Networking in a Down Economy

The economy is bleak, access to capital is near impossible and consumers aren't buying. It's enough to make many small business owners want to stay in bed - not to mention it's 35 degrees outside.

But for tech start-ups in the D.C. area, the winter of their discontent is all about one thing - networking. That was the theme last night at the launch party for Dub Me Now, a digital business card sharing service.

When I interviewed the firm's founder, Manoj Ramnani, in July, he was still trying to finalize funding. That's all come together, including agreements with Microsoft, Linked In and other bigger tech firms.

The company plans 10 of these parties next year in major cities. D.C. was the kick-off venue as Dub is based in Tysons Corner, Va.

To celebrate the service's launch, the company had a big bash at Georgetown's tony Sequoia restaurant, and it looked as if at least 1,000 people attended.

I met dozens of small business owners who kept reiterating that in a down economy, it's more important to network than ever.

"I thought there was going to be about 100 people here" said one attendee who works at a new firm, "but with the economy going the way it is, you've got to really work it - and free food and drink doesn't hurt either."

Michael Mossoba, who does business development for Bethesda-based GeniusRocket, said he was wowed by the whole turnout. "It's like Web 2.0. There's this new passion and a new entrepreneurial momentum in the D.C. startup community," he said. "America Online gave birth to a lot of little entrepreneurial startups and now the area is really reaping the benefits of AOL's offspring." GeniusRocket was founded by former AOL executive Mark Walsh. I asked Mossoba why Bethesda. "It's definitely for the restaurants," he said.

I chatted with another of Dub's investors, Dan Nainan, a comedian who grew up in Chevy Chase and recently opened a comedy club in Bethesda. He's performed with Jerry Seinfeld and other top comedians and for household names such as Hillary Clinton. He heard about Dub from the Small Business blog and thought the Dub concept was so cool that he decided to invest. I gave him a lift to the metro as he was headed back to Manhattan for an audition. I'm sure I gave him plenty of material as we tried stuffing his luggage next to my bulk purchase of paper towels. "Shop at Costco much?"

"Only for paper towels of course. I'm a small business person all the way."

By Sharon McLoone |  November 20, 2008; 12:10 PM ET Networking
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Great article! I agree, networking is the key to a successful business even during tough economic times. --BizTrader.com

Posted by: biztrader | November 21, 2008 9:43 AM

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