Dallas just wrapped up its second Dallas Startup Week. It’s such a great way for the start up community to come together to celebrate (and commiserate, ammiright?) the pros and cons of startup life.
So let’s talk about the elephant in the proverbial start-up room.
Or rather waiting on funding.
So many start ups in the world are “waiting on funding.” It can be hard to be productive during this wait-and-see time. Sure, it’s easy to stay busy, but staying productive is different.
One of the best things you can do while you wait on investments is to build connections with potential influencers. Networking takes time, but the good news is that for the most part it is free. Taking the time you have now to build relationships will pay off down the road when time becomes your most limited asset.
There are several ways to grow your network. A few that I like are:
- Attend a local 1 Million Cups presentation — 1MillionCups is a nation-wide program that offers the ability for young companies to practice their pitches and gain valuable feedback from the audience members. Sitting in the audience, you can meet everyone from angel investors to fellow entrepreneurs — influencers! If you think you’re ready you should present! You never know who may be sitting in the audience. When you’re there you can likely find out other programs and stages for similar presentations. Practice makes perfect!
- Social Media — It’s just almost trite to say if you’re not on social media you need to be. You need to be. But you can’t just be there — you need to have meaningful content. Show your influencers that you are a thought leader and that you’re on the cutting edge of whatever industry. You should talk WITH people on social media not just to them. Search for people talking about what you want to talk about. Tools like buzzsumo.com are amazing ways to find curated content quickly. Other tools I like, include FlipBoard and, once you have a little cash, look into Meltwater or a similar monitoring tool.
- Publish Content — Right along the lines of social media is blogging. If you’re not blogging, you’re missing a huge opportunity to find and reach out to your influencers. I like to use my blog to “power” my social media. If you don’t want to blog on your website, then blog via LinkedIn or another social media tool. The important thing is to write, just write. You can tell people about what you’re learning and what you’re doing. Best of all good content is easily shareable and you’ll create brand evangelists in the process.
- Attend conferences as a Speaker — One of the best PR tools I have is getting my clients onto stages either as a guest speaker or as part of a panel at events. It’s a great way to get your message out to a room that likely contains at least a handful of your influencers. We were lucky enough to get a client on stage two different times during Dallas Start Up week. One of which then resulted in a pic being on the front page of the business section. FREE ADVERTISING! YEAH! While Dallas Startup Week was a free event, as a speaker you normally can get a complimentary pass to the rest of the event. (You may save yourself a couple of hundred dollars in admission/sponsorship fees!!) Additionally, speakers usually enjoy “back stage” access to other speakers and event organizers. Great potential networking with influencers!
Building anything from scratch is a daunting challenge. Anyone who has started a company knows this. Startups are often challenging much bigger, well-financed competition. Disrupting them means you have to focus on marketing activities that give you a solid return.