SuiteWorks was purpose built 12 years ago by John Cameron and Don Cameron of The Networking Effect. With Transformers ability to morph design options; SuiteWorks provides business centre space for companies of all sizes. Lounge stations, shared co-working spaces for startup solopreneurs, a honeycomb of semi-private nestled desks graduate to custom business offices with floor to ceiling separation, all lead to the centralized lunch lounge that hums with conversation.
Was the impetus for the design of the Networking Effect driven by inspiration or frustration?
“Without question inspiration. When Don and I founded the company, the original idea for The Networking Effect came from the SuiteWorks experience. I came from the corporate world; I was an executive in the telecommunications business for many years. My first business venture with a number of partners was SuiteWorks. It took me a while to take off my corporate hat and put on my entrepreneurs hat. One day, almost four years ago, I walked into the building, meeting rooms were all packed, what I saw all of a sudden, was the inspiration: all of these people connecting with one another. I listened from the coffee machine, people talking about business planning and buying services from one another, there was a real buzz. The first thought for The Networking Effect was how do we translate this experience, a vibrant small business community – close to 100 companies representing a cross section of the businesses in Simcoe – how do we represent and translate that into an online experience? Then we got at it. It was definitely inspiration.”
I was intrigued by their process, from live networking to the creation of a problem solving app to hold in your hand. How do you make that work and what was the biggest challenge?
“It’s actually more difficult than you’d expect to introduce new ideas to people who have certain ways of doing things. When they get the aha moment, when they understand what you’re trying to do and they see the value for the first time, their eyes light up, it’s really satisfying. But getting to that point, all the different ideas we tried and iterations we have gone through to reach the point where we feel we have the answer has certainly been challenging but fulfilling at the same time. The ultimate question is, what is the answer to these pain points that people are feeling with what they have available to them currently?”
“What we have learned over the years is the challenge as a process of simplification. We have put up posters in the work area to say keep it simple, just simplify everything. In developing any new idea, it’s fundamentally important – driving to your minimum viable product – so people, when they open it up clearly understand what the objective of that app is and how it is that they can take advantage of it, that’s the value proposition, it’s very simple.”
Your message then is?
“We just want to connect people together, that’s what we do. We are very focused on connecting people together who need to be connected, whether it is initiated by someone that’s looking for services or help, they may need advice or someone who wants to refer people they know to others, and we can manage all of that within our platform. The distillation of our value proposition is three words; find, connect, and grow.”
Logging into The Networking Effect app, I explored steps of the search algorithm. Benefit to groups such as: Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Trade, Post-Secondary Educational Institutions or a catchment area for Economic Development is clear as their members are already at critical mass. By typing in what service, help or individual one is looking for, it sorts by relevance and delivers calling cards, an electronic representation of who the person is, what their business is and feedback on the business by way of written testimonials. The delivery system is fast, specific and provides the tools to connect then grow and build meaningful, valuable business relationship, sans coffee networking meetings.
SuiteWorks is established; a community that mentors and launches others, whereas The Networking Effect is still in startup phase, 2018 is the breakout year. Available as a free download, 6000 people found them organically. The company is in discussion with over 30 groups on the value The Networking Effect can bring to organizations as a white label product.
What services were instrumental in your successful development?
“Community has been very important to us, not only the SuiteWorks community. We attracted a couple of Angel Investors through the Georgian Angel Network. We have ongoing discussion with Business Development Corporation; we’ve been supported through Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and other government agencies. We know John Pickard well, we had a relationship with Communitech in Waterloo, all the introductions came from community, from buying services to attracting the capital we need and certainly my own brain trust, my own network.”
“We understand success quite well, success starts with increasing the engagement level within these communities, most of them are quite well connected and their motivation is to increase, if we can increase connectivity within these communities that is success for sure. The second piece is how active are these members on the platform, do they have a reason to come in once or twice a week? That without question will define our success, the third big part of success is what are our existing customers saying about us, are they getting the value they need? That’s really the key to the whole thing and if they are, then we will be on our way.”
Your success depends on theirs?
“Yes we are perfectly aligned in that endeavor which is really good, the measure of success is how aligned is your value proposition with the customer, I have never seen such strong alignment in my life.
The Networking Effect, “connect with purpose.”