I was chatting to someone recently about ways to meet other startup founders, when I realised I had accidentally found a great way to do so. I never meant for this to be a method of networking, but that happened to be a side effect of something I was doing anyway.
Here's what I did:
I gave them feedback on their products.
Now that I'm on the other side of a product for the first time as a founder, I know how important feedback is (and how hard it can be to get). This new point of view led me to send a lot of emails recently—sometimes as many as one per day—with feedback about the products I was using. I had always thought about ways products could be improved, or features I wished they would add, but I'd never bothered to share my feedback with the people creating those products. I'm sure most users do the same thing.
The funny thing is, because a lot of these startups are tiny, I often ended up talking to the founders themselves. In several cases, this led to an ongoing relationship where we now share links and ideas, congratulate each other on our successes, and offer connections that might be helpful.
The more I think about it, the more I like this method of meeting other founders. As someone who appreciates the importance of feedback for your product, I know that I would love it if someone took the time to share their own experience with Exist and how they thought we could make it better.
Plus, it's a great way to find out more about the roadmap for products you like, and the way they're prioritising their work.
I wouldn't necessarily suggest you do this to build out your network of fellow startup founders. It's fairly hit-and-miss, and you never know who will reply to you—you might hear back from a support team member or not at all from the startups you're interested in. I do think it's super valuable to share your feedback about products you use, though, and this can be a really nice side effect.