In November 2021, freelance marketplace Fiverr announced it had acquired freelance management platform Stoke Talent. The acquisition meant a $110 million exit for Stoke Founder Shahar Erez who had begun working on the startup just 24 months earlier.
While the timetable might seem short, Erez says the startup exit was the product of a well-laid foundation backed by strategic networking.
“We focused a lot on building our network, nurturing our network, and keeping our potential competitors close as collaborators,” Erez says. “Fiverr was one of our potential competitors and now we’re becoming its B2B arm.”
At the Founders Network global keynote on May 18, 2022, Erez shared his founders journey, and detailed how his past experience and advanced planning set his startup up for success. He also shared how strategic networking helped him access key opportunities along the way.
Go after the puck
Erez’s idea for Stoke Talent dates back to his time working at marketing software company Kenshoo four years ago. While there, he began working regularly with freelancers. As a result, he immediately foresaw the potential of the market, but also the corporate barriers involved in working with freelancers. That epiphany would eventually become the basis for Stoke Talent.
“There’s a lot of internal bureaucracy and complexity. At the time, it wasn’t a significant problem but as more and more freelancers make their way to mainstream work, it was going to become a growing problem. So we decided to tackle that,” Erez says. “Don’t try to build a product for a problem that already exists because most likely someone is already working there. Focus on where the problem is heading towards.”Your network is going to get you your next set of opportunities. Click To Tweet
Playing the long game
While startup founders have a lot on their plate, strategic networking is one of the most important activities to engage in. According to one report, 78 percent of startups attribute their success to networking. But knowing which networking opportunities will pay off and when can be difficult. That’s why Erez recommends casting a wide net.
“The most important take away I could give to other founders is don’t just focus on building a product or fundraising,” Erez says. “Be involved in the ecosystem. Constantly work your network. Your network is going to get you your next set of opportunities. In the tech scene, there’s a lot of people who say ‘focus on one thing.’ I’m saying, while you’re focusing, always leave capacity for things that aren’t pure execution. They might yield value in 12 months or 18 months.”You never know where the opportunity is going to come from. Click To Tweet
Changing your thinking
For Erez, networking is about more than what you can get out of the relationship. He says truly strategic networking means not always putting your needs first and being open to partnerships that might not immediately appear beneficial.
“Be open to constantly networking with potential partners. Find synergies with competitors or frenemies. You never know where the opportunity is going to come from. Don’t block anything. Don’t refuse meetings or potential collaboration,” Erez says. “If you want a partnership to work, you have to have the mentality that it’s ok for the other side to be making more than you’re making. You have to have a mindset of constantly connecting, collaborating and searching for opportunities, not holding back or trying to optimize for your own gains.”
At his global keynote Erez will also cover:
- How to raise funds on slides
- The importance of connecting your mission to your past
- How to expand you thinking to find untapped markets
- The importance of working your network relentlessly