The Power of the Network
THE POWER OF THE NETWORK
Co-authors: Ghassan Halawa and Cloed Baumgartner
Developing, nurturing and maintaining an active network that continuously provides value for its participants is one of the most difficult challenges in life – and thus also in business. At the same time, everyone stresses the importance of networks and hence there is hardly ever any dispute about the topic.
But why is keeping your network engaged so difficult? And why does that especially apply to alumni networks? Well, Newton’s law of universal gravitation provides us with the scientific explanation for this phenomenon. In my own words: it states that the closer the proximity of two things, the closer their mutual attraction to each other.
CREATING LASTING VALUE
This explains very neatly why during the actual implementation of our programs, reciprocal bonds are formed that ideally turn into life-long friendships. It is also true, though, that with time passing and distance growing, we lose touch and track with those once dear to us – especially the very participants of our programs. Luckily, there are some great examples that showcase how the value of the relationships built live on.
enpact and their program were a turning point in my life. It has impacted me in every positive way possible, offering me a diversity of perspectives by meeting regional entrepreneurs that continued to support me throughout my PARACHUTE16 journey. I admire enpact and the long-term effect it left on us fellows. The mission it gave us did not end with our fellowship year – but extends until today. In the mentoring program, I met mentors who became life-long friends, and partners that continuously share experiences, stories, expertise and advice.
I joined enpact in 2015, and I keep benefiting from and nurturing the exchanges with my fellow participants. The initiative has boosted my startup back then and keeps having its influence on us six years later. Meeting entrepreneurs and their communities from Germany, Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco added value to my journey. Today, we are not only a part of enpact as alumni, but I also created several partnerships for my own venture PARACHUTE16 and keep collaborating with contacts, friends and partners I made back in 2015.
The real value lies in the formation of these life-long friendships for which the seed was planted during the enpact mentoring program. It exposed me to people working in the embryonic regional entrepreneurship ecosystem in the MENA region. Together, we were able to draw frameworks and build supportive communities and tools to grow our ecosystems and apprise more entrepreneurs of trends, tools, and technologies through what we learn together.
I met my “enpact family” for the first time in Ghana in November 2019, in a place reminiscent of paradise: A beautiful beach, palm trees, open workshop huts, and great food. This is what enpact made possible. We came together from all over the world, all handpicked: 30 startups, 10 mentors and the fabulous enpact team members, all sharing a common vision. That’s a good premise to begin with. A week full of top-class workshops and good talks in an incredible ambience with hot sun until sunset by the sea, that’s what bonded us together. But after one week we had to leave paradise again.
The good news: We still write to each other daily via our WhatsApp channel! We help each other with tips and tricks, sending each other links and articles that help us grow, to get grants, or sharing other relevant insights. We answer each other’s urgent (business) questions. We know we can always get honest and valuable answers from other mentors or startups. We applaud each other’s successes and take great pride in our progress. And lastly, we have fun together. It’s not just about sharing business-related news, but also about letting others partake in one’s life: sharing wedding pictures, subscribing to each other’s YouTube channels, and liking articles on LinkedIn.
Every now and then we even discuss delicate subjects like “Where can the better Jollof rice be found: in Nigeria or Ghana?” Humor is one of the things that can never fully be conveyed via WhatsApp as it could via personal meetings – so we are cheeky but still respectful. Anyway, to settle this particular debate, we decided on having a cooking competition in Berlin. I hope this explains the essence of being part of enpact. We have a common goal that we look forward to, and that brings a community together.
And we currently have a common enemy: The C-19 pandemic. But we remain strong and patient. We are all together in the virtual waiting room. The hope of seeing each other again keeps us going.
CHALLENGES IN ALUMNI WORK
While the value of the network cannot be stressed enough, we also need to face and tackle some of the challenges: due to the C-19 pandemic, many analog events, delegations and bootcamps and all kinds of exchanges, as well as meetings, had to be turned into digital formats.
This brings other fundamental changes. While the content of the analog exchanges can be retained – the essence and format are quite different. This is especially true for many of the products that we at enpact have in our portfolio. Our flagship and most valuable components, like a bootcamp within our mentoring program, a delegation trip, the face-to-face mentoring on the ground, or the individual mentor visits are currently no longer possible in an analog way. And the fact that we are now successfully substituting them with digital counterparts makes it difficult to raise the required funds for the future for the analog versions.
FUTURE OUTLOOK OF THE ENPACT NETWORK
These reasons all add up to a fundamental question that we have been asking ourselves for some time. How can we create “collisions”, meaning mutually beneficial encounters within our network, that span over time and space – including in digital settings? And, probably as important a question: how do we create ongoing value for our alumni that motivates them to remain active members of our community?
We are working on developing several components to build a digital alumni platform where entrepreneurs, mentors and experts can connect, exchange opportunities, and take an active part in the implementation of future support programs across enpact.
What would you like to see on the platform? What are you looking for in your ideal support community? Let us know!
If you’re reading this before the 12th of September, you have an opportunity to contribute to the power of the network and join our community by signing up to become a mentor! Find out more details and sign up here.
This article was first published as part of enpact’s Yearbook 2020. Download the Yearbook 2020 and check it out for a more in-depth look into the future of our alumni platform, in addition to stories, overviews, and insights from startup ecosystems around the world.