumer’s stream.
Derek Ball (Tynt) had some great things to say about the network if you are looking to grow your business internationally. “Look to who is using your product in various places and find out what they think of it.” Now, with the instant feedback we can gather through social media, it’s a brilliant concept to constantly be asking your network what they think of it and how it can be improved. Anouther concept suggest by Dups Wijayawardhana (Empire Avenue) during the Accelerate Alberta conference was that “through the growth of your social network, look to who is a part of that network and leverage the audience to have them help with your growth. We had a woman from Chile discover our offering while here in Alberta, she went back home and within days our analytics starting showing growth in Chile; by week’s end we were watching clips on Chilean business TV channels talking about Empire Avenue, but we couldn’t understand if it was good or bad press as it was all in Spanish! (it was all good press and their numbers continued to expand).
It's key to keep a healthy network for your operations. Spending time in front white boards, spreadsheets, and analytics is certainly a part of an entrepreneur’s working diet but getting out and shaking hands can be just as important. With a base network in place it can get a whole lot smoother in the way you move your idea along and the new network contacts might even open doors to opportunities no white board session could ever show. In addition to events the C100 and A100 throw, if you are looking for other methods to expand the network, think about getting into a business incubator. My company, Seekers Media has now been within novaNAIT on the campus of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology for a year or so which has been a huge boon to our operations.
Thornton explained that it will be this same network that is going to help if times get tough and you need some guidance. “Distribution is highly underrated—understand the pipeline and win,” said Arthur Wong (Iron Key, C100).
And the networking capabilities continue in August with the upcoming Grow Conference. In association with the C100 Grow will be anouther experience to allow us entrepreneurs to take what we have to the next level, and continue to unlock the secrets to the network effect.