They say it’s not what you know but who you know.
And they’re right!
It wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting on the couch in my dad’s living room, watching Shark Tank and thinking, “Someday, I’m gonna pitch my company to Mark Cuban.”
(Also thinking—shit man, I need to get my own place, badly.)
Now, I’m writing this email from my own couch and brand-new home.
My network has made me a millionaire.
Now, in the world of angel investing, networking startups have literally minted billionaires.
In fact, when most people think of a successful startup, they’re thinking of companies like Facebook. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat, or Instagram, or LinkedIn.
In other words, they’re thinking of social networking unicorns.
Some people say there will never be another Facebook, and they’re probably right.
But, in a world that is more connected than ever before, we are growing less connected with every click.
The rise of the massive social media platforms we know today – Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter – intertwine us with billions of people every second.
Yet, these platforms leave us missing out on opportunities to truly be part of a community.
The applications that allow us to communicate with ease are the very applications severing the interpersonal ties that bind us together.
To fill this rapidly widening gap, a new industry is rising up that we have dubbed “Niche Networking”.
Here at The Boardroom, we’ve been keeping an eye on this market. And we’re convinced it’s only going to keep growing.
We’re seeing brand new apps specifically curated for untapped markets, software that will continue to improve the way we connect with employees and customers, and revolutionary ways to expand your network and capitalize on opportunities.
Now, I know that networking as a whole is a major concept and discovering emerging industries to invest in can be an overwhelming feat to take on by yourself.
But that changes now.
A new generation of startups is working in concert with industry’s networking giants to improve networking and change the way we grow our communities.
This brand new industry was built by startups and is loaded with investment potential.
And we think it’s about to dominate in 2020.
#5 – Niche Networking
First up, we’ve got networking platforms created for building your community. This sub-sector of Niche Marketing is geared towards building your interpersonal network. More than connecting through a few surface-level emails, startups in this sector are creating apps that promote genuinehuman-to-human interactions.
These innovative new startups recognize the demand for networking tools that extend beyond a few simple parameters. They don’t want you to just “date around” in your network – they want you to find the perfect match. To do this, they’re creating new technologies that make meeting like-minded people easier than ever.
Grow your personal network with these new applications that can do everything from recommending meeting points that fit your personality and meeting style to introducing you to people in your area who have complementary skill sets and experiences.
Wanting to meet someone from an entirely different lifestyle than yours? You can do that too. Multiple startups in this sector are introducing new networking platforms specifically curated for meeting and learning about people who are the polar opposite of you.
My favorite part about this sub-sector? There’s major money to be made here.
Before going forward, we need to look back at a company that changed the game.
I’m talking about companies like Tinder and Meetup, which changed what was once a taboo concept – meeting strangers online – into a billion dollar industry seemingly overnight. Far from monopolizing the space, these pioneers spawned a myriad of copycats who focused on the niches they might have overlooked.
One company that is taking this emerging sector by storm is Nextdoor. The entrepreneurs behind Nextdoor created the platform for people to build relationships with the people in their communities and stay up-to-date with local happenings. With that in mind, their platform allows users to share local events, plan activities, and communicate through neighborhood dashboards and private messaging. Explore your city, build your career, or try something new with the people from your community.
This San Francisco-based company has raised over $455 million in funding and their estimated yearly revenue is $62 million. Every month, over 78 million people visit the Nextdoor site. As of 2017, Nextdoor had a $1.5B valuation.
As an angel, those numbers make me want to drop everything right this second and find a way to get involved as an investor!
Growing my network while doing the things I actually enjoy doing? That sounds like something I can get behind.
I see major potential in this subsector of Niche Networking because it is helping us replace one of the things we are most lacking in the digital age: community.
This next Niche Networking subsector is my favorite.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of securing the perfect connection that will introduce you to your next professional opportunity can be daunting. Yes, we have Linkedin. But how do you know who to connect with and how do you turn that connection into a new job or business partner?
Thankfully, an industry is emerging that makes it easier than ever. And it’s about to take off.
Okay, you’re probably thinking “Isn’t the professional networking market already saturated?”
That’s why a new wave of startups are shaking things up and re-introducing us to the old-school art of professional networking. These companies have designed brand new platforms that make meeting industry professionals exciting and worthwhile.
One startup that we have our eye on is Shapr.
This startup’s platform aims to take the challenge out of growing your network when it comes to professional connections. Shapr gives users an easy-to-use app that uses an algorithm to suggest professionals with matching interests, skill sets, and professional goals. Different than existing business networking platforms like Linkedin, Shapr is built for users who want to meet in person.
Their goal? To get users into the habit of meeting one new person each week.
This startup is what we call a “small, but mighty” company here in The Boardroom. Only a few years old, Shapr has amassed $16.5 million through 4 rounds of funding. Their post-money valuation is upwards of $10 million.
But wait – professional networking isn’t just reserved for businessmen and executives.
Professional networking startups cater to creatives, too.
One startup that is in the crowdfunding stage is Vampr. This 4-year-old startup is a social networking platform for creatives in the music industry. Their mission is to be the next Linkedin for creatives. So far, Vampr has facilitated over 4 million professional connections across 198 countries, earning them a spot on Apple’s “Best Apps of 2017” list.
Vampr is the first platform of its kind for musicians to connect with other musicians and industry professionals and collaborate on projects.
Vampr is one of many startup networking platforms ready to partner with investors to revolutionize the way we build business through networking.
Ultimately, professional networking startups are all about servicing niche communities. A prime example of this is Voyage Media, a user-generated entertainment media community platform. Voyage Media aims to democratize access to Hollywood by connecting storytellers outside of the “Hollywood System” with A-list producers.
So far, 7 film and tv projects have been produced by Voyage Media storytellers and producers. One of those projects won an Emmy.
As you can see, there are startups in this industry that are ready to interrupt the stagnant professional networking market. From what we’ve seen so far, we think these emerging startups have major potential to turn the industry on its head.
This next category of Niche Networking is unique because, while these platforms may not be for networking specifically, they’re taking on the feat of modernizing how we communicate with our existing network.
Networking isn’t just about having a place to connect with others. It’s also about how we communicate and stay connected. Without the right tools, networking can feel like an uphill battle.
In the fight to keep us connected, startups in the Niche Networking sector are curating easy-to-use platforms and applications that incorporate everything we could possibly need to stay in touch and optimize performance in the workplace. Geared toward business professionals and large groups, these startups have created comprehensive networking platforms equipped with SMS capabilities, email, file sharing, scheduling software, and more.
If you’ve ever worked with a team or in a large corporation, you know how vital it is to have everyone on the same page at all times. These startups are making it easier to do that.
As of 2019, 77% of enterprises use some sort of cloud-based software (like Slack, Asana, and Trello) to handle communication and operations in their business and 15% plan on adopting a cloud-based networking software in the next 12 months. For just a minute, think of those numbers from an angel investor’s perspective – that’s 92% of companies who could potentially use the software created by the next big startup.
The workplace collaboration software company, Slack, has built an empire valued at $7.1 billion. Their software offers real-time messaging and file-sharing and is also equipped with the capability of connecting with your company’s pre-existing software and tools such as Google Drive, Google Calendar, Asana, and the Adobe Creative Cloud. One of the first companies to create such a platform, the startup brings in an annual average revenue of $400.6 million.
Obviously, you won’t be investing anymore in this billion-dollar unicorn. But there are a bunch of open deals with startups that are making big moves and big money.
If you’re a regular attendee of conferences, seminars, or events, you’re going to want to download Swapcard now.
Swapcard is an intuitive event app backed by artificial intelligence. The app suggests sessions to attend, relevant people to meet, and sponsors to visit. Based on your interests, Swapcard recommends things to do and people to meet so you can optimize your time and get the most out of your experience.
Swapcard isn’t just for attendees, either.
Event hosts can also use the app to give guests a 360 view of the venue and vendors, access to the schedule, and post important announcements in real time. While they’re still in the seed phase, Swapcard has raised over $5 million from two funding rounds since 2013 and had $2 million in revenue in 2018.
Swapcard is one of the first companies of its kind to create this type of AI event software.
Another up-and-coming startup is called Coda. Backed by $60 million from 1 funding round and a valuation of approximately $500 million, Coda’s platform combines important applications like messaging, file sharing, and document creation under one roof.
Here at The Boardroom, we are definitely going to keep our eyes on this industry as we wait with anticipation for the next startup that will take the challenge of beating out the current market leaders.
Niche Networking is home to many great investment opportunities, as the market is fresh and ready for a new wave of innovation.
The major players we see now were the first of their kind to revolutionize networking. And many of the innovators who followed in their footsteps have since been bought out. Some of the richest people in the world today got their money from the sale of their investment.
What does that mean for investors like us?
That means that there is nowhere to go but up in this emerging Niche Networking industry.
If these numbers don’t already speak for themselves, take a look at the up-and-coming startups on the verge of taking off in the Niche Networking sector. Whether you’re keen to invest in the next big professional networking platform or you’re passionate about investing in genuine interpersonal connections, I’m certain you’ll find an incredible deal that ticks all the boxes.
But to access the incredible opportunities that are waiting for you out there in the world of Niche Networking, you need the experts.
No worries, we’ve got your back.
Come see us at The Boardroom and learn what successful angel investing is all about. We’re here to provide expert advice and all the resources you need to turn your dollars into deals.