Is Entrepreneurial Networking Really Being Entrepreneurial?

Over time, it’s struck me that want-to-be-entrepreneurs who spend a lot of time on networking before they have a product to sell are kidding themselves about being entrepreneurial.

The supposition is that you can meet other prospective entrepreneurs who can be of help in establishing and running your own business. I think the reality is that you have to spend a lot of solitary hours on making your product, and the time for networking is when you have something to sell.

The defining moment for me came with my momentary participation in an electronic entrepreneurs Meetup group. Actually, I never attended the first meet-up, but my participation leading into it was educational.

The prospective event was a tour of a local PCB manufacturer. The group leader first scheduled it as an hours-long “networking event” followed by the tour. I protested that I didn’t have time for the networking, and could I just join the group to tour the PCB manufacturer? The group leader allowed this.

I then emailed the PCB manufacturer asking for more information, saying I was a local electronics manufacturer and might like to use their business, and that I’d heard of them through the meetup group.

This is where things started to go wrong. The PCB manufacturer informed the meetup group leader that I’d contacted them independently. Perhaps he was just expressing his gratitude for the publicity, but in general as a business person I’d not give un-involved people details about customer inquiries. It would have been sufficient for him to tell the group leader that he’d had an inquiry, without mentioning my name. I resolved not to do business with this PCB manufacturer after all.

Then, the meetup group leader contacted me, upset that I had contacted the PCB manufacturer without going through him! Obviously, I am a business person and can not allow random people to decide who I do and don’t do business with. So, it seemed this “entrepreneurial meet-up” leader didn’t really have the first idea about what it meant to actually be in business.

I cancelled my reservation for the meetup and exited the group. To this day, I don’t understand the motivations of the people involved.