Networking in Startup: An Introvert’s Tale of Growth and Connection

In the world of startups, networking is akin to the beating heart, a fundamental and crucial element of the ecosystem. As a startup founder, conventional wisdom often suggests that being an extrovert is key to success. However, my experience sings a different tune. I am a testament to the fact that being an introvert is not a barrier but simply a different path to the same goal.

My background as an academician and researcher didn’t necessitate constant social interaction. The concept of networking was alien to me, and even though I understood its significance, my initial foray into the startup world was characterized by discomfort in social settings. Walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces was daunting, and striking up conversations seemed like climbing a steep mountain.

Fortunately, the winds of change blew my way when I started getting invited to talks. These forums provided me with an opportunity to express my thoughts and ideas, and, in the process, initiate conversations. Another pillar of strength was my Business Development Director, whose extroverted nature contrasted with and complemented my introversion. Attending events and meetings together not only eased my socializing discomfort but also alleviated the feeling of being out of place. We were like two halves of a whole, supporting each other even in simple tasks like remembering names and faces of the people we met.

Over time, I realized that networking was not just about striking up conversations but building meaningful relationships and earning the trust of potential customers. By understanding their needs and problems, we could position our startup as a potential solution. Quality leads were no longer a mere probability; they became a certainty.

Further, maintaining an active online presence became a strategic move in our networking efforts. Our digital footprints acted as an icebreaker during physical meetings, as people were often familiar with our work and vision, facilitating more enriching conversations.

Comparatively, poor networking can cripple a startup’s growth potential. It’s like a spider with a broken web, unable to trap opportunities, or a mason attempting to build a house without tools. Not utilizing your connections effectively in the startup ecosystem is tantamount to ignoring a gold mine of potential opportunities.

In retrospect, my journey from a networking-averse introvert to a founder capable of harnessing connections for my startup’s growth has been a lesson in personal growth. I learned that networking doesn’t require you to transform your personality type; it merely requires you to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the dynamics of the startup world.

So, if you’re an introvert stepping into the startup world, don’t be disheartened. Your path might differ from an extroverted founder, but your destination remains the same – building a successful startup. Embrace your uniqueness, leverage your strengths, and watch as you weave a network that propels your startup to unprecedented heights.

Read – The Ultimate Startup Cheat Sheet.

The Startup Burnout: A Founder’s Tale of Striving, Stress, and Solace

I have worn several hats throughout my entrepreneurial journey as the co-founder of a bootstrapped startup. At times, it felt like the acronym ‘CEO’ represented ‘Chief Everything Officer’ more accurately than ‘Chief Executive Officer.’ The responsibilities were colossal, and there were days I questioned if I had bitten off more than I could chew.

My primary area of focus was the sales and marketing end of our venture. The task was herculean, involving branding our nascent product, creating an appealing image, and most importantly, meeting and networking with countless people. On the other hand, my co-founder was engrossed in the technicalities and project implementation side of the business. This left me to juggle a variety of roles, often stepping into domains unfamiliar to me.

Fiscal discipline is the lifeblood of any startup, especially those on a shoestring budget. I was constantly trying to balance the books and ensure that the company had enough cash to cover salaries and other expenses. Every month felt like a race against time. It was an incessant cycle of finding new customers, closing sales, and subsequently chasing payments.

However, every venture has its share of pitfalls. Not all our marketing strategies bore fruit, leading to frustration and desperation. I found myself scrambling to find innovative ways to attract customers. It felt like a never-ending uphill battle. When I reached the point where it seemed like I had exhausted all possible avenues to generate business, I could feel the creeping tendrils of burnout.

Burnout is like a shadow in a founder’s life. It is a culmination of prolonged stress and frustration that can drain your energy and leave you feeling helpless. I experienced this at a stage where I was running on empty, both mentally and physically. At this point, I realized that continuing to push myself without respite was not the solution.

Finding solace in solitude, I decided to reduce my stress by taking a step back. I discovered the therapeutic benefits of simply taking a walk, observing the world around me, and shifting my perspective. This allowed me to step away from the consuming chaos of the startup and approach my challenges with a clear mind.

During this time, I also found comfort in the escapism of television, particularly business and entrepreneurial TV series. These shows offered a treasure trove of inspiration and innovative ideas, which I could apply in my venture. Additionally, I turned to reading – delving into uplifting stories of other entrepreneurs and their struggles. These narratives gave me hope, reassured me that my journey was not an isolated one, and provided tangible examples of overcoming adversity.

These activities became a refuge for me, an oasis in the desert of my exhaustion. They helped me recuperate and return to my work, armed with fresh perspectives and renewed vigor. While the struggles of startup life are very real and often daunting, it’s crucial to remember that even amidst chaos, there’s always a way to find tranquility. It’s in these moments of pause that we often find our best ideas and solutions, rejuvenating us for the challenges that lie ahead.

As a founder, it’s important to remember that burnout is not a sign of weakness but a signal from our mind and body that it’s time to step back and regroup. It’s a call to listen to ourselves, to invest in self-care, and to find our unique strategies for overcoming stress and achieving balance. It’s about understanding that a startup founder’s journey is not just about relentless work but also about finding moments of rest, rejuvenation, and ultimately, resilience.

Read – The Ultimate Startup Cheat Sheet.

Authority in IoT

On what subject(s) are you an authority?

I possess extensive expertise in various subjects related to the field of technology, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT) and related domains. As the co-founder and CEO of FAVORIOT Sdn Bhd, a notable company in the IoT industry, my authority and influence in the field are well-recognized.

I have been listed in Onalytica’s “Who’s Who in IoT” report (May 2022) and ranked among the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in IoT (February 2019) and Digital Disruption (October 2019) by Thinkers360. In 2017, I was also recognized as one of the Top 50 Most Impactful Smart Cities Leaders by the World CSR Congress.

My contributions to the IoT community have led to significant recognition, including being ranked within the Top 10 in the IoT Top 100 Influencers by Postscapes in 2017 and 2018. Moreover, in 2014, I was listed as the 20th Thought Leader in IoT by Onalytica’s report, “The Internet of Things – Top 100 Thought Leaders.” Furthermore, I was honored as the UTM Alumni Industry Personality in 2016.

Prior to my role at FAVORIOT, I held prominent positions such as CEO of REDtone IOT for 2.5 years and Senior Director of Wireless Communications Cluster at MIMOS Berhad for 8 years. I also accumulated 13 years of experience in CELCOM, a leading mobile operator, where I held various senior management positions.

With a strong academic background, I served as an Associate Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia for 10 years. Additionally, I held adjunct professorships at various universities, including UTM, UTHM, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Universiti Malaysia, and MJIIT, UTM. Currently, I hold the position of Adjunct Professor for the Faculty of Information Science and Technology at MMU from 2022 to 2024.

I am recognized as a renowned speaker and frequently share my expertise at major IoT, Industry 4.0, Smart Cities, and telecommunication conferences globally. Furthermore, I actively contribute as a member of the Industry Advisory Panel (IAP) for several local universities.

I completed my education with a BEE from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in 1984, an MSc. in Telematics from the University of Essex (UK) in 1986, and a Ph.D. in Telecommunications from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in 1993. In 2017, I was honored with an Honorary Doctorate in Electrical Engineering from UTHM. Additionally, I have been invited as a speaker at TEDx events, where I share my expertise and insights.