Less Networking, More Authentic Relationships

David Olk ’11 launched Voray to give entrepreneurs and professionals a platform to build authentic relationships that translate to business opportunities. Here’s his best advice for making these valuable connections.

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We’ve all been there: you walk into a crowded professional event and scan the room, wondering where to dive in first. Networking is a breeze for some and a chore for others, but seemingly everyone can agree on the benefits of doing it effectively. Entrepreneurs, especially, know that making good connections is essential to the success of their business.

David Olk ’11 founded Voray in 2016 to create more fun and organic ways for people to build new relationships and foster existing ones. “It can be tough to build professional relationships and maintain them,” says Olk. “It can also be hard to identify channels to meet exceptional people that are a good fit.” Each month, Voray produces 20 to 40 highly-curated gatherings for groups of complementary professionals that are more akin to private dinners than networking mixers. “When you attend a Voray dinner, it feels like it was built for you versus a typical ‘networking event,’ which at times, can feel contrived and you're not really sure why you're there.”

It was through these firsthand experiences, and Olk’s involvement co-teaching the Lean Launchpad with Steve Blank at Columbia, that the concept for Voray was formed.  “I try to use the underlying elements of the Lean Launchpad with every company I’m involved with,” says Olk. “Before you even start writing a line of code, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your customer segments, the value proposition for each customer, how to reach them, and more than anything: an understanding of what they really need.”

Through growing his previous venture ShopKeep and now Voray, Olk has amassed a wealth of networking experiences and best practices — ultimately, he stresses the importance of being authentic. “The less seriously you take yourself and the more you just put yourself out there and try to build authentic relationships with people for the right reason,” says Olk, “the more people you'll wind up knowing without realizing it, and the more successful you'll be in the long run.”

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