Best Networking Platforms for Startups

People shaking hands at an event.

When it comes to making a startup successful, who you know is often even more important than what you know. For startup owners who do not already have an extensive network of connections to leverage, networking services and platforms can be especially beneficial. 

To help you find a networking service that will arm you with the strategic partnerships you need to take your company to the next level, we'll take a look at the type of networking services needed by startups before diving into the best professional networking platforms for startups on the market today.


What Type of Networking Services Do Startups Need?

The top reason why startup owners leverage networking services is to find investors for their company. In addition to helping you attract more investors, though, networking can also be used to find other strategic partnerships, including suppliers, customers, and even business partnerships. To find these relationships, it’s important for startup owners to make use of networking services that are geared toward business owners.

With that in mind, here are the top professional networking platforms that startup owners should consider.

Best Networking Platform Overall for Startups: LinkedIn

Almost everyone has heard of LinkedIn at this point. As the king of networking platforms, no networking service is going to offer more networking opportunities than LinkedIn and its 310 million monthly active users. More than any other website, LinkedIn is where professionals go to share ideas, form collaborations, and find new opportunities. With this being the case, it is certainly a platform that you should leverage as a startup owner. 

Pros

  • Plenty of features included with a free account 
  • Provides a polished and easy-to-use search engine for finding connections 
  • Makes it easy to customize your LinkedIn profile

Cons

  • As such a large platform with so many users, getting noticed on LinkedIn can sometimes be challenge 
  • Spam messages are common on LinkedIn 
  • Does not offer as many personalized/hands-on networking services as other platforms

Pricing Breakdown

  • Free: $0 to create and use an account
  • Premium Business: Starts at $29.99/month

Best Networking Service for Simplicity: Shapr

Taking the "swipe right to connect'' model from the popular dating app Tinder into the professional sphere, Shapr is an app designed specifically for connecting like-minded entrepreneurs and startup owners. What really sets Shapr apart from the competition, though, is its sheer simplicity. After filling out your profile, Shapr will attempt to match you with fellow networkers who are looking to connect with people like you. From there, all you have to do is swipe right to accept a connection. 

By making networking so simple you can do it in your sleep, Shapr makes finding worthwhile connections a much more feasible goal for busy startup owners.

Pros

  • Incredibly easy to use 
  • The Shapr Teleport Function allows you to network in markets outside your geographical area 
  • Much more affordable than similar networking services

Cons

  • Spam messages are common on Shapr 
  • Professionals on Shapr tend not to take the platform as seriously as other networking platforms

Pricing Breakdown

  • Free: $0 to create and use an account
  • Pro: $19.99/month 

Best Networking Platform for Finding Investors: CoFoundersLab

Designed to help startup owners find investors, co-founders, mentors, and advisers, CoFoundersLab is billed as the world's largest network for entrepreneurs. CoFoundersLab offers a wide range of tools designed to help startup owners find worthwhile connections, including discussion boards, weekly webinars, and direct messages. 

CoFoundersLab also provides one-on-one sessions with certified CoFoundersLab advisors to help you easily find answers to all of your networking questions. It’s CoFoundersLab's emphasis on helping startup owners connect with investors, though, that earns it its spot as the best networking service for getting funded.

Pros

  • Offers a wide range of resources and events designed to help startup owners expand their knowledge 
  • Provides detailed information on 30,000 investors and 8,000 VC firms

Cons

  • A free account offers limited features 

Pricing Breakdown

  • Free: $0 to create and use an account
  • Premium: $15/month

Best Networking Service for Collaboration: Slack

Slack is well-known as a project management platform, but the company offers valuable networking opportunities as well in the form of public threads where professionals can engage with one another. These threads span a broad spectrum of professional topics and interests, making it easy to find like-minded individuals to connect with on Slack. 

Once you do find valuable connections on the platform, collaborating with those connections is simple and straightforward since Slack is a platform designed specifically for facilitating collaboration. This ability to find partnerships and collaborate with those partners from the same platform makes Slack a platform that is certainly worth considering if you are looking to find and capitalize on networking opportunities.

Pros

  • Allows you to organize discussions into various channels 
  • Excellent cybersecurity that ensures your personal data is always protected 
  • Offers a desktop and mobile app, both of which are well-polished and user-friendly

Cons

  • As a messenger-based platform rather than a browser-based one, it's easy to get overwhelmed with messages and notifications when you are heavily using Slack
  • Conversations are automatically deleted after fourteen days, which means you will have to manually save any threads you want to keep in a different location

Pricing Breakdown

  • Free: $0 to create and use an account 
  • Pro: $6.67/month 
  • Business+: $12.50/month 
  • Enterprise Grid: Custom pricing available upon request