Let’s talk about Networking. While technology and innovation are connecting American brands globally, these resources are also enriching the entrepreneurial ecosystems in cities across the country. Entrepreneurship is within reach for any self-starter with a vision, no matter where your business journey begins. Economically speaking, now is a great time to launch a startup. Equipped with these networking tips, startups at any level or location can make connections and gain traction.

 

Branch into the unknown.

While most social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook only encourage you to network with people with whom you have already met, John White disagrees. White is the social media director at beBee, a trending platform based on affinity networking which has more than 10 million users. beBee is a personal branding platform designed to find content based on the relevancy to the user — not just what their friends are posting. “If you network with the same people over and over again, you can expect to get the same results in your career,” White said. “Affinity networking helps you make the connections to take new steps in your career by networking with those that share your professional and personal interests.”

Build Your Community

Across the country, membership in co-working spaces is on the rise. For startups with limited square footage and resources, networking. Membership was once out of reach for many young professionals, with waitlists and invite-only spaces in select locations. Today, mid-size cities are seeing a rise in co-working spaces. Co-working companies are opening locations in cities across the country, like my agency’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. These spaces serve as an office for everyone from freelancers to founders, often featuring networking events and after-hours programming. On a larger scale, incubators and accelerators provide an extended community designed specifically for startups. The organizations are helping pair founders with industry leaders and providing a space where entrepreneurs can intentionally partner with mentors, peers and investors. These hubs are at the heart of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing insight into local markets and getting the area’s up-and-coming innovators in one space. co-working spaces achieve the solution of less overhead and more.

Meet Online, Connect IRL

Cold-calls have been replaced by emails, pings and DMs, and mobile apps are working to bring those connections off the grid and get professionals in the same room. Founders are often early-adopters of tech solutions, and I’ve tried my fair share of new platforms and apps like Shapr and Bumble Bizz. Entrepreneurs can also take mobile networking to the next level with Brella, an app that serves as a concierge matchmaker. After gaining attention in Silicon Valley last summer at TechCrunch’s CrunchMatch, apps dedicated to networking at large-scale events are increasing in popularity.

This spring, the Midwest is getting a taste of Brella’s matchmaking magic at the Chicago-based OnRamp Insurance Conference. Facilitating these in-person connections yields a higher return on investment for all attendees, from early-career entrepreneurs to corporate teams. If your hometown does not have regular access to resources like incubators or accelerators, networking at regional events can introduce you to the right people who will help you begin building your local entrepreneurial ecosystem.