From solopreneur to large-scale startup, it’s important to invest time into building a quality professional network. Here are some tips to get you started!
1. Choose a platform that works for you.
Networking opportunities are abundant in Berlin which is home to some of the coolest entrepreneur-focussed networking events in Europe. These include Tech Open Air, Startup Safari, Techstars StartUp Weekend, Startup Night, International Green Week, Hub Berlin, NOAH, Labor für Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Summit - just to name a few of the big-ticket ones! These large-scale events will give you a solid overview of the Berlin startup ecosystem. Use an event aggregator such as Startup Calendar to plan your year ahead (and do note the early-bird registration dates).
2. Show up at events.
Berlin is a socially-minded city with a large number of events and activities happening all year round. It is not just important to RSVP to events but to commit to showing up. Be it work or social, trust is earnt (especially in the loyalty-focussed German business and social environments) by honouring your commitments, showing up on time and on an ongoing basis. Whilst it is tempting to say “yes!” to everything, it will leave you overcommitted and more prone to canceling. Don’t be that person! Align your networking goals with your personal and business objectives, and find an environment which supports your needs.
Use Meetup to narrow the focus to niche networking. Berlin is the fourth largest Meetup city in Europe, and the platform offers meetups by industry, profession or interest. These can range from mentoring sessions, workshops, hackathons and more. Some entrepreneur focussed Meetups include: Women Techmakers Berlin, Berlin Startups, Design Thinking for Entrepreneurs, and Berlin Geekettes.
Popular cowork spaces such as the Factory and Betahaus also offer a suite of affordable networking events, designed for both members and non-members alike, and relevant Facebook groups including Berlin Freelancers, Berlin Startups, Unicorns in Tech, and Berlin Girl Gone International all facilitate immediate digital networking opportunities and offer regular offline meetups.
3. Seek out a purposeful connection.
True networking is about finding a solution to a problem or challenge you are facing. Ask yourself, what is your motivation to network and how does this align with your goals? What kind of people do you want to connect with? Are you looking for business partners or fellow co-founders? Do you want to meet people in similar industries or similar professions? In a large capital city, it’s certainly possible to meet a lot of people. But do aim for quality connections over quantity. Berlin has a reputation for being transient, and whilst this adds to the rebellious energy of the city, it can also have drawbacks when it comes to finding a genuine network. Patience and purpose are your keys.
4. Embrace diversity.
Berlin is a multicultural city, with a huge migrant population which lays the foundation for some powerful cross-cultural collaborations and global networking opportunities. Choose events which are diverse and go beyond your comfort zone. Getting involved with social entrepreneurship is not just something to put on your CV, rather it gives you a broader perspective on some of the challenges facing the community as well as access to a range of skilled workers from all over the world. Organisation Give Something Back to Berlin offers regular events which brings community members together in a social and supported environment, and they also offer a whole range of projects that you can be involved in. Go beyond the usual business events when it comes to making new connections. Being community-minded, sharing skills and learning how to navigate the German business market alongside other foreigners is deeply rewarding.
5. You don’t have to talk about work.
Sometimes the best networking happens when you aren’t trying so hard to network! With the hustle of entrepreneur life, it’s important to incorporate social and wellness time into your routine. Attend international meetups, join a sporting group, and meet up regularly with your crew (Germans call this a Stammtisch), allowing your social connections to be your best advocates for your business. Let the networking happen organically. Investing the time to find a group of friends that share your interests is key to positive personal and business wellbeing.
6. Push past the expat bubble.
Assimilation is a hot topic but learning the local language - no matter how long you’re planning to stay - opens up a world of opportunities and helps to avoid awkward cultural faux pas. Go beyond the international meetups, and attend German industry events. If your language skills are not up to business-level German, don’t panic; most people will speak English and will usually appreciate your efforts. Come with an open mind, and be ready to learn from long-term residents who can offer insights into the ecosystem, on doing business in Germany, and how to navigate the infamous bureaucracy.
7. Be prepared.
No matter what stage your business is it, it’s important to be brand-ready when it comes to successful networking. Get a basic website together, polish your social media accounts, have professional headshots taken and always carry business cards. Can you summarise what you do in just a few sentences? Practice your elevator pitch so you can deliver it with confidence. The city of Berlin is full of interesting people doing interesting things and sometimes just a simple discussion about your project can lead to some amazing opportunities and growth.