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Networking, fool – about the power of business relationships

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They are available for free to everyone, and often worth millions. When running a startup, it's worth betting on valuable business relationships and effective networking.

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I went there in September 2017. I didn’t know anyone. Nor did anyone know me. No wonder, after all I had only been working for two months as an official to help Wroclaw startups. So I was completely anonymous in the environment – Do you want to come from Wroclaw? – asked kindly, although a bit surprised lady in Kulczyk Holding. 

I knew that the inauguration of Sebastian Kulczyk’s program for start-ups is an important event. I was right. At Google Campus in Warsaw, I met great entrepreneurs from Wroclaw: Kamil Nicieja from Ada (over coffee) and Tomek Florczak from ChallengeRocket (on the way from the train station). I also invited Lawrence Barclay (Sebastian Kulczyk’s Head of Venture Capital). He came two years later to New Horizons Cinema, for free, and gave a really inspiring presentation at Startup Wroclaw Evolutions 2019. 

Networking, or how I can help you

In the same year I talked to Jarosław Sroka, a board member of Kulczyk Holding, who took me in together with my then boss because the intro had just been done by Lawrence. 

To this day I remember an e-mail saying “Jarek, meet Michał”. And the first words of Jarosław Sroka: So how can I help you? 

To the question “How on earth did you manage to talk to a board member of Kulczyk Holding?” I replied: “I just sent an e-mail”. I should have added: “To whom it is necessary”.

Today I am after tens or maybe hundreds of such e-mails. And many meetings with fascinating people, which succeeded only because someone wrote: “Meet Michal”. Thank you very much for all the intros! 

Opening of Concordia Design Wrocław.From the left: Fokke Moerel - Partner at MVRDV architecture office, Nathalie de Vries - Co-founder of MVRDV architecture office, Jacek Sutryk - President of Wrocław, Ewa Voelkel-Krokowicz - CEO of Concordia Design, Michał Karbowiak - Community Manager of Concordia Design Wrocław.
Opening of Concordia Design Wrocław. From the left: Fokke Moerel – Partner at MVRDV architecture office, Nathalie de Vries – Co-founder of MVRDV architecture office, Jacek Sutryk – Mayor of Wrocław, Ewa Voelkel-Krokowicz – CEO of Concordia Design, Michał Karbowiak – Community Manager of Concordia Design Wrocław.

Invest in business relationships

Having already worked at Concordia Design Wrocław myself, I write a lot of these messages. I try to connect people inside and outside the building. That’s how I see networking. It’s about creating a valuable network of contacts. For yourself and for others.   

So if I had to share with you (a young startup founder) one and only piece of advice that comes to my mind, it would be: Invest in relationships.

It’s not wasting time, as those who would most like to never leave their computer like that like to say. It is gaining time.  The person you meet at an event or in a coworking space over coffee can help you solve a problem you’ve been trying to solve for weeks or months on your own. Sometimes it is enough to just talk. 

Establishing relationships and networking is not about “hanging around events” or handing out business cards on a mass scale. It’s about creating authentic connections with people we’re curious about. We don’t have to do business with them. It’s enough to listen to them, to spend time with them, to be genuinely interested in them. We may not find a customer in them, but we will certainly find a colleague or friend.  This is even more important.

Sure – many times when meeting someone new I wonder what we could do together. Maybe it would be cool if his team could work in our space? Maybe we could organise an interesting event together? Or maybe it would be worth introducing my interlocutor to someone from the building. I always think about the mutual benefit. Because only then does such cooperation make sense. And attention – of course it doesn’t always work out. Maybe even less often than more often. But so what? It’s a bit like complaining that statistically Michael Jordan in his career missed the ball more often than he hit the basket. 

I try to work on my network of contacts in a fairly systematic way, I make a note of who I have met, what are the potential areas of cooperation, I monitor LinkedIn to keep up to date. 

And no, it’s really not my only activity. I know there is still work to be done. 

Sometimes I am a little surprised that a board member of Kulczyk Holding is more likely to meet with strangers – such as me – than someone who founded a startup a while ago. You know: “I don’t have time, I’m busy”, “relations- ok, but the money must be right”, “I only meet my friends to close the deal”. 

I think I prefer to start with “Hey! What are you doing?” “Hey! How can I help you?” 

Well, how can I?    

If you want to email me. I can’t promise we’ll be able to do anything together. But we’ll definitely talk.
Maybe this will be the start of a cool business relationship?  m.karbowiak(at)concordiadesign.pl

Michał Karbowiak, Concordia Design Wrocław

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