Venture Events Handbook: Networking Tools To Fully Engage Your Audience

A few stories ago, we discussed the influential power of networking and how beneficial new contacts can be for founders. Today we decided to dive deeper into the communication approach used within the framework of networking events — best practices and activities to engage the audience and break the ice.
As the Head of Pipeline and Partnerships at Vibranium.VC, Valentina Pidgaina leads startup scouting initiatives and cultivates business relationships with other VCs, accelerators, and corporations.

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In this post she will share her personal experience of networking activities she liked the most and why. It is crucial to always remember that EVERY networking event is about making new connections. These connections have the potential to lead to fruitful collaborations and friendships, both of which hold equal significance in the venture world.

By Valentina Pidgaina

Moving to the USA

It’s been quite some time since I joined the Vibranium.VC team and moved to the USA. As a newcomer in Silicon Valley, I explored its unique ecosystem, understood its approach and mindset, and realized that America truly is the land of opportunities.

When people ask me how I’m finding life in the US so far, I always respond by saying that if you have a clear sense of your identity (who you are), your goals (what you do), and what you can contribute to the community, almost every door can open for you here. However, the process of developing and nurturing relationships is an entirely different story. I’m excited to shed light on that topic in our future blog posts.

Happy hours, pitch days, and all that jazz

As a person responsible for scouting and partnerships in the fund, it was obvious to me that attending all kinds of events is the best way to explore the local ecosystem, expand networks, develop partnerships, find investment opportunities, and understand how this venture mechanism in Silicon Valley works. During the first year, we participated in more than 100 offline and online events. Not all of them were relevant, of course, but it helped me gain an understanding of some “do’s and don’ts,” align my expectations, and acquire an interesting approach to self-introduction and networking.

Breaking down event structure

Usually, the format of all events is the same: networking mixers or happy hours, which involve mingling with peers over food and drinks and engaging in endless conversations at a nice bar or office setting. Initially, I attempted to find an agenda for these events, but I soon realized that networking itself is the agenda. This was a complete shift from my previous approach used in Eastern Europe.

To truly establish oneself as an active participant in Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem and expand contacts, it is crucial to understand how networking operates here.

Itoften requires effective communication skills to engage in conversations about anything and everything, ranging from recent golf games to the most suitable grill for one’s backyard. You may be surprised by the variety of topics discussed at these events.

Big meaning of small talk

After attending numerous events like this, I’ve gained a true understanding of the culture of small talk and why it’s inappropriate to jump straight into business topics. This was, absolutely, the opposite approach for me as back where I’m from, at almost all networking events, you talk only about business matters, even when conversing with individuals you hardly know. Engaging in personal conversations was not a common thing at all. It took me quite some time to adopt this approach and switch my mindset to start acting and thinking the Silicon Valley way.

At times, I found myself feeling like I was in a job interview I never applied for:)

After being bombarded with questions about my background and responsibilities, I realized that I couldn’t recall the name of a person I spent time with or even the subjects we discussed. Why? Because it’s the person themselves that captures attention, and “who you are” takes precedence. While there are various methodologies (you can easily find them online) that can help navigate the aspects of small talk culture, the most important one is likely genuine interest in getting to know the person. If you don’t have that, trust me, none of the networking techniques will be effective.

Networking tools and formats I liked the most

Networking is about evoking emotions and leaving a positive impression — this is entirely credited to the organizers. As I mentioned earlier, I have attended over 100 events and through that experience, I have identified a few networking tools that I personally find the most captivating and beneficial for effective communication. These tools provided a quick and amusing way to entertain and engage all participants in a personality-first approach to networking. I would love to share it with you:

  • On-to-one-to-many: talk to the closest peer to you, ask personal or business-related questions, and then prepare a short 30-second pitch in front of the group in the format: who is this person, how people in the group can help them in different ways and how this person can give back to the community. There is one rule to follow: all facts about the person have to be captivating and intriguing and not about humdrum business life. It’s a great tool for fostering deeper and more interactive conversations during dinner or lunch, suitable for groups of up to 30 ppl.

Getting a little personal never hurts:)

  • Many-to-one: a volunteer who swiftly responds to randomly asked questions about preferences and opinions from the audience. The main rule to follow to is to provide simple answers to straightforward questions, avoiding long discussions. This tool can be used as an excellent icebreaker during the intermission between two parts of the program session.
  • One-to-many: a beach ball (or 2–3 for multiple options) with challenging and sometimes tricky questions written on each segment using markers. The ball is tossed into the audience, and a randomly selected participant must answer the question on the segment they catch before passing it to someone else. This interactive game serves as a fantastic icebreaker, fostering engagement and energizing the group of 50+ individuals before the main part of the event starts.

These are just a few examples of productive networking approaches that I enjoyed and actively engage in. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that having the opportunity to discover interesting facts about the person you wish to connect with is always an excellent idea.

Special thanks

I would like to express my gratitude for the fascinating life hacks and inspiration provided by:

Vibranium.VC is expanding its investment prospects through a collaboration with Spike Ventures.

In April 2023, Vibranium.VC sealed a deal with Spike Ventures, a fund for Stanford alumni and friends of the community, by becoming an investor.

Spike Ventures is part of Alumni Ventures, which has raised over $1 billion from individual accredited investors from more than 20 university communities across the U.S. In 2022, Alumni Ventures was ranked as the #1 most active venture firm in the U.S., and #3 most active in the world, according to Pitchbook. Spike Ventures empowers startup founders by providing capital and access to a network of 600K+ community members from Stanford and other universities.

“We are very pleased to welcome Vibranium as an investor,” said Todd McIntyre, Managing Partner of Spike Ventures“We look forward to working with them to help exciting new startups build a solid foundation, accelerate their growth, and reach their full market potential.”

Zamir Shukho, CEO & Founder of Vibranium.VC: “By collaborating with Spike Ventures, Vibranium.VC is poised to strengthen its position as one of the most founder-friendly and value-add investors in the B2B SaaS early-stage startup ecosystem and drive growth for its portfolio companies”.

Spike Ventures has a strong track record of investing in early-stage startups. Its portfolio includes successful companies such as Jeeves, Coda, and Lacework, and its investment team has deep industry knowledge and experience in identifying and nurturing high-potential startups.

By becoming an investor in Spike Ventures, Vibranium.VC aims to expand its investment opportunities and diversify of its portfolio through exposure to Spike’s investment strategies and Stanford alumni network. As an investor, Vibranium.VC will have access to a wide variety of B2B SaaS deals.

Vibranium.VC invests $100K in Best of Stonks Fund to expand its reach amongst startups and investors

By becoming an LP of the Fund, Vibranium.VC gains access to an index of the most promising B2B SaaS startups and builds an early relationship with potential Vibranium portfolio companies.

The Best of Stonks Fund is a first-of-its-kind, no fee, no carry vehicle created and managed by the Stonks team to allow investors to receive diversified exposure to the best startups that pitch on Stonks’ platform. The fund makes fundraising for both parties—startups and investors—easy, frictionless, and more transparent.

Stonks allows accredited retail investors to invest alongside the 0.1% of VCs, angels, and accelerators. Via such products as Demo Day Vehicles and Stonks Secondaries, the company is building the simplest, fastest onramp to startup investing.

Andreessen Horowitz, 500 Global, AirAngels, Hustle Fund, Mercury Bank, Atomic VC, Matrix Partners, Naval Ravikant (Angellist), Henry Ward (Carta), Mike Maples (Floodgate), and many more are both investors in and users of the platform. To date, more than $120M has been wired from funders to founders on Stonks.

Vibranium.VC is always seeking new opportunities to expand its network of founders, investors, and innovators in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Vibranium.VC adds PicUP startup to its portfolio

Vibranium.VC invested in PicUP in the seed round. This startup is an AI-powered optimization and personalization platform for outbound sales and customer service calls. PicUP became the sixth company in the Vibranium.VC portfolio alongside other promising B2B SaaS solutions.

PicUP is an Israeli-based startup that partnered with Skywell Capital Partners and Vibranium.VC in this round. Its technology adds personalized digital layers to outbound calls, which enables organizations to inform their customers about who calls them and why. The solution also empowers the voice channel with digital features to improve communication with the customer over the phone. PicUp’s mission is to transform phone communication, and especially business-to-consumer service and sales calls, to become more transparent and respectful for customers, and more efficient for organizations.

The investment will allow PicUP to develop a new platform and acquire more tier-1 customers – all part of the journey to transform cold-calling into personalized digital calls and create the future of business-to-customer communications.

PicUP will allocate investments toward R&D and further platform development, with emphasis on expanding its usage of new digital channels like WhatsApp API and RCS messaging. It will also seek to foster go-to-market and growth, signing more deals with leading telcos, banks, and insurers in Europe and the US.

Lior Shacham, CEO, PicUP: “We are excited to partner with Vibranium.VC to keep developing our platform and bring this top-tier calling experience to more leading brands in Europe and the US. Vibranium.VC’s expertise and knowledge makes it the ideal partner to help us grow, expand our presence, and establish new partnerships.”
PicUP’s top clients include Vodafone (Italy & Portugal), Claro (Latam) and other tier-1 EU telecom brands, along with clients from banking and insurance industries.

Zamir Shukho, CEO,
Vibranium.VC: “We think that PicUP has a unique approach to enhance the operation of call centers and service providers. Their technology can enable deeper interaction with a client and create the next level of experience for businesses and consumers. We see PicUP as a team of professionals with growth ambitions and we are happy they joined our portfolio to explore new markets and opportunities.”
Earlier this year PicUp was also pitching at SUMMERSAAS 2022, an online conference for SaaS companies from Emerging Europe, Finland & Israel, organized by Flashpoint Venture Capital where caught an eye of Vibranium.VC.
We are happy to welcome PicUP on board and confident that Vibranium.VC’s experience, expertise and network will contribute to the startup’s growth and business scaling worldwide.

iSchoolConnect raises funds from Vibranium.VC to fuel its expansion plans

The Vibranium.VC fund is always looking for the next big thing – not only when it comes to revenue, but also in terms of market disruption and positive societal impact. With that in mind, Vibranium.VC is excited to put the spotlight on its next portfolio company – iSchoolConnect.

iSchoolConnect is an online admissions platform that makes the admissions process globally accessible and hassle-free for international students. Its B2B platform – iSchool360 – is designed to support academic institutions at every step of the way and enable them to make better admissions and engagement decisions while saving time and money.

iSchoolConnect partnered with Vibranium.VC and Decart Ventures, the latter also investing $500K in this round. The startup’s primary focus is on expanding its B2B SaaS vertical, which is a gamechanger for multiple stakeholders in the enrollment industry. iSchoolConnect will deploy funds to acquire the right talent and to improve visibility among its audience, including large and reputable universities and online education platforms.

Ashish Fernando, Founder & CEO iSchoolConnect: “We believe that Vibranium.VC ethos and investment philosophy was a great fit for iSchoolConnect. Since Vibranium.VC is largely focused on IT B2B SaaS businesses, we were excited about gaining access to a wealth of strategic and operational insights that will potentially help us accelerate growth. Our well-designed product is easy to adopt and integrate and provides our customers with reliable analytics to boost decision making. We hope to become the Booking.com for Education.”

The startup is already active and expanding in India, the US and Thailand, with plans to venture into other Asian markets. Western Governors University, Kaplan, MozaikPlay are among iSchoolConnect’s top clients. It was also one of the finalists for the PIEoneer Awards 2022 in the Higher Ed Digital Innovation of the Year category.

Zamir Shukho, CEO Vibranium.VC: “The field of education is still very conservative and needs a lot of changes to adapt to a new world, especially after COVID-19. iSchoolConnect helps to make universities more technological and digital by assisting students around the world get into the best schools. On top of that the startup provides several layers of additional services that allow more students to graduate and find good jobs based on their level of education. We like iSchoolConnect’s diverse team with a global vision, and we hope to contribute to their fast growth in the US market.”

The Vibranium.VC team is happy to welcome iSchoolConnect to its portfolio!

Stronger with Vibranium: first Softlanding program for SaaS B2B startups launched

Vibranium.VC’s Softlanding program is a free of charge practical online program for talented, active, and ambitious entrepreneurs ready to relocate their business to the US and enter a fast-growing market.

The Softlanding program is designed for B2B SaaS startups wanting to move to the US and ready to work with top Silicon Valley experts. Twenty-five startups that meet the evaluation criteria will receive support in achieving product-market fit and fundraising in the US.

The program for selected startups will last for about 3 months with two key stages – Bootcamp (5 days) and Pre-Accelerator (3 months).

US experts from different fields will navigate startup teams through all the procedures and processes for opening a company abroad, give tips on getting into local accelerators, and provide support in the implementation of a step-by-step plan for relocation to the US.

Valentina Pidgaina, Head of pipeline and partnerships at Vibranium.VC: “The launch of our Softlanding program marks an important milestone for Vibranium.VC , where we act not only as a Venture Fund but as an active player in the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem, supporting founders eager to enter the US market.
Based on our experience, we know how to build a business. We mentored hundreds of startup teams throughout our acceleration programs, and we helped them build operations, sales, marketing, and important partnerships. Our program was carefully designed to contribute to startup success on US soil and help teams with faster product-market fit and scalable revenues.”

Applications are accepted until December 30, 2022 on the official website – https://vibranium.vc/softlanding

Vibranium.VC invests in IVM Markets

We are thrilled to introduce our new portfolio company – IVM Markets, a Saas investment content generation portal, which empowers financial distributors and resellers of structured products. The company and the people behind it are disrupting the financial industry by providing an alternative route to design, price and risk manage customized investments.

IVM is a London-based firm that partnered with venture capital funds Geekdom fund (as lead investors) and Vibranium.VC on a $4M round.

IVM is a technology firm that is supporting clients all over the world by leveraging expertise and big data analytics to transform the way structured products are designed and priced

“Investor demands are changing, and there is an increasing need for more customized investments. Structured products, especially the more bespoke ones, could be the ultimate vehicle for personalized investing,” says Vlad Gubski, IVM Markets co-founder.

“Technology is rapidly changing the world of customized investments and we are happy to be among those who spearhead the industry,” adds Ildar Farkhshatov, IVM Markets co-founder. “The challenge with designing custom solutions is both the idea generation and the pricing, but most importantly in determining – whether an issuer’s price for a bespoke solution is accurate or inflated. IVM’s product design suite provides an end-to-end solution that is built to be the ultimate structured product design workspace. It allows users to find the optimal product to match their client’s need and to price it in such a way that the issuer’s markup can be quantified. IVM is designed by structured product specialists for structured product specialists.”

There are already 21 clients across 7 countries who use the IVM product, and the results are impressive. Client feedback ranges from “You have really understood the journey of the wealth manager, from idea generation to making a sale and managing the client portfolio” to “We tested your pricing and, as expected, it proved to be useful.… it’s designed for precision.”

Capital raised in the funding round will go toward enabling further automation functionality within the product selection journey and expanding IVM’s operations, including establishing US-based headquarters in the near future.

Welcome aboard, IVM team!

Vibranium.VC invests in Otis AI

Today, we’re excited to announce our investment in Otis AI, an all-in-one digital marketing assistant for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that helps clients launch data-driven campaigns across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Google in minutes. The startup is currently building a platform that serves businesses primarily in the US.

SMBs are essential to the global economy. They create jobs and they bring innovation to society. But how can they compete with more established businesses, especially when it comes to digital advertising?

US startup Otis AI knows the answer. The founders, Miguel Guerrero and Clarence Williams, designed an all-in-one digital marketing solution to help SMBs launch data-driven multi-channel campaigns across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Google in a matter of minutes. And if that wasn’t enough of a draw, Otis’s solution also enables its clients to overcome the challenges of mobile attribution and third-party cookies.

Vibranium.VC participated in this round alongside Unifier Ventures, Oak Drive Ventures, Studio VC, as well as some other VC funds and private investors. The company plans to use the money to drive product development, sales, marketing, and additional features to continue improving a robust platform that serves businesses throughout the US and worldwide markets.

Miguel Guerrero commented, “Our mission is to level the playing field for small businesses and allow them to compete with advertisers hundreds of times their size. Otis AI is the best simple end-to-end solution for SMBs.” And we believe him. The company grew 300% last year and cruised past $1.5M in annual revenue.

Miami Hack Week, a distributed hackathon, and many more are already among Otis’s clients, which see an average 10x return on ad spend. NY-based retailer Extra Butter is a particularly striking example, racking up an incredible 40x ROAS.

Otis’s mission is to level the playing field for SMBs by leveraging advertising across the web, social media platforms, and television to help them grow and engage with their customers. We look forward to seeing the company’s technologies helping SMBs grow and compete effectively, regardless of their size or ad budget. Welcome aboard, champions!

Vibranium.VC opened an office in Silicon Valley

Global venture capital investment in 2021 reached a record $621 billion, and almost half of it – $311 billion – came from the U.S. venture capital market. According to CB INSIGHTS, a tech search company, 12,281 financing rounds were completed in the country during this period, and 55% of the deals were concluded at an early stage.

In the world of venture investments, it is important for a startup to be invested in by a fund that speaks the same language as it does to better understand the ideas of the startup founders and make Due Diligence (a comprehensive independent evaluation of the company – Ed. note) more effective, believes Dmitry Dolgov, CEO of the financial analytics service WhatToFarm.io.

Vibranium.VC Venture Fund opened its new office in the Spaces in Menlo Park exclusive coworking space, the “boiling point” of active Silicon Valley startup accelerators and venture capitalists.

By the number of investment rounds and the amount of funds raised in the U.S., the Valley retains the lead ($105 billion) along with New York ($55 billion).

Vibranium.VC announces its readiness to finance startups focused on the US market. Thus, startups from the CIS also have a chance to become a portfolio company of the fund. The fund will also consider seed-stage companies operating on B2B SaaS business models and pursuing the goal of entering global markets in the future.

Soft-landing processes contain manageable and unmanageable components and require an understanding of local rules and regulations, as well as careful preparation and clear implementation.

“It is important to do preliminary market research on what is happening with your niche and your type of product in the American market, to open bank accounts taking into account passport type and citizenship,” says Zamir Shukho, managing partner of Vibranium.VC. – Some things don’t directly depend on you, such as the decision by American immigration authorities on whether or not to give you a visa.

Vibranium.VC staff, partners, and experts are ready to support and guide their portfolio companies at every stage. The fund’s team has many years of experience in corporate innovation, acceleration programs, and early-stage investments. The accumulated experience will help startups “soft land” in the U.S.

“The U.S. has many different places in terms of unique ecosystems tied to one type of business or another,” the fund’s experts comment. – If you have a fintech startup, the place to land is New York; if you do B2B SaaS solutions or software, Silicon Valley; if you are a media or gaming startup, land in Los Angeles.”

Spaces in Menlo Park, where Vibranium.VC is headquartered, is a great place to discuss projects and close deals with companies that will create the economy of the future.

To apply for an investment, visit the company’s website.

By Forbes

Vibranium.VC invests in MR Net

The fund invested in MR-NET (MotionRay) – a platform for accessing the Internet anywhere in the world. This tech startup operates in the US, Europe, and China. Investments will be directed toward driving sales in the respective markets. In this round the company raised a total of $350K from Vibranium.VC and Roman Tyan’s NRGVentures funds.

MotionRay provides customers, wherever they are, with the most reliable connectivity for the best possible price by leveraging Internet bonding technology. The simple, plug-n-play solution guarantees the delivery of mission critical data, whether it is PoS transactions, a video production feed, or a Zoom call with your grandmother. The long-term vision is leveraging the network effects of ecosystem adoption to establish a decentralized marketplace for (wireless) broadband at scale.

Today, MotionRay’s roster of clients includes atVenu, Super League, AbelCine and many others.

MotionRay was founded in 2019 by Alexander Pestryaev and Yuri Bussel – radio communications experts with a cumulative 30 years of experience in the telecom industry, as well as Anton Shmakov – a UC Berkeley graduate with Silicon Valley expertise both in startups and in leading technology companies, such as Google and LinkedIn.

Zamir Shukho, Vibranium.VC founder and general partner: “We liked MotionRay’s unconventional approach to solving the problem that exists in the small and medium-sized business market – smooth and easy net access. This is especially relevant for areas where there is no broadband connection, and everything works via satellites. The startup has a breakthrough technology, and now their main task is to build a sustainable business model in the US market.”

Kirill Timofeev, Vibranium.VC co-founder and partner: “Together with Motion Ray, we are entering a competitive race, because several players are simultaneously working on solving the problem of unlimited Internet access. These large-scale projects include efforts to develop satellite Internet, as well as work on behalf of authorities and mobile operators to make uninterrupted WiFi available in large cities. However, this only emphasizes the demand for the product. If in the 2000s the Internet was important as such, in the 2010s speed and mobility came to the forefront. Following this logic I can assume that in the 2020-2030s these two parameters together will be absolutely critical. It will become crucial for users to get stable, consistently high-quality access to the network everywhere, and at an average price for cloud services.”

Anton Shmakov, MotionRay CEO: “The investment will allow us to satisfy existing demand, iterate on the product and establish a market foothold.”