If you’re a tech startup founder, you’re working on a tech product with
global potential or you’re exploring your options to start a tech business,
this eBook might come in handy. It provides key insights from experienced
tech professionals that joined the first two editions of MVP Academy to
deliver hands-on workshops and help the startups in our batches build
better products and businesses.
“The alumni have
raised more than
1 million USD
in seed funding
To put things a bit into context: MVP Academy is an accelerator program
that helps tech entrepreneurs refine their products, bring them to market,
generate sales, and raise money. All these by offering product and business
consultancy, access to tailored educational resources and an
international network of 400+ mentors and 700+ startups, a funding
pipeline, recruitment opportunities and training.
The results of the program speak for themselves: 13 out of the 28 startups
accelerated so far have launched their products on the global market and
the alumni have raised more than 1 million USD in seed funding to date.
An important pillar of MVP Academy is know-how: startups have access
to educational resources adapted to fit their development needs and
attend dedicated workshops and case studies that help them acquire key
competences. Top-notch professionals in the tech industry join the
program to deliver these workshops and share best practices with our
If you did not make it to MVP Academy or you’re just looking to learn
more about how you can build a better product and business, this eBook
presents key insights from the workshops we’ve been organizing over
time. Inside it you will find:
Building a startup? Do it right!
The golden rules of customer development
Metrics, metrics: measure to optimize
Storytelling and pitching advice
DOs and DON’Ts for an effective networking strategy
We hope this information comes in useful! Let us know what you
think and, if you want to stay tuned to our latest updates, follow us on
our blog and Facebook page!
Enjoy your reading!
“In the beginning, all early stage tech
startups have the same type of problems and
face similar concerns”
BOBBY VOICU CO-FOUNDER, MavenHut
BUILDING A STARTUP? DO IT RIGHT: KEY INSIGHTS FROM BOBBY
VOICU, MAVENHUT CO-FOUNDER
One of the most successful and fastest growing startups in the region, MavenHut builds
social games with a classical flavor, their most well-known title being Solitaire Arena, a
multiplayer solitaire game with more than 10 million users. Bobby Voicu, one of its 3
Co-Founders, shared valuable insights on building a startup the right way with the tech
startups accelerated in MVP Academy.
“In the beginning, all early stage tech startups have the same type of problems and face
similar concerns”, as Bobby pointed out in the beginning of the discussion. That’s why it’s
important to listen and learn from the experience of those that did it right: MavenHut is definitely
a case study worth looking at.
For MavenHut, it all started out at How to Web Conference 2011, where Bobby met
Eoghan Jennings from Startup Bootcamp Dublin and was invited to join the accelerator
(check out the full story here). He joined the program with his 2 Co-Founders (Cristi
Badea and Elvis Apostol) with the idea of building a platform for real money gaming that
turned into what MavenHut is today: a social gaming company offering a better
gameplay and bringing social features into classical games.
The rest is history by now: they built great products with more than 20 million users worldwide,
they launched new titles (some of them successes, some others being ropped over
time), they won several industry awards, they raised money and they now have a 35 people
team working from their headquarters in Bucharest. More important than this though, they
had an eye opening experience and they’ve learnt lots of valuable things along the way.
If you’re building a startup and you’d like to do it right, here you find some best practices
shared by Bobby.
FIND THE RIGHT CO-FOUNDERS
Having the right team is what makes or breaks your startup further on, so it’s important to
choose wisely your Co-Founders. Bobby met Elvis and Cristi one year before starting Maven-
Hut: they had a small studio making games for hire, and Bobby was their client. They had a
great history of collaboration and complementary skills, so Bobby brought them together
when he was invited to join Startup Bootcamp Dublin, being confident that things would sort
out well in this formula. And they did!
“I think that one of the most important things we did in the beginning was that we decided to
have equal parts in the business, no matter the initial investment any of us brought. By doing so,
no one could ever have the impression that he’s working for the others and we avoided possible
misunderstandings. Besides this, we agreed from the very beginning that we’ll be fully committed
and nobody will get involved in other projects besides MavenHut”, said Bobby.
DEFINE WHAT SUCCESS AND FAILURE MEANS
Communication with your Co-Founders is key, so it’s important to make sure you have the same
understanding of concepts. One of the main points here is to discuss at length with your
Co-Founders and get to an agreement on how you define both success and failure for your
startup. This will help you avoid unnecessary discussions later on. It’s also important to set a
Co-Founders’ Agreement straight from the very beginning and define the vesting procedures
to be applied in case you loose some people along the way (this may be a gentlemen’s agreement
in the beginning and you should formalize it when you raise money later on).
SET A CLEAR-CUT DEADLINE
“It may seem counterintuitive since you’re building a product to make it work, but the second
thing we did was to set a clear-cut deadline for closing the company. We took into consideration
that the gaming business is cash hungry and we decided to close the company on December
31st 2012 if we didn’t manage to raise money up to that point. This comes along with a different
mindset and it gives you a lot of focus since you can’t afford to wait. Without an investment, we
couldn’t have grown as we wished for, so we were committed to closing the company irrespective
of the results we obtained – no money meant the results were not good enough for the
market we were operating in”, remembers Bobby.
VALIDATE YOUR PRODUCT WITH THE MARKET
One other thing you should do right away is test your idea and validate the product with the
market. MavenHut did so with a landing page and less than 200 USD, all these in order to
understand whether users are potentially interested in playing solitaire online with
their friends. Here’s a blog post describing how they did it!
And don’t fall into the trap of believing that many users are always great! This can turn into a
problem sometimes, and the guys from MavenHut experienced that when their server crashed
5 times in 3 days. And when talking about users, pay attention when onboarding them and
market strategy and know the sources that will bring you users and how much each additional
user will cost you.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
“As an early stage tech startup, you have two objectives when networking: to identify financing
opportunities and to further develop your company. Bear them in mind and remember that
most of the people will meet with you if you know how to talk with them. And always look for
warm entries: getting intros are a sign of your hustling capacity and investors always appreciate
this”, said Bobby.
You will invest lots of your time and energy in talking with people, and most of it will just be
wasted, so make sure you get the most out of each meeting. In order to do so, Bobby advises
to always ask two questions:
1. Can you introduce me to somebody that is potentially interested in what I do? You
may be surprised, but most people will be happy to make further introductions. “For
example, I met investors that told me they are not interested in gaming, but got me introduced
to other investors that were”
2. How would you improve my presentation? It’s important to understand what is not
clear for the people you’re talking to and what they did not understand, because this
helps you perfect your pitch, which brings us on to the following point in this story.
PERFECT YOUR PITCH
Your pitch has to tell a story, and in order to get to the finest version of this story you have to
pitch each and every person you meet (and it’s not only about the money). If you’re curious
to see how a great pitch looks like, check out the MavenHut pitch from Demo Day at Startup
“In our case, Cristi was focused on building a great product, while I was working on the story.
And if you don’t have to talk with everybody about your product because they don’t understand,
it’s useful to tell your story to as many people as possible. I was always testing this with my
mother: if she was not getting what I was telling her, I still had to work on it. And your story gets
better with every single person you pitch”, explained Bobby.
RAISING MONEY IS A FULL TIME JOB
It took Bobby Voicu 100+ meetings and 6 months to raise money: raising money is a lengthy
process and the best thing to do here is to have a Co-Founder that’s completely dedicated to
this. And he should understand that he’s not asking for money, but offering an opportunity: an
investor will only give you money if he sees that opportunity, so you’d better know how to present
it to him.
Investors love hard numbers and demographic data, because they sometimes have limited
knowledge in your industry, and these numbers will help them see patterns they are more
familiar with. Choose the right numbers to discuss and make sure you understand them: generally
investors are interested in your retention and virality KPIs – make them count! Last but not
least, the numbers are only important as long as they tell a story, so take one more look at the
pitching section and work for telling one hell of a story to make sure you catch the attention.
BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR INVESTOR BASED ON TRUST
“I learnt that we need to communicate constantly and that you can say “I have no idea what I’m
supposed to do here” without meaning that you’re no longer getting the investment or that
you’re a bad entrepreneur. And Bill Liao, the partner we work with at SOS Ventures, really put
in the effort”, said Bobby.
GET THE MOST OUT OF THE PROGRAMS YOU ATTEND
You’ll be spending lots of time attending conferences, events or programs that are designed to
help you, so it’s important to do your homework and be prepared in order to get the most out
“You’re now attending a pre-acceleration program, and here there are people that want you to
succeed and are interested in helping you out. Make them work, ask what you need, build connections!”,
advised Bobby the MVP Academy Class of 2015.
HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Last but not least, and you’ll definitely get there if you’re doing it right, it’s important to hire the
right people and bring the relevant persons on board.
“At MavenHut, we hire for attitude and we do this efficiently. The more people you hire, the more
complex problems arise. This is why we prefer to work with third parties whenever we don’t need
to hire a dedicated person.” told Bobby.
Building a startup the right way it’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s definitely a rewarding journey:
you’ll learn lots of valuable stuff along the way, most of them the hard way. However, as
Bobby pointed out, you should understand that your opportunities are not limited to the product
you’re building right now.
“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re very good at what you do, you get an intense
learning experience and you build lots of connections, so if you fail you’ll find a job in no
time. And it’s very interesting because, as opposed to football, in entrepreneurship you only
need to succeed once. Until that point, you just have to try, learn continuously and get the
most out of the experience!”, concluded Bobby.
CASE STUDY WITH
“Just try to design your business around
customer behavior, not intention, since the first
is measurable or recallable.”
SALIM VIRANI FOUNDER OF DECISION HACKS
THE GOLDEN RULES OF CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT
There are several reasons why startups fail, but for sure the one that customers don’t care is not
among them. Instead, as harsh as it may sound, is that you don’t!
So you’d better work out what matters to your customers instead of complaining about them!
Customer development comes to the rescue here, as Salim Virani, Founder of Decision Hacks
and Founder Centric, explained.
Serial entrepreneur, Salim has started Founder Centric, Leancamp and 5 other tech startups,
his early successes ironically funding his later failures. He’s worked with a bunch of startup
thought leaders, designed education programs for Europe’s top accelerators and universities
such as UCL and Oxford.
So what’s customer development all about?
Customer Development is a four-step framework used for:
Customer Discovery: Discovering and validating the right market for your idea
Customer Validation: Building the right product features that solve customers’ needs
Customer Creation: Testing the correct model and tactics for acquiring and converting
Company Building: Deploying the right organization and resources to scale the
Steve Blank, Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and reputed academician, now lecturing at
prestigious US universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, or Caltech, among many
others, developed the methodology that is known to have put the basis for the Lean Startup
movement. For more information on the entire process check out some of Steve’s explanatory
talks, as well as the Customer Development Manifesto, a series of blog posts he’s published on
THE STARTUP DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
When talking about Customer Development, the biggest challenge for your early stage tech
startups is to do the customer discovery and validation right in order to help you get through
the three consecutive stages towards a successful business:
Problem – Solution Fit: Finding the problem that is important for your customers, as well
as the best solution for it
Product – Market Fit: Turning your solution into a product in accordance with the market
you find fit for it
Business Model Fit: Choosing the business model that will turn your product into a
And of course the key to doing it right stands in communication: talk to your customers, understand
their needs & wants and make product decisions in accordance to the results you find in
this process. Unfortunately, this is easier said then done, and this is why Salim joined us to offer
valuable advice and share some of the golden rules of customer development with the MVP
Academy Class of 2015. So here are a couple of things to bear in mind if you want to do sort
things out properly.
LISTEN AND RESPECT THE POINT OF VIEW OF YOUR CUSTOMERS
Customer development isn’t sales! You don’t have to pitch your product, explain why it is great
and how it will solve all the problems in the world. Instead, listen to what your customers have
to say and be flexible in meeting their needs.
“When talking to customers, learn and respect their point of view, listen to the specific words
they use and pay attention – that might help you build a better product to solve their problem,
find a better angle for your pitch, or a better explanation of the true problem your product is
solving for them”, advised Salim Virani.
UNDERSTAND FIRST, VERIFY LATER
You’ve probably heard before the saying that “assumption is the mother of all failures”! Oh
well, it is and it’s important to verify all your assumptions with your potential customers. Before
making assumptions, however, you’d better understand your customers.
“Especially in pre-product interviews, it’s important to ask questions that allow you to UNDER-
STAND your customers’ behavior, instead of looking to verify specific assumptions. This will
give you better chances to find the best solution for the problem, and find the true and most
painful problem of your customers”, said Salim.
USE THE MOM TEST
How much of what you believe about your customers is wrong? Generally, pretty much, and
we’ve got some more bad news here: people are going to tell you what you want to hear,
especially if you want to hear it. This is why you have to shape the conversation such that you
ask questions so good, that even your mom will not be able to lie to you.
So what should you ask your customers about in order to pass the mom test?
Ask about the past – because nobody can predict the future. “How much did you pay to
solve this problem before” instead of “How much would you pay for x”
Ask about facts – because opinions do change. “How did you solve this problem?”
instead of “How would you solve this?”
Ask about specifics – because generalities hide the truth
And finally, remember that the burden of truth is on the observer so it’s up to you to get the
information straight. We recommend you to check out The Mom Test, a book written by Rob
Fitzpatrick, if you want to learn more on the topic.
AVOID TALKING ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT
This is extremely useful, especially in the early interview. Pre-product conversations are very
valuable, so try to postpone talking about the product for as much as you can. If potential customers
are genuinely curious, you can attempt to turn them into beta testers later in the process.
LISTEN TO THE SIGNALS
Conversation is a skill, rather than a process, and you’ll become better at it as time goes
by. Listen to the signals your customers give you in order to identify potential opportunities
and always pay attention to:
The obstacles they talk about. Problems and frictions indicate areas where you can be
Their goals. These tell you where you fit into the bigger picture of their life.
Their actions. These give you a sense of whether they care enough to do something
and, if they do, what their options are
When identifying these signals, use anchor questions to go into specifics and get them to talk
more about it. These are questions and remarks such as “Interesting… tell me more about that”
or “Can you help me better understand?”
MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS WITH YOUR TEAM
The trick to making decisions as a team is to share insights and decide together. You should
talk about things, build common knowledge, and discuss what’s not clear. This will not only
help you make informed and assumed decisions, but it might also bring some extra questions
that need to get answered in your next interviews.
“If you have multiple people running customer interviews, or if you have one person running
interviews that needs to be in sync with the team staying in the office, you should gather all
the meeting notes, put them on a table, ask everyone to read through, and point to the things
they don’t understand”, recommends Salim.
USE THE PRODUCT / MARKET PRISM
And this is where Decision Hack, the guide Salim is working on, comes into play, helping
you dislodge tough decisions & get your momentum back. What’s it all about? Oh well, you
have to remember that your customers always have options available, so you’d better look
at the following 6 things when making your product decisions:
Time: when do they need your product
Money: how much money are they able to spend for it
Different buying triggers: when do they generally buy stuff
Context: the setting where they generally decide to buy stuff
The general standards they look for in a product
General measurements they take into account
“In the end, you don’t get to tell your customers what their needs are, but they don’t get to
tell you what your product is. Just try to design your business around customer behavior, not
intention, since the first is measurable or recallable. And remember that if you’re in the mindset
of a learner trying to understand the customer, you’re doing great!”, concluded Salim.
“You can optimize your user experience at
every level of your funnel, so it’s very important
to clearly define it. ”
DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT, VECTOR WATCH
METRICS, METRICS: MEASURE TO OPTIMIZE
You can only manage what you can measure. You’ve probably heard this old saying before, and
it is widely applicable when it comes to product management. You need to choose the right
metrics to look at and have a good understanding of them in order to be able to optimize every
single stage of your product development process. Bogdan Ripa shared his experience on the
matter in a workshop he delivered during MVP Academy.
Entrepreneur at heart, Bogdan has Co-Founded his first startup when he was only 21 years
old. He started by doing outsourcing work (consultancy for websites, web apps, ERP systems,
analytics tools), but he got bored by doing repetitive things and decided to make a shift and
start building his own products. 6 years later, the company he Co-Founded was bought by
Adobe Romania, where he worked in engineering and product management, until last month,
when he decided to return in the startup environment. It’s then when he decided to join
Vector Watch, one of the most promising romanian startups, as Director of Product.
Bogdan is an experienced product manager that enjoys creating products to help people
deliver excellent online experiences for their customers.
But let’s get to the point! You’ve got an MVP and you’re committed to turn it into a full-blown
product, scale and go big. You’ve probably already started collecting lots of qualitative and
quantitative data, but the real question here is what do you actually do with it and how can you
leverage it to guide your product development and optimize your processes. So where do you
FIRST STEPS FIRST: DEFINE YOUR CONVERSION FUNNEL
The first thing to do, before actually choosing the metrics to look at, is to carefully define your
conversion funnel (that is the stages your users pass through, from the first interaction they
have with your product to the moment when they actually purchase and turn into your customers).
The difficult part here is that there is no generally applicable model of conversion funnel
and you have to understand your users’ journey to define the funnel that’s adequate for you
(a couple of in-depth examples are provided in the SlideShare presentation that Bogdan
kindly shared with us).
“You can optimize your user experience at every level of your funnel, so it’s very important to
clearly define it. However, limit the number of levels you include, otherwise it will be very
hard to measure and optimize every single level”, recommends Bogdan.
CHOOSE YOUR METRICS
Once you’ve got your conversion funnel straight, you should proceed to choosing the right
metrics to analyze. Closely monitoring these metrics will help you optimize your product development
process based on the information provided by data.
Here are a couple of metrics you should take into consideration when making product decisions:
Monthly Active Users (MAU): number of users that are actively using your product over
a period of one month (you can also take a look at DAU – daily active users, WAU –
weekly active users, or YAU – yearly active users)
Churn rate: the percentage of customers that you lose over a specified period of time
Retention rate: this is the opposite of churn, reflecting the number of users that you
keep over a specified period of time
Average lifetime of a customer: the average period of time that a customer keeps
using your product / being active in your application
Net promoter score (NPS): indicator that measures customer satisfaction and the likeli
hood that your users will recommend your product to others
Virality factor: number of free users that starts using your product for one paid user. A
virality factor higher than 1 will show exponential growth and will help you get the
graphs investors want to see
Customer acquisition cost (CAC): how much does it cost to bring on board one more
Average Revenue per User (ARPU): how much revenue every user brings you
For more information on how can you compute and interpret these indicators, check out
Bogdan’s presentation (also embedded at the end of this post). And bear in mind that
besides all these metrics, there are several other industry-specific indicators that you should
consider in order to understand where you’re standing right now and how can you constantly
improve your product and user experience.
UNDERSTAND THE DATA
Measuring the right indicators is not enough! You should have an in-depth understanding of
their actual meaning and you should constantly test and analyze the results for being able to
constantly optimize your processes. You can do so by using:
Landing pages: standalone pages that you design for a specific purpose (in this case
for testing & validating your assumptions) with the main goal of generating leads that
you’ll further push through your conversion funnel
Cohort analysis: analyzing the user behavior of different cohorts (clusters of users
computed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, generally situated in the upper part of
your funnel - the ones that have just had your first interaction with your product)
A/B Testing: comparing two different versions of the same feature in order to
understand which one performs better for your target market
Test, test, test and constantly analyze the results to get an in-depth understanding of how you
can better solve the problems of your users.
WHAT TOOLS TO USE?
There are several tools you can use to help you out along this process, starting from the very
basic Microsoft Excel, that you are already familiar with us, and going up to several
automated ones such as Google Analytics, MixPanel, KissMetrics or LaunchRock, to name just
a few. Check out Bogdan’s presentation for a more comprehensive comparison between the
tools that you have at your disposal.
“The tools you use for analytics are your personal choice. However, remember that their complexity
has to evolve, as your understanding of the product grows”, recommends Bogdan.
Choosing the right metrics to analyze and understanding them to further optimize your product
are not easy tasks for early stage entrepreneurs. Talking with experienced mentors and
product guys can help you go smoother through the process, and we’re happy that Bogdan
joined us and helped us shed some light on how startups should approach metrics & product
Interested in finding out more on the topic? Here are some insightful articles that you should
take a look at:
Using data to guide product development – advice from Mat Clayton, Co-Founder &
CTO of Mixcloud
3 rules to actionable metrics in a lean startup – an article of Ash Maurya, the author
and founder of “Running Lean”
Vanity Metrics vs. Actionable Metrics – a blog post of Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean
Startup”, recognized for pioneering the lean startup movement
“In order to stand out, your pitch should tell a
story. Storytelling requires time and expertise
and it isn’t a cosmetic thing your marketing
department can throw in the mix.”
CO-FOUNDER OF TECH.EU
STORYTELLING & PITCHING ADVICE
A great pitch is the business card that will help your startup open doors and convince potential
clients, investors, media and strategic partners. And it’s no easy task to master your pitch to the
finest detail and shape it to tell the right story: this is the subject Alex Barrera, Co-Founder of
Tech.eu, discussed at length with the startup accelerated in MVP Academy.
For the past 5 years, Alex has been running startups and helping others develop their businesses,
while being one of the most active members and connectors in the European startup
ecosystem. He currently mentors startups in more than 12 accelerator programs worldwide
and has a wide experience in teaching them how to master their pitch and tell a great story.
MASTER YOUR PITCH
As a startup, you’ll always be competing for the attention of the audience! And you don’t want
to get them bored, don’t you? Then try to prepare a 5 to 10 minutes pitch that is engaging and
avoid using too many numbers and technical data. This leads you to Death by PowerPoint, the
main reason why people don’t do well in Demo Days.
“Your startup pitch should be exempt of any technical term that your grandma wouldn’t understand”,
advised Alex Barrera.
Using the 10 – 20 – 30 Kawasaki rule may help you out when preparing your pitch and it goes
as simple as that:
Don’t use more than 10 slides in your pitch deck
20 min is the maximum amount of time you can use for presenting those 10 slides
Don’t use fonts smaller than 30 points on your slides
It’s also important to be very observant with the audience and understand what they’re looking
for in a presentation. This is how you catch their attention and the very reason why you should
customize your deck according to the needs of the people you’re pitching. And here are the
three decks that you should prepare for each relevant category of audience:
The Investors Deck: this one should be an executive summary. Include more words,
print it out and put a date to it.
The Media Deck: cut out those financial slides and focus instead on the solution – prob
lem. Make sure you present how big the problem is, how much it hurts, your traction
and your potential users (comparisons with well-known figures always help here)
The Customers Deck: emphasize here how well you understand their problem and
present how the solution you propose translates into direct benefits (savings of time,
money, and pain). Illustrate with a customer story and give real examples and quotes to
HOW SHOULD YOUR PITCH DECK LOOK LIKE?
If in doubt, there is one structure of the pitch deck that you can use to make sure you include
all the relevant information and cut out all the bullshit. And here it is:
6. Business Model
7. Marketing & Sales
9. Milestones & projections
10. Call to action
You’ve got to be remarkable when pitching, so make sure you communicate things
clearly, always emphasizing why you’re doing what you do. Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on how
great leaders inspire action may be of help here, so take a quick look at it. And don’t forget
the ice cream theory: the secret is in the toppings, so make sure you add the right ones to
YOUR PITCH SHOULD TELL A STORY
“In order to stand out, your pitch should tell a story. Storytelling requires time and expertise
and it isn’t a cosmetic thing your marketing department can throw in the mix. Find the storyteller
in your startup, match him with your writer and put them to work on YOUR story”, said Alex.
And before you start, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself:
Who is your protagonist (your persona)?
What’s your cast?
What are the values at play?
Where is the conflict?
Who are your antagonists (competition)?
What are your beats? (competitive advantages)
The more knowledge you have, the better the story will be in the end. Then start connecting
the dots and putting everything together and get out there, share your story! “Don’t wait until
you have everything ready! You should dry run your story as soon as possible and get feedback.
Tell it to your friends, family, customers. See how people react, learn what works and
what doesn’t and ask why”, explained Alex.
Last but not least, don’t forget to keep it short and simple! Say what you have to say with as few
words as possible and always make sure you know who your audience is and adjust the story
“There are three magical ingredients that each story has to contain: a beginning, a middle, and
an end. And as counterintuitive as it may sound, most stories fail because they don’t include
these”, concluded Alex.
If you’re looking to learn more about storytelling and pitching, there are a couple of blog
stories written by Alex that you may want to check out:
5 common storytelling mistakes
Storytelling, what story should I tell – part I
Storytelling, what story should I tell – part II
9 tips to deliver better pitches
The three stages of a startup pitch
“Go to networking events. Learn.
Make mistakes and try to pick up new skills. ”
PAUL RENAUD EXECUTIVE COACH
DOS AND DON’TS FOR AN EFFECTIVE NETWORKING STRATEGY
The most important asset of an entrepreneur is his agenda, and reaching to the right contact at
the right time, using the right approach, can help you attain your professional (and
personal) goals faster and easier. Paul Renaud, Executive Coach, discussed at length
about effective networking and how to build valuable connections with people that matter.
Having more than 31 years of professional experience (15 of them as an executive spanning 10
countries), Paul is a qualified executive coach for any management level and he is specialized
in optimizing performance. His “can-do” attitude is contagious, and he shared with us some
valuable insights, outlining how we can use networking to make a difference in everything we
There’s been a lot of attention on the importance of networking lately, so let’s start by discussing
what’s it all about. According to the Business Dictionary, networking means creating a
group of associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.
And the underlined words in the definition are not there by mistake!
Instead, they emphasize some of the core elements of effective networking: keeping your contacts
active by constantly interacting with them, as well as understanding that you have to think
what you have to offer before actually considering “what’s in it for you” (the mutual benefit
And this is not all. Networking is an experiential process that can be used irrespective of whether
you’d like to develop your customer base, increase your sales, receive honest advice or
simply meet new people. And there are a couple of DOs and DON’Ts that you should consider
if you want to become a master of networking and use this process to your advantage.
ADDRESS NETWORKING WITH THE LAW OF ABUNDANCE
The law of abundance is the belief that resources are unlimited and by sharing success with
others, a win-win situation is created. This fundamentally contrasts with the scarcity mindset,
founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you
either loose, or it’s a zero-sum game. Individuals having an abundance mindset are better
networkers since they share their contacts, their ideas, and their time, while rejecting the notion
of a zero-sum game and being able to celebrate the success of others, rather than feeling
threatened by it.
“The Law of Abundance is fundamental in networking because if you understand this law,
believe in it, and start sharing your network, you will receive in ’droves’. It goes something like
this: The world has tremendous abundance. The world is abundant with opportunity, abundant
with clients, abundant with ideas and abundant with good fortune. Networking in line with the
law of abundance mindset has proven time and time again that the more you share with people,
the more you get in return.”, believes Paul.
THE MORE, THE MERRIER
It’s true that sometimes less is more, but not when it comes to networking. Here everybody you
know is a contact and the more contacts you have, the more you learn on a variety of topics and
the wiser you get. First thing to do is to be aware of the networks you have at your disposal: fun
networks (friends, family, service clubs), work networks (both intra- and extra-organizational,
professional organizations, business associations), and play networks (such as social media).
Then try to leverage them by getting to know as many people as possible.
“Every time I meet a new person, I learn something new. This is why I push myself to meet a new
person every day”, says Paul.
EMBRACE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
In the end, it’s your attitude that makes the difference, regardless if you are just starting to
understand what networking is all about, or you feel that you are pretty comfortable with the
“If you equate networking to something that is boring, manipulative, self-serving, too difficult
and fake, that is what you will end up with. People who like to self-admit that they are not good
at networking have already created their own constraints, their own limits. In fact, the reverse is
true. Anybody can be an effective networker if you follow the right path and embrace the right
attitude. Your attitude will dictate how effective you become as a networker”, recommends Paul.
Once you get these things straight, be aware that there are also several mistakes that you are
prone to make while networking.
DON’T NETWORK ONLY TO GET SOMETHING IN RETURN
One common misbelief is that networking is only about “what’s in it for you”. Leave this mindset
behind, and think first and foremost at what you have to offer and how you can help the person
you’re meeting with. By doing so, you’ll turn into a reliable contact and build a sustainable,
long-term relationship with the persons you meet. Afterwards, just ask for help whenever
“Don’t approach clients to sell, but rather try a different approach: ask people for their advice.
Networking is basically asking someone for an insight, help, a suggestion or ultimately a contact.
In order to get to that point however, you gotta ask! Don’t give it a second thought. Anybody
who looks down on you for asking for help, advice or a contact name doesn’t deserve to
be in your network in the first place – take their shortsightedness as it is and just move on!”,
DON’T TRY TO GET RESULTS OVERNIGHT
Mainly because you won’t and you’ll end up being disappointed and you’ll get caught in the
fallacy of thinking that networking is useless. Remember that networking is not about selling,
but about developing rapport with people. This is why it’s important to get to know them first
and show a genuine interest in who they are as a person, before you start selling something or
“Give it time. Networking benefits become obvious only after many months of meeting people
and building connections effectively, which is my easy to remember definition of networking.
You will not see benefits after a few days and you have to be patient”, said Paul.
What’s next? Set your networking objectives straight, prepare your ice-breaker and just start
doing it! It may seem awkward in the beginning, but you’ll get comfortable as time goes by and
you’ll end up being a natural. And don’t forget to listen: the less you speak, the more you’ll
learn about that person and making then feel they are the most important person in the
world will help you out on the long run. Last but not least, don’t forget to always ask the
WDYK question (Who do you know) whenever you need to contact someone that might be out
of your reach.
“Even if you don’t have many contacts (like I did when I first arrived in Romania), you have to
start somewhere. Go to networking events. Learn. Make mistakes and try to pick up new skills.
Nothing in business is more important than to seek and develop meaningful long standing
relationships with people, be it staff, partners or shareholders. Everything in the world we
want to do or get done, we must do with and through people - I wish I had learned this
earlier in my career. Why not embrace networking as a way to get you to the next level?
And don’t forget that the mentors are here to help you!”, advised Paul Renaud the MVP
Academy Class of 2015 at the end of the workshop.
Looking to find more valuable information on how to become a great networker? Then you
should definitely read Paul Renaud’s “A Networking Book”, a book of action that outlines
the basic truths and effective networking rules that you can apply to your personal advantage.
We’ve read it, we’ve liked it and we definitely recommend it further.
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