Getting to know other entrepreneurs can be an incredibly valuable source of advice and support when setting up a new firm. Other founders will have gone through the same experiences as you are likely going through, and can help you avoid making the same mistakes that they have made. However, while some founders will come from an entrepreneurship background, most don’t have a vast network of contacts that they can turn to. This article explores approaches for meeting other entrepreneurs.
Opportunities to meet other entrepreneurs
Past contacts and acquaintances
Possibly the first place that you should turn is your past friends and contacts. While you may not have anyone in your close contacts that have set up a firm, if you explore your much larger historical group of contacts, you are much more likely to find prior contacts that have gone on to either set up a firm themselves or be involved in a startup of some sort. You never know what opportunities may arise from reaching out to friends that you have not seen or spoken to in many years.
Meeting others in co-working spaces
Co-working spaces are a great opportunity for meeting new contacts. These locations are typically open-floor-plan (with a mixture of assigned and non-assigned work locations), and are commonly used by founders as they are starting up – an easy way of gaining an office without the long-term contracts of a traditional lease. There are typically areas of the space for coffee and refreshments – providing opportunities to get to know other entrepreneurs that are also working in the location.
Another opportunity to meet entrepreneurs is via startup accelerators. Startups accelerators are typically intensive courses to work with entrepreneurs and grow their startups. Some of the biggest tech firms originated in startup accelerators. Although the primary reason for joining a startup accelerator is unlikely to be meeting other entrepreneurs, it developing a network of contacts is one of the benefits of attending such a program.
Joining entrepreneurial groups or attending events
Another route for meeting other entrepreneurs is to seek out talks or groups where entrepreneurs meet. Meetup is a great place to start – most large cities will have groups dedicated to founders that you can join. It is a low-commitment way of getting to know other founders on a social level, while also learning more about entrepreneurship in the process.
Helping out other entrepreneurs
Of course, while it is great to get to know other entrepreneurs, it is also important to build relationships with them. Help goes in both directions, and it is important that you are able to give back help to other entrepreneurs. Not only is this likely to help build trust in the relationship, but the more you build a reputation as someone who gives good advice, the more likely your contacts will introduce you to others, gradually building your contact network.
Final thoughts: Building your network takes time
Getting to know other entrepreneurs is not a quick nor easy task – it likely takes time to find others that you can trust, and to build relationships with them. In many ways it is a similar process to building a group of friends – many acquaintances you make may not come to much, and it may take a while to build a group of individuals that you are comfortable interacting with. Over time though, as your network of contacts grows, you will hopefully develop a group of individuals that can bring significant value to yourself and your organization.