Advice To Startups: Go Offline
Is It Time To Go Offline
Back in the relatively recent “olden days” of the internet, oh say the early to mid 2000s, I used to be involved in a startup called Ryze – The Business Network. Now Ryze is still around mind you – but seriously dated (you should check it out – who still uses tabs like this – I mean, seriously time for a refresh). Other sites, like Facebook and especially LinkedIn, have really taken over this space, but back in those days, Ryze was the place to network.
If you look at it now you’re probably thinking, what’s so special about Ryze? Well, one of the keys things that Ryze had that the others didn’t, and still don’t to this day, is that they held offline networking sessions in conjunction with the online side. That was the real power of Ryze, not only did you meet and exchange interests online, you could also, assuming that the person you were connecting with was local, or could be local, could meet them in person and really cement those connections.
I still remember that very first offline networking session up in San Francisco back in 2003 where I met a ton of people, made a ton of business contacts, and then continued the relationships via Ryze. The power of the model was the combination of the online networking plus the offline networking.
At one point, I ran the Palo Alto offline networking group – which at one point ballooned to over 300 people, all paying $7-$10 just to get in and network. But then they decided to stop holding the offline meetings and interest just waned. It’s too bad, as that was the special sauce that made Ryze work – the combination of on and offline networking.
Now you can say that Meetup is a bit like that, but it is focused on the offline side – and LinkedIn is focused on the online side. There has yet to be a truly powerful networking startups which equally leverages both the online and offline worlds.
So here’s my advice: take a look at your product or service and see if there is some way to add an offline component to the social networking aspect of it.
For example, let’s say that you run a social network for crafters, you can have some of your more keen members hold offline meetings in their local area, and then continue those conversations online.
Humans, despite the advantages of communicating virtually, still need that in-person meeting in order to truly cement relationships – see if you can work that in to your service – and it will become much more powerful.
As you can see: others are already doing it – now’s the time to jump in!
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