Chance Networking Expands an Ed-Tech Startup’s Horizons

By Beth Lawrence, co-founder of Communication APPtitude

I’ve learned to take every opportunity I have to spread the word about Communication APPtitude.

Chance meetings approached with an open attitude have the potential to add nodes and connectors to an intricate, ever-expanding networking system. When I envision this process, it brings to mind those chemistry models we used in high school, or one of those wood and string toys babies play with.

But networking isn’t always a comfortable process for everyone. At my first ed-tech networking event in 2013, I relied on my experience having grown up an Army brat.

Be Bold and Listen

I boldly approached individuals or small groups of people, despite feeling totally nervous that everyone knew far more about business than me. I met a guy in the elevator, just smiled and said “hi” and asked what he was working on. People like to talk about what they are working on. His “thing” was not at all the “thing” our company needed at the time and my “thing” was only tangentially related to him—his wife being a speech-language pathologist.

But he gave me his wife’s card. I had no idea that guy in the elevator would be in a position three years later of running an incubator and inviting us to join. Within two weeks, he introduced us to a potential advisor who is very connected with schools, funding, politics etc. He described our vocabulary app a “light in the darkness for education.”

Later at that initial 2013 networking event, I strolled around the room and met a math teacher. I still cringe at memories of Mr. Byrnes’s Algebra II class, so I did not have a lot of personal interest when I saw “math” on his name tag. I could have walked away, but I didn’t. I discovered instead that my new math acquaintance had actually investigated the names of people attending the party, had seen our app on the App Store, and purchased it just because, as he says, “the process you use of teaching vocabulary forced my brain to do something it had never done.”

Well, “math” acquaintance Dave later took his own time during the large group introduction to tell others—not about himself, but about us! He has become a good friend, both of us sharing opportunities and connections with one another. He has joined the Towson University Incubator, and benefited from becoming a pro bono client of a large law school. He has also joined Maryland TEDCO’s CEO Roundtable, which we have served on for the last year. We have endless notes and recordings from amazing events he attends, and his journalism skills have helped us with our pitch deck.  Hindsight is 20/20.

Stay Open to New Experiences

Take the time to talk to people, and listen at networking events. With the million hats we have to wear as entrepreneurs, it can feel like we don’t have time for “one more thing.”  Looking back, we didn’t have time NOT to!

These experiences also taught me that listening, not just talking bout my own “thing,” is important.

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