Any digital startup or entrepreneur will tell you that one of the most valuable skills one can have in this space is networking. At any given time an idea or a venture can stumble due to not being able to attract the best creative talent, the right vision and – vitally – venture capitalists that want to make an investment.
The sheer abundance of social media outlets has made networking both easier and harder. LinkedIn can connect professionals, but its impersonal atmosphere sometimes stymies interaction. Facebook is a great tool for meeting people via groups of shared interests or professions, but the sheer number of users can make seeking out potential connections somewhat scattershot.
KnektMe, an app developed by local entrepreneur, Carl Visagie, aims to make connecting with potential partners – either of the social or professional variety – a whole lot easier. The idea for it came to Visagie in April of last year when he started to think about how he could better connect with financial backers for his projects.
“One of the main issues was finding an investor for the company we wanted to start pre-revenue,” Visagie says. “At that stage they [would be], quite literally, investing in an idea. Essentially you’re asking someone to put quite a bit of money into something you can show them on a piece of paper, but there’s no proof that it’s going to work.”
What started out as an app to identify funding grew into something much larger.
“The idea is to be able to tell what someone does [in terms of their interests and qualifications] before you connect with them,” says Visagie. “It’s not necessarily aimed at targeting investors – although you can use it for that; it’s more about simplifying the process of meeting people.”
Imagine a kind of tracking device that allows one to locate other users in their vicinity, which also lists their interests, qualifications and accomplishments, and then allows them to invite that party to meet up. If the invitation is accepted, the meet is on.
“Instead of meeting 20 people and hoping that one can benefit your business (or idea), you’re seeing what everyone does in a certain space in proximity to you, and then you can identify the best potential candidate to network with,” says Visagie.
“It’s like a proximity-based version of LinkedIn if you will. Some people use it meet investors, but it can be used to contact potential employees, like-minded creative – really, the it’s all down to each individual as to how they use it.”
Profiles can be as detailed or as vague as each user wants, although naturally, the more information one cares to provide, the more chance they have of meeting people whose goals, interests and ideas align with theirs.
“The app works on the basis that you’d be at an event or a gathering with like minded people and you’d scan around to see who else has the app on,” says Visagie. “It’s not going to show anything that either you or anyone else doesn’t want to be seen.”
“There is the ability to link to your LinkedIn profile, which will take a user to the profile on that site via its app, which can act as a verification for who you are. Once we build up a bigger base of users, we plan to add a lot more stringent verification process.”
The user base is still relatively small at this stage – only those who’ve been testing the app and who have attended a couple of events where the app was showcased have joined up. Visagie expects this to ramp up once the marketing push for KnektMe kicks off. It’s his hope that the app will be boon to creative entrepreneurs who want to get their ideas off the ground.
“The VC landscape in South Africa is horrendous. The fact that I found a private investor to invest in KnektMe was fortunate because VCs work on a stricter mandate,” he says. “They can sometimes ask for 50% of the company for the half the amount of money offered by a private investor.”
“I want to make it easier for people in my position – having a great idea and needing money – to get out of that state, to get out there and get someone to back them as opposed to someone who’s just going to take the majority of their company and offer no real added value to begin with,” he says.
“I want to open up networking to everyone and make it face-to-face again.”