On a roof top in Tehran, above the offices of a digital start-up accelerator, one of the global marketing industry gurus – and a start-up mentor – was telling me about a global organisation where finance and technology experts gather to talk about what’s coming next, Next Money.
This Australian entrepreneur, based in Singapore, at the time was a mentor to Tehran-based teatalk.io, the digital start-up where global, non-English speakers congregate to practice speaking English. He was evangelising Next Money as the networking event for the community that was – and is – changing the face of finance by giving centre stage to the tech companies who sometimes hide in the wings; the tech companies that we only hear about when they go mainstream.
Often, tech companies do reside in the wings; the tech geeks keep their heads down, till one day, they become mainstream. I saw an article on this from a pundit in Cannes, France, where the global advertising fraternity mingles once a year – the Cannes Lions, am sure you’ve heard of it – to celebrate success and to pat each other on the back. And to network. The pundit, the digital media strategy consultant of Luma Partners, Terry Kawaja, talked about the new players coming to change our world. They will be from China, he said, the large Chinese tech entities that nobody has heard of, not yet. Still in the wings. He wasn’t talking about Tencent or Alibaba.
So, Cannes Lions is one of the networking events that each year, the ‘global’ festival of creativity and advertising. It captures the zeitgeist and gets people talking about what should be keeping others awake at night. And it’s all about networking. You don’t go to Cannes Lions and not meet new people. The question is, do enough people follow up with those new contacts, as it’s only once a year.
Networking events, generally are an excellent idea, getting interested and interesting parties together to compare notes. We’ve all been to networking events that work well. When I was in Sydney, a group of us started a networking event called “TNDP – because the world needs another abbreviation!” The abbreviation was fatuous. It stood for The Next Dinner Party. The event was not fatuous albeit a little fattening: a group of non-competing business leaders in the marketing and advertising industry got together, every couple of months to put the world to rights.
“As always,” said TNDP’s blurb, “it’s a pay-your-own-way & off-the-record evening in town for a handful of like-minded, ambitious business folk in the communications arena who might, one day, be able to help each other out. But in the short term it’s a forum to bounce ideas about and to have some delicious food with great people.” We made friends, contacts and soon knew who not to bother with any more. Maybe it’s time to start that again here in Dubai. Let me know if you’re interested!
And then there are those networking events that don’t work well. Oh, those coffee mornings at the start of the Future of Some-Industry-Or-Other conference, that are just painfully slow. Or those awkwardly fast “speed dating” sessions in the middle of the two day conference. Hard for the ‘buyers’ and even harder for those playing musical chairs, putting their sales stories to the test… You always hope they get value for their money, their time and their efforts!
And that’s the problem with occasional – yearly – networking events. I believe a networking event should be regular. Every couple of months. That was the premise for TNDP. It is the premise for The Marketing Society Middle East. And now it’s the premise for Next Money Middle East which was set up by a digital commerce consultant at MasterCard and a few others (of which your correspondent is one).
Yes, Next Money, which the guru on the roof in Tehran was telling me about, was born in Singapore and is now spreading across the globe. And now it is up and running in Dubai too. Next Money is putting the spotlight on to those players in the wings that we spoke of. And it meets regularly so that it can bring together like minded business people in the worlds of finance and technology. This networking event is creating a network of people who really are changing the face of an industry.
James Welch is managing director of BLUE LOGIC, a digital media consultancy in Dubai. He’s also part of the Next Money Middle East management committee. You can join the Next Money community by signing up at www.meetup.com/NextMoneyDXB
A version of this article first appeared in Gulf News on Wed 20 July 2016.
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