Thursday, April 28, 2011
By Kim Kohatsu
Last night, Dinesh and I attended a demo night of seven LA startups. It was a lively crowd at the VLounge in Santa Monica, and a meetup organized by the LA "Future Billionaires." Though we're both sociable people, neither Dinesh nor I is really the type to approach someone cold and strike up a conversation. Luckily for us, other people are, and we met quite a few interesting ones, at all different stages of business, and doing all sorts of cool things. So why do we force ourselves to go to these events, where we're out of our comfort zone and generally awkward? It's simple. We both like scotch. But that's not it. The truth: Almost every big deal we've ever landed, or important business relationship we've made, has come from a networking event. There's something about a face-to-face interaction that no marketing campaign, cold call, or landing page can ever match. When you meet a person, you can see their passion, you can ask them questions, and you can put a face to an idea. Your conversation, though it may sometimes feel forced, can more often lead you down new paths. For example, we met someone last night developing an iPhone application. When he told us about it, it seemed like the same application could be marketed two ways... once towards serious business people, and again towards serial daters (PlayaApp was the name we suggested, watch out for it). Would this developer have ever arrived there without meeting us? Perhaps. But... perhaps not. Each interaction is a new possibility. Two weeks ago, Dinesh spent 5 days on a cruise ship with the Roots, Sophia Bush, Richard Branson, and some amazing philanthropists from Mexico at Summit at Sea. Poor him, right? He heard speeches, ate fancy dinners, and learned to make fire from wood and dead animal skin. But aside from all that, he also found potential new customers, some new opportunities (the G20 summit, WHAT?), and some potential celebrity partners for a business development project we're working on. Who'd have ever guessed all that? You just never know when you'll encounter someone who will ignite a new idea, someone who wants to develop a partnership, or someone who needs exactly what it is that you offer. And the more people you meet, the more you up your chances of something amazing happening. That's precisely why CallFire has been so active lately with event sponsorships and attendance. We were at Twiistup, Startup Weekend LA, Spotlight:LA Tech, and Gov 2.0, to name a few. In August, we're sponsoring Dreamforce in San Francisco. (and if you'll be there, use discount code ECMCALLFR to get $100 off) And now, we've done the ultimate: we're holding our very own CallFire conference. We're calling it Biz2Beach, and it's shaping up to be incredibly exciting. The speakers include leaders from Klout, Myspace, and BetterWorks, and the guest list has company founders and high-level executives ranging in business size, scope, and industry. The response thus far has been tremendous. If your business wants to grow, I encourage you to request an invitation to Biz2Beach, and see what incredible things might happen as a result of the people you'll meet. I won't even venture to guess what the networking will lead to, because from everything I've seen, the reality is so much better than I could have imagined.