Entrepreneurs tell me all the time that having an idea is only the first step, albeit an important one, in the startup journey. It’s the execution of the idea that really makes the difference – and that’s where a network comes in.
No one knows the importance of networking better than Kauffman’s Lesa Mitchell, who explains in this Forbes.com post how online networking puts “resources, such as business plan competitions and startup communities, at everyone’s finger tips – literally.” The article pays homage to how technology has made the “democratization of entrepreneurship” possible, and it highlights the indispensable advantages today’s entrepreneurs have, if they truly tap the “next generation of networking” now available to them.
Business competitions are a form of networking that’s been around for a while and is seeing a rebirth, thanks to technology. Online competitions are low-risk opportunities for people who want to test their business ideas and get feedback from (and exposure to) experts – the judges who often are experienced entrepreneurs, mentors, even investors.
At Kauffman, we have seen – and often judged – hundreds of competitions involving thousands of competitors. While some of these ideas and companies take off and actually start, we know many never again see the light of day after a competition.
That’s exactly why we launched iStart. We wanted to give those ideas and, most importantly, those aspiring entrepreneurs, a global platform to connect with the countless idea-seekers out there: other entrepreneurs, potential mentors and investors, big companies looking for innovations, etc.
On the iStart website, thousands of entrepreneurs have posted more than 8,100 ideas just for the purpose of networking – to connect with anyone interested in the launch of an innovative business. More than 650 connections have been made so far, and, with the season of competitions on the horizon, we expect that number to grow exponentially. This is networking at its best and it’s exciting to witness.
We know through our data that experiential learning is key for entrepreneurial success, and networking is the most powerful way entrepreneurs can learn through experiences. So while we tend to hear a lot of grumbling these days about barriers to entrepreneurship – too much regulation, difficulty getting funded, etc. – none of these can prevent an eager entrepreneur with an idea from building a network. And that’s great news!