In March 2019, Innovate UK, together with UK Science & Innovation Network Israel, Enterprise Europe Network and Newable, travelled to Israel with 18 women-led businesses on a Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP) mission to forge partnerships and develop connections between companies working globally in Artificial Intelligence (AI).
International networking formed a key element of the trip. We caught up with 7 of the mission attendees to find out more about how networking can impact innovative businesses, and how to maximise networking opportunities.
Not just a nice to have
Stephanie Campbell, CEO and co-founder of specialist eye centre OKKO Health, said:
Networking isn’t optional, it’s essential, and it will drive you and your business forward. They say we become the people who we hang around with most. The same goes for business - hold close the clever, reliable and courageous work acquaintances and they will help you grow.
Nadia Sood, founder of fintech firm CreditEnable agreed, saying:
Networking is key to business building and opportunity creation. It is not a nice to have as some people may think, but a need to have.
Building a network allows you to secure access to clients you might never otherwise be able to reach, attract top-notch and vetted talent, and be inspired to think outside the box which is critical to building a successful business.
Key to business growth
Irene McAlesee, co-founder of innovative bike light firm See.Sense believes that networking is particularly important for innovative businesses:
Increasingly, business is about collaboration and partnerships. Developing networks is helpful not only for business development, growth and support, but also for innovation.
And, according to Jane Ollis of MindSpire, it can provide value at the most unexpected moments:
You just never know where the most valuable connection will come from and sometimes the most unlikely conversation will drop some magic into your pocket.
Quality, not quantity
Mission attendee Victoria Lovelock of Facesoft told us that networking’s not just a numbers game:
I believe that quality networking carries long-term value both to personal development and business opportunities. However, I think the word is thrown around a little too often and used interchangeably with making connections. Having 500+ connections on LinkedIn holds a lot less value than a smaller group of contacts whom you have built trust-based relationships with, over time.
I think networking is beneficial when you can establish what synergies there may be between multiple parties and make your business and furthermore, own developmental goals clear when networking.
But how can you build a meaningful connection with a new contact? explainable AI firm Ditto AI’s COO, Shefaly Yogendra, had this advice:
I dislike the reducing of fabulous human beings we know into a network. So my advice simply is -- take genuine interest in the totality of the people you meet, pay attention to them and what they say and what they do, listen to learn not to respond, give before you expect to take, and finally, think long term.
Learn to let go and do not operate a ledger of favours you may do to people. What we give is what comes back to us.
You can go to the Innovate UK website